Jewelry doesn’t have to be just decoration. It can also serve a higher purpose. Jewelry designer Helena Cho uses her creativity and desire to encourage others to do just that. She founded Good Work, a popular jewelry company in Southern California and uses its platform to inspire, spread the Gospel and ultimately make a difference.
Helena’s bracelet designs are phenomenally successful, having been featured in countless style magazines and becoming a favorite among many celebrities. When asked about her instant success, she said simply, “It’s an honor,” and then quickly revealed the purpose that fuels her company. “I feel so privileged to have this platform and just want to glorify God through all of it.”
Helena never dreamed of being a business owner or a fashion designer. On the contrary, she had very few childhood dreams at all. “I was just average. I didn’t believe I could do anything well,” Helena said.
She spent her early childhood in Korea where the culture was very different than in America. If you were extremely smart, you were honored and respected; if you weren’t, nobody noticed you. When she was 8, Helena’s family immigrated to the United States.
Shortly after arriving, she saw a poster about an art contest, and one of her teachers encouraged her to enter. To her surprise, she won second place in the national contest. It was the first time anyone had ever patted her on the back for being good at something.
The Start of Something Good
Growing up, Helena’s parents were very poor, living at the poverty level in a 100-year-old house. She recalls numerous roof leaks, rusted water pipes and pesky bugs being a daily nuisance in their home. Her father was a preacher, and her mother was a gentle yet powerful woman of prayer. When she was in the 7th grade, Helena’s mother read an article about a prestigious and expensive private school and began to pray without ceasing that her daughter would get to attend there.
“I thought she was crazy,” Helena explained. “I mean, I was a C student!”
Her mom had amazing faith, however, and demonstrated what it looked like to walk by faith, not by sight. She never pressured Helena to study or be more disciplined; she just prayed boldly, knowing God was capable of changing circumstances in ways beyond human comprehension.
Within a few months, Helena began to want to succeed in school and set high goals for herself. Several teachers tutored her in exchange for cleaning classrooms, and she became very meticulous about her studies. The increased effort paid off. Helena Cho, a C-student, became a straight-A student and was accepted into Stevenson School on a tuition scholarship. After high school, she continued on to the University of Southern California, where she studied finance and marketing.
After college graduation, Helena felt such gratitude for the many opportunities this country had given her that she wanted to find a way to give back. She initially had no idea what that would look like, but she prayed for direction and an opportunity. Her inspiration came while volunteering at a 5K fundraiser that raised thousands to build a school in India. She realized that even something starting small could make a profound impact on the lives of others.
After the 5K fundraiser, she decided to start small by spreading random acts of kindness to people she daily interacted with.
The Original Bracelet
In 2011, Helena created the original Good Works bracelet—a leather wrap-around with stamped silver words that were important to her, words like: Lead the Way, Accept Diversity, Faith, Come Together, Courage, Dream, Speak Kindness, Forgive. She made 2,000 bracelets in assorted colors and handed them out as gifts to encourage, inspire and share her faith. She gave the bracelets to people she encountered daily in restaurants, stores and in other day-to-day activities, sharing a word of encouragement each time.
She wanted to give a gift people would treasure and not throw away, but Helena never intended it to be a business. But after seeing the joyous smiles the bracelets brought people and having many ask where to buy them, the idea of Good Works was birthed.
She started her company with large, philanthropic goals, donating 25% of all net profits to charitable causes. In past years, Good Works has sponsored Dream Prom, purchased school supplies for low-income students and helped homeless families transition off the streets.
Glorifying God Through Fashion
Through the years, many business decisions have tested her faith. But even when facing incredible hurdles, Helena rests in the fact that God is in complete control of her business and her personal life.
“At trade shows I am very bold about my faith,” she explained. “We have Bible verses everywhere, and sometimes it does turn people off. But that’s okay, I just trust God to take care of it.” She refuses to run her company based on the counsel of the secular world or give in to the temptation to water down the message to make it more universal.
The Good Works company name is derived from Ephesians 2:10, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Helena is amazed daily that God allows her to do what she does, to share encouragement and hope, and most importantly, to plant seeds of the Gospel in places where she might never have any opportunity to witness.
Helena shared a recent experience with Japanese boutiques, which purchased hundreds of bracelets with Bible verses even though Japan is not a Christian-filled country. “You know, it’s not just the missionaries’, pastors’ and church leaders’ jobs to preach the Gospel. We have to use whatever platform we have.”
Good Works continues to grow each year, carrying more bracelet styles, necklaces, luggage tags and a few other accessories. Boutiques and big brand retailers like Buckle and Nordstrom carry her line, and celebrities continue to make them a trendy, must-have accessory.
Believers and non- believers alike have a high sense of social responsibility, and Good Works is one company that takes that objective very seriously. Helena’s dream for her company is to have an even larger impact on its community and eventually the world. Good Works encourages bracelet wearers to go out and do likewise, to love others well and make a difference in the circle God has given them.
When Helena shares her story, humility is evident. “I don’t have any way to describe my life other than God’s extravagant grace.”
Every Christian is called to do good works. John 13:35 tells us that the world will know we are His disciples, not by our words but by our actions—by how we love others. Helena emphasized, “God has planned your life and put you exactly where you are, intentionally, for a purpose.”