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Trendsetters: Giving Keys

Jacqueline Lee/E! Entertainment

Familiar with the old cliché "pay it forward?" Then you're already onto The Giving Keys' mantra.

Founded by actress-singer Caitlin Crosby, The Giving Keys offers an array of jewelry crafted from repurposed keys. Each piece has a different message engraved—courage, hope, strength, etc.—and a distinct purpose: Get a key when you need a little inspiration, then gift it to someone else who needs it more. It's straightforward, it's simple and most importantly, it's selfless.

With a celebrity following that includes Selena Gomez and Ryan Gosling plus a retail frenzy that's captured coveted shelf space at Nordstrom, it's clear that The Giving Keys has found substantial (and well-deserved) success. But we'll hear more on that from the brand's fearless founder herself.

Trendsetters: Giving Keys

Jacqueline Lee/E! Entertainment

What was your first job? 
In elementary school, I booked my first acting job in a Disneyland commercial. Then, I worked for my dad's company—John Crosby Management, managing actors. 

How did you get started in your career?
After growing up acting, I started to write songs about everything I saw behind the scenes in the entertainment industry. I titled my first album Flawz, and then launched a website about body image issues for teenage girls called LoveYourFlawz.com. I started touring and selling different creative products at the merchandise tables—which is where The Giving Keys was birthed. I knew people weren't buying the keys because of the fashion element, but for the story, message, and mission behind it. These girls needed to be reminded that they are 'one of a kind,' just like these keys.

What is a typical day like for you?
Wake up and write emails in bed. Get ready for meetings and write emails in my mobile office (my car) and if I have time in-between meetings, stop at a restaurant to eat and write more emails. Go to The Giving Keys office to get updates on our employees' lives and issues I need to help. Then, either more meetings or give one of our supporters a tour of our headquarters and introduce them to some of our inspiring employees that are transitioning out of homelessness.  I've also started to take spin classes after work to decompress. And then, I'll order Thai food delivery and end my day on the couch, catching up on mindless reality shows to further decompress.

Tell us about your office décor. When did you last give your office a makeover? 
We just moved into a new huge office, and almost everything is my dad's old furniture he had in storage, mixed with some cool, creative finds I got at antique stores and flea markets. I always need candles burning to create an incredible smelling, peaceful vibe, and white orchids and roses. Orchids make any area look glamorous. I like mixing a contrast of old, rusted wood and metals with hints of fancy. 

Do you have a workspace at home? How does it differ from your other office? 
I have a desk at home (covered in way too many papers), but I never sit there. I prefer doing work from comfy places like the couch, wrapped in my white fluffy blanket or laying down in bed. And the candles must always be burnin'.

Trendsetters: Giving Keys

Jacqueline Lee/E! Entertainment

What's the best part about your job? 
Speaking life, love, inspiration and encouragement to people who have never felt that before. I get the opportunity to make people feel believed in for the first time in their lives. Also, knowing every key is being used to spread these messages around the world.

What's the one item in your closet that you could never go without? 
My thick-rimmed Panama hats. I feel like my outfit is incomplete without one.

What inspired you to start The Giving Keys? Had you ever made jewelry before?
It all started with a hotel room key while I was passing through New York City on my music tour. I wore the key as a necklace and had the idea to start engraving old, used keys with inspirational words, realizing that in a way, we are all like these keys—unique, flawed and scarred. I encouraged everyone to 'own' the word on their key, and then keep their eyes open for someone who needed the message more than them. People started telling me their stories and I knew I needed to start a website to post them. And once that started taking off, I knew I wanted the revenue to go to charity. Then, I met a young homeless couple on Hollywood Boulevard and took them to dinner. I had an "aha!" moment to employ them to engrave the words on the keys. When I met them, they slept in a dumpster, but little by little, they saved up enough money to stay in a motel and eventually, an apartment.

Trendsetters: Giving Keys

Jacqueline Lee/E! Entertainment

What sets The Giving Keys apart from other jewelry lines? 
We aren't in this just to make money and be fashionable. We exist to change people's lives. 

How has the company expanded since you first started out? 
Because of the pay it forward movement, website traffic organically started to pick up, and keys were being worn all over the world. We started getting requests to be carried in legitimate stores, so I knew it was time to make The Giving Keys into an actual business. I wanted the keys to keep selling so the original homeless couple could get off the streets. After rapid growth, I had to start delegating and hired skilled employees to run all of the different departments. We have over 50 employees now and are featured in more than 2,000 stores including Fred Segal, Nordstrom and Kitson.

What is the best piece of advice you've ever received?
Be kind to yourself. You are unique for a divine purpose. There's no one else who can do what you do. Embrace all your "quirks" and so-called "imperfections." Change your perspective and know that those things make you, you—and that's a beautiful thing. 

Who are some of your career heroes?
BonoOprah and Arianna Huffington.

Finish the sentences below:
Today for lunch I had… Mercado Chips with queso dip and a kale salad to balance myself out. 
The first website I log onto every day is… Instagram.
My usual Starbucks order is… double tall latte with one pump of white chocolate mocha.
If I wasn't doing this job, I would… be a teacher. 
My favorite place to visit is… Nashville, TN. 
My favorite accessory is… The Giving Keys necklace, of course! I actually give away the one I'm wearing to someone new every day, so I wear a new one each day.
The item that's always in my makeup bag is… tweezers. You never know when you'll see a hair that needs to go! 
List five things that are on your desk right now… The Giving Tree book cover (framed from my mom), my massive art book journal where I take work notes as well as sketch new jewelry designs and campaigns, new metal samples of products I need to approve, post-it notes and a Votivo candle (duh).