By Ann Marie Shambaugh
Acai berries. Coffee beans. Orange peel.
They sound like items found in a health food shop, but for Carolina and Matt Locker of Zionsville, they are the ingredients for success.
The Lockers own Colombian Girl Jewelry, a small business that carries a line of necklaces, bracelets and more made from dried fruit. Customers love the natural fragrance, they said, but the sweetest part is all sales benefit the artisans in Colombia, Carolina’s native country.
“Carolina’s job is to show [the product]to the U.S. and bring it to the marketplace,” Matt Locker said, “but at the same time be responsible about getting these women what they deserve, because they are the creators of this product,”
Jewelry made from fruit is common in Colombia but new to most North Americans, Carolina said. When she saw how many people loved the jewelry in the U.S., the idea for Colombian Girl Jewelry was born.
Carolina works with her aunt and uncle in Colombia to find and manage the artisans, who mostly live in poor areas of Bogota, the South American country’s capital city. The women can spend up to four or five hours making some of the more intricate pieces, but for them it’s well worth it. Many come from difficult backgrounds and have little to no opportunity to pursue higher education.
“They depend on us to sell the jewelry so they have a job,” Carolina said.
The fruit ranges from familiar to exotic, but it’s all found in the Amazon rainforests. Popular designs include roses crafted from rolled orange peels to colorful necklaces made from slices of the tagua nut.
An unlikely meeting
Matt Locker grew up in Crawfordsville, about 2,500 miles away from Carolina’s hometown of Fresno, Colombia. The two met while salsa dancing at an Indianapolis restaurant during the final months of Carolina’s two-year stint as an au pair nanny for a family in Fishers.
“[Carolina and her friend] were making fun of us in Spanish,” Matt Locker said of their first meeting. “Most people wouldn’t have any idea what they were saying, but I had Spanish in the past so I answered her in Spanish.”
“We felt so bad, because they understood,” Carolina recalled.
The couple quickly hit it off, and Matt made trips to Colombia every two months during his final year in medical school to visit Carolina, who wanted to stay near her sister battling cystic fibrosis. After her sister passed away, Carolina made the tough decision to leave Colombia again.
“That was the hardest part, leaving my mom after that,” Carolina said. “She got to come here to the states probably five years ago, and she understood I was fine.”
The couple married in 2010 and spent five years in the Dallas area while Matt completed a medical residency. They moved to Zionsville in the summer of 2015 for Matt to take a job with Northwest Radiology. Based in Carmel, Matt specializes in mammography and breast imaging.
The Lockers have a bedroom set aside in their new home for their frequent Colombian visitors, and they travel to the country once each year to visit family and check in on their artisans.
“It’s amazing how this company is really entwined in her family and giving back to Colombia,” Matt said. “Even if the company didn’t amount to anything … this is fun, and she knows she’s helping people.”
Find Colombian Girl Jewelry
Visit www.colombiangirljewelry.com to view and purchase Colombian Girl Jewelry.