By Clara Ruth West

What comes to mind when you hear the word orphan? If you’re anything like me, it’s either a vivid picture of “Little Orphan Annie” or stories of a child who is in and out of foster care.

Many times, however, people just like us are orphans, including Ellie Edwards, a senior journalism student at Baylor and the creative mastermind behind the custom jewelry line, Tied + True.

Ellie Edwards | Courtesy Photo

When Ellie was three, her mother died from cancer. She and her father continued their lives as a family of two.

48 hours before she moved into her dorm her freshman year of college, she lost her father. He battled with early-onset diabetes, had one of his legs amputated and suffered serious complications related to kidney and congestive heart failure.

Talk about heartbreaking. Ellie’s full story is here:

While it would have been easy for Ellie to allow her circumstances to defeat her, she was determined to make the most of her college experience. Many people told her, “You should really take the semester off,” but she knew herself well enough to know that she couldn’t just sit around. Sitting meant thinking, and she wasn’t ready to think about the recent events.

So, she jumped into her first semester at the University of North Texas (UNT) and hasn’t looked back since.

Spring of 2015, Ellie transferred from UNT to Baylor. A semester later, Tied + True was born. She launched on Instagram and had a pretty successful start for a new business.

“I didn’t really put much thought into it,” Edwards said. “I just thought, ‘This is fun!’”

Courtesy Photo

Shortly after, she decided to take a break and put more creative thought into her line. June of 2017, she left her original partner, UNICEF, and found Shaping Destiny in Austin. Shaping Destiny is an organization based out of Cameroon, Africa whose purpose is “to help orphaned children and develop transformational leaders.”

Ellie had two options: she could give a monetary donation to Shaping Destiny, or she could choose to use that monetary donation to sponsor a child. She chose the latter and was matched with Irene, a 15-year-old girl who desires to be a nurse when she grows up because she wants to help people.

Read more of Irene’s story here:

In honor of Irene, Ellie created two pieces in her jewelry line the Irene Choker and the Irene Initial Choker. 50% of the purchases from the Irene Collection go directly to Shaping Destiny. 25% of all other purchases are donated as well. It only costs $35/month to sponsor Irene, but Ellie chooses to go above and beyond.

Ellie still aspires for growth. She’s streamlining her current collection and has plans to launch her spring/summer line in March. Two items that will stick around are those in the Irene Collection.

“I want people to remember what that necklace did and the impact it made,” Edwards said.

Now a senior in college, Ellie is beginning to plan for the future. Tied + True is a venture she can see herself doing for the rest of her life. What started as a “one-woman show” where she was taking responsibility for marketing, design, logistics, production and more has turned into a brand. She’s happy with her progress and even happier that she can continue to support Irene each month.

“This is more like a hobby than a business,” Edwards said. “I just enjoy making jewelry.”

Regardless of the future of Tied + True, Ellie will always be a firm believer in the idea that everything happens for a reason. She lost her parents, but then met Irene and created a business. There’s no telling what’s in store for this “orphan’s” future.