When Lance White graduated from college he had a degree in business and no idea what he wanted to do. He’d worked at a local hotel and different restaurants to help pay tuition, and the one thing he did know was he didn’t want a career in the hospitality industry. Instead he took a job at a local jewelry store just to gain sales experience to go after a corporate job. What he unearthed was a true passion for jewelry and a gift for helping others.
“I had never given jewelry any thought until I went to work for a local jewelry store out of college,” recalls Lance. “I kept watching the jeweler size rings and I saw the repetitiveness of it and felt like I could do it. He was shocked when I was able to do it right the first time without ever taking a class.”
From that moment on everything took off for Lance. He took wax carving classes and learned the art of design as he continued to work and save his money with the goal of starting his own store.
“I truly never had an artistic bone in my body, and to this day I can’t draw or sketch a ring. I draw what I call stick jewelry, but I can certainly make it come to life in a 3D wax carving. I found out that I truly have a gift that way.”
Opening his store in Cumming, GA with a mere $10,000 was a daunting task. With only a safe, a desk (made from a glass-top table) and two filing cabinets; Lance sublet retail space from a dress shop to open Lance’s Jewelry. Within four months he had earned enough to pay off his $10,000 loan. With his mom, Dottie Cobb, working by his side, Lance turned all of his early profit back into inventory.
“We really are a true mom and pop store, complete with an actual mom,” chuckles Lance. “I started with my kitchen chair as my desk chair and, today I have 3.5 million in inventory that is completely paid for. I’m the largest retail store in Forsyth County. My mom and my sister, Doris Corona, have been a huge part of my success.”
Along the way Lance’s other passion was also unearthed. During his 20th anniversary celebration Lance’s Jewelry collected donations for the local Forsyth Humane Society. Collecting more than a truck load of food caught the attention of the local newspaper. But when the reporter went to get a picture of the delivered food at the Humane Society distribution center just two days after delivery, the food was gone.
In disbelief, Lance started asking questions. Never before had he realized the incredible need for pet assistance. He was moved and could hear his father’s words of advice in his head: “If you don’t like what you see, then get involved.” Lance became a volunteer at the Forsyth County Humane Society.
“When I started looking into their organization, not only was I touched by what they were doing, but I found there was more that could be done. Their adoptions hadn’t grown year over year, despite the population growth. There was room for improvement.”
Earning a spot on the board helped him organize additional donation campaigns and impact the number of dogs and cats adopted each year. The organization pulled animals from local shelters, but their annual number of animals rescued hadn’t increased in a while. Lance began championing their cause, along with several new board members, which resulted in their annual adoption rates increasing from 450 animals in 2009 to 1500 projected adoptions for 2013. By the increase in number of animal’s lives he is helping to save, the Humane Society has also helped the county shelter reduce their euthanized rate by 35 percent.
“I’m very proud of those numbers,” states Lance. “I’ve always wanted to give back to the community and I’m a huge dog lover. I would bring my two dogs to work every day until they passed.”
Recently another 501(c)3 caught Lance’s attention; Forsyth Feed the Hungry. The organization had only 6 donation locations, and a friend challenged him to get involved. First order of business was to increase their drop off locations from 6 to 16. Unlike larger food banks which sell food to shelters at drastically reduced prices, Forsyth Feed the Hungry donated everything they received to shelters and food pantries around the county for free. Lance was sold! Today he helps organize local food drives, 5k fund raisers and has recently been elected to their board.
“I’ve always been a giving person and I’ve never refused to donate to anyone who is brave enough to walk into my store and personally request a donation. I’m proud of the fact I’ve directly impacted more than 5000 animals by saving their lives, and I’m ready to continue to give back to the community that has given so much to me.”
With Lance’s help the Forsyth Humane Society opened a thrift store to generate year-round funds. They also have plans to open a new adoption facility that will be able to host birthday parties and other small functions.
“The first year we had the thrift store it generated $85,000 for the Humane Society. So far this year its generated $100,000 and there is another $50,000 to be given before the end of the year, making it a very successful program.”
Uncovering his love for jewelry has been a path Lance White stumbled upon. But giving back to his community is just a part of who he is.