MT 21 Gospel Driven Business: Rustic Cuff

Jill Donovan, right, lifts the spirits of a breast cancer patient.

Ministry Today commends a different group of kingdom-minded people or organizations each year in our MT21 issue. In 2014, when we launched MT21, we honored churches and ministries that were influencing the 21st-century church.

In 2015, we highlighted 21 congregations that were "culturally diverse on purpose." This year, however, we're taking a different approach and naming 21 businesses whose leaders are a witness for Christ in some way through their professional platforms. From cupcake makers to insurance agency owners to roofers, we have covered a wide range of businesses in this year's MT21 feature.

Today, we are highlighting Rustic Cuff  rusticcuff.com.

Rustic Cuff founder Jill Donovan graduated from law school and began her career as an attorney and law professor. She never dreamed she'd end up as a jewelry designer.

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"Several years ago, I got invited to be on Oprah Winfrey's show to talk about regifting," Donovan says. "My mom was a big regifter, and when I graduated from college I started a regifting club. Oprah says she was going to come out and film my gift closet and interview me on the show.

"The interview was supposed to be lighthearted and fun, but Oprah had an etiquette expert on the show who decided regifting was tacky and rude. What was supposed to be fun became a very humiliating experience."

The TV embarrassment prompted Donovan to empty her gift closet. She tried to throw herself into her law and academic career but found her heart wasn't really in it. So she took a sabbatical from academics and soon found herself staring at her empty closet shelves.

"I love to give, so I decided to fill them up again," Donovan says.

Instead of repurposed gifts, Donovan began making cuffs, bracelets of all shapes, colors and materials.

"I taught myself in the middle of the night," Donovan says. "I watched all the how-to videos I could find, read blogs and soon filled my shelves up again. I wanted to do it as a hobby and just give them to my friends."

The hobby turned into a full-time job, a company of her own and recognition from celebrities from Nashville to Hollywood. Today, a steady stream of customers stand for hours on a regular basis outside the Tulsa, Oklahoma-based company to purchase cuffs of their own.

"Regifting has come full circle for me, as we have created a Regifters Club," Donovan says. "Here, customers can get two cuffs every month—one to keep and one to give. We get hundreds of stories a day telling us how one little cuff impacted a life."

Donovan gives the Lord the credit for Rustic Cuff's success and says she believes the cuffs have become so popular because random acts of kindness are so much fun and have such a positive benefit for both the giver and the receiver.

"People will buy our cuffs and just carry them in their purse, waiting for just the right opportunity to give them away," Donovan says. "It's this ripple effect of kindness that goes way beyond the cuff."

Donovan says she gives many cuffs away and never gets tired of hearing people share their stories.

"I'll give a pink one to someone, and she'll start to cry, telling me she was just diagnosed with breast cancer, or give what we call a 'hope' cuff to someone who says it came just when they needed it," she says. "My little cuffs weren't purposed to be a business in the beginning. Now they are a ministry."

Today, Rustic Cuff has 175 employees, and Donovan says she hires people with the same values and love of giving that she has.

"God knew it was going to be a ministry, and He chose me to start that, which is funny because I could not stand the thought of ever being an entrepreneur," Donovan says. "That sounded like work, and I hated work. I had never had anything I was passionate about. Then the cuffs started taking off, and I felt like Noah. God said, 'I know you don't want to build, but here's some nails and a plank. I'm going to give you one piece every day, and you're going to build one piece without even knowing what you are building, without knowing the master plan because you'd probably run. So don't look back. Just work on the next plank.'"

Now, Donovan says she continues to build without knowing exactly where God is going to take her "little company that could."

"We are going to move into some other cities," she says. "I'm super excited and super nervous. My daughter calls it 'nervited.' With Rustic Cuff, our growth has all been very organic, and I like it that way. I like just knowing that I am doing what God wants me to do, and as long as I am under His favor, I can relax." 

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