Founding Story

Alicia Duque, Michelle McAdam and Elizabeth Carlock

They walked into a coffee shop and left business partners. Elizabeth, Alicia, and Michelle launched GEMS BY THE FOOT® in 2017 to support refugee women rebuilding their lives in North Texas, one FOOT at a time. 10% of net profits from your purchase benefits the IRC Dallas, which has resettled approved families from Bhutan, Burma, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Afghanistan, Iran, Syria, El Salvador, Cuba, Honduras and BEYOND. In addition, GEMS BY THE FOOT® products are handmade by refugee women in Dallas who earn a living wage for making jewelry and sewing jewelry pouches as a way to support their vulnerable households. The stories of these resilient women from around the world inspire the company to offer accessories for good, customized by you and “MADE TO ORDER, BEYOND BORDERS®.”


Elizabeth Carlock, Co-Founder ELIZABETH CARLOCK PHILLIPS became a social entrepreneur in high school, when she started her first cause-related jewelry business, which would later evolve into Elizabeth Carlock Designs. Her trademark collection was a line of made-to-order necklaces called GEMS BY THE FOOT®. Elizabeth’s business led her to Uganda, where she was the founding designer of a nonprofit social business, and to Peru, where she designed for a fair-trade company providing women with economic opportunity. Since 2013, Elizabeth has served as Executive Director of the Phillips Foundation, but she always kept GEMS BY THE FOOT® in the back of her mind as a viable brand to re-launch someday if she met the right partners who shared her passion for connecting product to purpose. Her “dream team” was formed when she connected with Alicia and Michelle:

Alicia Duque, Co-Founder ALICIA DUQUE, a native of Cali, Colombia, studied Architectural Design at Parsons School of Design and later earned her Graduate Gemologist certification from the Gemological Institute of America (GIA). Her experience spans all facets of the jewelry industry, from sourcing and production, to design and operations. While living in New York, she worked for the philanthropic, fine jewelry brand of Joan Hornig, who introduced her to Elizabeth in 2016. Alicia’s husband is the successful son of Iranian religious refugees to America, and as an immigrant herself, Alicia especially relates to the cause behind GEMS BY THE FOOT®. She is particularly excited about the platform it provides to highlight and humanize refugee families’ stories.

Michelle McAdam, Co-Founder MICHELLE MCADAM’s interest in refugee resettlement issues began when she took a human rights course as a senior at Southern Methodist University, which led her to volunteer as a tutor to resettled children at Vickery Meadows in Dallas. Upon graduation, Michelle moved to France, where she earned an M.A. in International Relations with a focus on Human Rights Law at the American University of Paris. She then worked at the IRC Dallas as a Health and Wellness Intern before transitioning to Women's Empowerment and AmeriCorps Job Training Associate at the agency. Michelle and Elizabeth originally met as freshman dormitory neighbors in college and later worked together in Dallas to found Echelon, which is the official young professionals auxiliary “Mobilizing the Next Generation” for The Salvation Army nationally. They are excited to work together again, aligning their skill sets and experience for good, this time with co-founder Alicia through GEMS BY THE FOOT®.