Guardian angels: Supporting the military and first responders one necklace at a time
Special to The Union
WHO: Founder: Charlotte Ingram
WHAT: Angel of Valor, Incorporated
INFO: Visit AngelOfValor.com or call 530-432-9422
The woman who invented the Angel of Valor necklace plans to become a financial angel to charities and organizations that support first responders and the military.
“I had an angel necklace I wore for many, many years and it was very special to me,” said Charlotte Ingram, founder of Angel of Valor, Incorporated.
Ingram never took off the necklace because she believed the angel watched over her US Marine son’s safety during training at Camp Pendleton and his four-year deployment to Afghanistan. She also believed the jewelry watched over her niece, who was battling stage three breast cancer.
“While thinking of these two people I loved so much, I had an idea to make my own pendant,” she said. “I thought I could make these for other military moms going through this. It could benefit military charities. The idea just got bigger and bigger.”
Inspired & determined
Ingram envisioned a company that would sell angel necklaces and donate proceeds to specific charities. She asked her son Tyler to sketch some angel designs, and the two chose their favorite.
“It was beautiful,” said Ingram.
In retrospect, that was the easy part. Over the next several years, she faced many obstacles, including finances, family illness, and other frustrations. Ingram took the sketch to several jewelers who were excited about her project but lacked follow through.
Then she met Bob Larive.
Ingram, born and raised in Grass Valley, was at her job working as a physical therapy aide. She was administering an ultrasound to a patient and started talking about her idea.
The patient, Larive, was being treated for torn tendons in his shoulder, suffered when his pet donkey reared up in an overly-appreciative expression of Larive’s excellent ear scratching.
Larive, who served in the Army from 1967 to 1973 and flew spy planes over Vietnam and Germany, listened to Ingram expound her idea over the course of several weeks. Then he uttered the magic words.
“I’ll help you.”
Bob and his wife Jinx met Ingram for a series of luncheons. They reviewed sketches and brainstormed. They expected their target audience would be wives, sisters, and mothers of military servicemen and women.
Then they wondered, “Should we include first responders?” Police officers are always at risk; firefighters and search and rescue workers save lives in dangerous conditions, they reasoned.
Other ideas were bandied about. Perhaps the heart charm could be etched with an American flag? Maybe the loved one’s branch of service or profession could be engraved on the charm? What about replacing the heart charm in some pendants with a paw print to honor military canines and K9 cops?
The threesome was inspired and eager. But they realized something critical was missing: a prototype. Ingram found a jeweler in Auburn to create one.
Making the dream a reality
Next, Bob researched and selected a foundry in Georgia and a casting company in New Mexico to produce 10 pieces each. The work was of the highest quality, and more necklaces were ordered.
“They had to be hand-carved because the design was too detailed for CAD (computer-aided design),” said Bob.
Angel of Valor now has about 50 necklaces in stock, and has sold a dozen via word of mouth and a website that went live Feb. 7.
“Our goal is to stay just ahead of orders we receive,” said Bob, adding that inventory and expenditures must be closely monitored in a start-up company. “It’s scary to have a huge inventory because that’s expensive. The lead time to create a small group of 100 takes two to three weeks. When we get into the thousands, it could take a couple of months.”
The price of $89.99 includes the sterling silver pendant, charm and chain, a certificate of authenticity signed by Ingram, and shipping and handling. For the time being, a portion of the proceeds will be donated to military, law enforcement, and first responder support groups.
Once Ingram and the Larives have recouped their initial investments, 100 percent of net proceeds will be donated.
“I’m excited to write that first check,” said Ingram. “I want to make them money and help them out. I want it to get big and give more. We’ll be able to donate millions at some point.”
Currently, Angel of Valor is a class C corporation. Bob said the team may pursue 501c3 nonprofit designation if the company gets big and successful enough. Ingram is founder and treasurer, Bob is chief executive officer, and Jinx is secretary.
The company is based in the Larive’s home. The inventory is stored there and a separate phone line for Angel of Valor has been installed. Jinx takes the lead on mail and computer orders, shipping and handling, and managing the bank account.
The team will soon start work on a lapel pin for men.
“We want to keep things local and hire veterans or first responders when we get big enough that we need employees,” said Bob, who owned Fior D’Italia restaurant in San Francisco for several decades and fed 1,000 sailors during Fleet Week each year. “And always, always, everything will be made in America.”
Lorraine Jewett is a freelance writer who lives in Nevada County. To suggest a business news feature, contact her at LorraineJewettWrites@gmail.com.
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