It all started with a coin around Erin Jones’ neck. “Every time I wore this necklace, like every time without a doubt, someone would ask me about it – where I got it, what country, kind of itching for a story to tell,” Jones said. There was a story. Jones’ husband bought the small trinket for her on the couple’s honeymoon in South Africa. “But that’s all it was,” Jones said. “A cool piece we’d picked up in a little market from a local artist.”
The constant curiosity sparked an idea for Jones: What if she could tell a better story?
Last year, Jones launched Quoin, a lifestyle brand promoting awareness for human trafficking through coin-focused jewelry and t-shirts, with the message #changeforgood. The name, pronounced like “coin,” nods to the coins incorporated into the necklaces, but is spelled like the word meaning “the cornerstone of a building; providing extra strength for something weak.”
“A necklace like this is such a conversation starter, and that’s what I wanted with Quoin,” Jones said. “Creating unique pieces and have tons of people wearing them to give them the opportunity to share the bigger story about human trafficking.” The International Labor Organization estimates there are 40.3 million human trafficking victims globally. Atlanta ranks among the top U.S. cities for trafficking due to the frequency of large events, an international airport and the presence of four main interstates.
It was at Auburn in 2010 during Dr. Kate Thorton’s Global Consumer class that Jones first encountered the term “human trafficking.” Jones’ heart broke upon discovering a number of the products she used came at the expense of human exploitation in poor factory conditions, unsustainable wages and the inhumane treatment of children and women.
“At Auburn and college in general, you’re in this bubble that is wonderful, but not really ‘real’,” Jones said. “Since then I wanted to find a small way to help in the bigger fight against it.”
After graduating from Auburn in 2012 with a degree in apparel merchandising, design and product management, Jones worked in St. Petersburg, Florida, in Dillard’s buying office. But as she bought for “fast fashion” — a viewpoint that merchandise is dispensable — she felt she wasn’t working to help further her cause.
“So many of the brands I love today speak against ‘fast fashion’,” Jones said. “They say you need to be thoughtful about your clothes, where they’re coming from, the people who make them, their meaning. Not considering these things does nothing to foster the economy or those being hurt by it.”
Four years later, Jones and her husband moved to Atlanta, where Jones began work at her current job in Spanx’s merchandising department. Inspired by Spanx’s philanthropic focus, Jones searched for organizations fighting human trafficking and stumbled upon BeLoved Atlanta, the only two-year home and program for Atlanta’s adult women surviving prostitution, trafficking and addiction. The program offers restoration programs through counseling and case management as well as education and employment help with GED programs, tutoring and assistance with job placement in an effort to erase the stigma of adult women in prostitution. It was here the trafficking numbers Jones had always heard impressed on her a new narrative.
“When you’re talking to a woman, getting to really know her and what she’s been through, she stops being just a statistic out there,” Jones said.
Many of the women have never owned a car, have lost their homes, are fighting to not lose their children.
“Knowing all the work these women are doing to not just be another statistic, to overcome and get back into the world to have what we consider a normal life, it motivates me.”
As her husband’s work demanded travel and Jones spent many post-work evening hours in front of the TV or Netflix, the urge from Thornton’s class return. “I realized I could be using my time for something so much more beneficial, and it just kept knocking at me, like ‘Erin, you could start this. It wouldn’t be that difficult to take this idea and run,'” Jones said. Quoin officially launched on December 1, 2018 after months preparing brand identity, graphic design and prototypes. The necklace chain itself took nine months.
“I’d told family and friends about it, and they’re like, ‘When can buy a necklace?’ and I’m like, ‘I’m still working on the chain!’”
The lifestyle brand partners with BeLoved Atlanta to heighten efforts to help those harmed by human trafficking, and raise awareness around a city whose understanding of trafficking’s prominence varies tremendously, Jones said.
In the week prior to Super Bowl LIII, Jones joined In Our Backyard, a national organization traveling to Super Bowl host cities to provide convenience stores the tools to catch human trafficking signs.
“In one place, the guys had no clue and had heard of things like that happening in Mexico or Guatemala or other countries, but literally across the street another guy was like, ‘Yeah, I know all about this.'”
With Quoin just two months old, Jones says she’s mostly happy to have the business started. The required patience seemed agonizing, but she knew it was necessary in order to do justice for those in need and the women at BeLoved.
“I think of the women I’ve had the opportunity to meet and see them growing stronger every day because of the support of their Beloved community,” Jones says. “Quoin is on a similar mission to pay it forward, to embed ourselves into this community and walk alongside these ladies to show them change is possible and now is time to see that change, for good.”