The Ick Factor: When Your Personal & Business Ethics Don’t Align

The Ick Factor: When Your Personal and Business Ethics Don't Align, Bev Feldman

Shopping small and local as much as possible is very important to me. When I started seriously making chainmaille, I decided to buy my supplies from a family-owned shop I came across on Etsy. I loved that my money was going toward supporting a fellow small business.  Because I was new to making jewelry and metal is expensive, I started making silver plated jewelry. The materials were high quality, and after awhile I felt a sense of loyalty to the supplier.

In my personal life, I have become increasingly conscious about the impact I am having on the environment. I have made it my personal mission to buy as many of my clothes as well as those for my infant daughter from local thrift shops. I make an effort to buy produce and meat from local producers who value sustainability, and Freecycle has become my new best friend. I often feel guilty buying things brand new (unless it’s handmade).

Sometime last year, I started to feel that my business didn’t fully align with my personal ethics. For one, I didn’t like that I was using brand new materials, whether it be the rings I was using to make my chainmaille or the beads I was using to embellish them. Second, at some point I realized that the silver plating was coming off the pieces I had made for myself. I later learned that is what happens to silver plating, and by no means was it a reflection quality of the products I had been sold. More than anything it was naiveté on my end.

But I was disappointed nonetheless. I wanted to make a long-lasting product that my customers could wear for years and years, and I started to realize that was not necessarily the case with my jewelry. I was always clear what materials I used to make my jewelry, but somehow I couldn’t help but feeling like I was somehow lying to my customers. I also felt that the materials I was using should be aligned with what was important to me in my personal life.

It left me with an icky feeling that I would try to ignore but would often leave me anxious. I knew something had to change.

At the beginning of this year, I decided moving forward I would buy materials made from recycled sterling silver made in the US. No more agonizing about my pieces not lasting as long as I wanted them to or that I wasn’t honoring what was important to me. I also have decided that I am done buying brand-new beads. While my line has naturally has been moving more toward metalsmithing and less beading, any “new” beads I buy moving forward will be vintage or from repurposed jewelry.

My personal ideals and business practices are still not 100% aligned, but every day I am working to make sure they are moving in that direction. It is leaving me feeling much more confident in my business knowing that I am being true to personal ethics.

Meet Bev of Linkcouture

bfeldman headshot

Bev Feldman is a planner gone rogue. After leaving her job in the human services in late 2011 to travel around South America with her husband, she decided to focus on her creative side and be a full-time jewelry artist and blogger at Linkouture. When she’s not working on her business, she enjoys potlucks with her friends, buying local goodies at farmers markets and craft shows, and traveling to new as well as familiar places.


Have you ever been faced with a conflict between your personal and business ethics? How did/are you working to align them? 


  1. laalicia says:

    thanks for sharing your thoughts — from the outside it looks like it’s all tied up in a neat little bow — it’s so nice for you to let us in on the process! 🙂

    • Bev F. says:

      I’m glad I put on a good front, I suppose! I think it is really important for small business owners to share their thought processes and their challenges.

  2. gudgin says:

    And with more and more people making ethical purchasing decisions, it’s a selling point too, especially if it doesn’t mean paying a huge premium.

    • Bev F. says:

      I agree! I’m still considering if this 100% where I want to put my money (I can’t say I’m thrilled with the packaging), but my ethics definitely come into play with the decisions I make.

  3. Darice says:

    This is great, Bev! We’ve had to play philosopher a few times too. As small businesses, so much of who we all are is tied up in our why (why we started, why we do it, why we care). Personal ethics play a very important role there.

    I’m glad you’re finding ways to incorporate sustainability into your work…jewelry seems like could be tricky to that with! Bravo! 🙂

    • Bev F. says:

      I agree, Darice. I really like that I can make my business the way I want it to be and that I can incorporate my personal ethics into it.

  4. Citlalli says:

    This post really spoke to me, thanks Bev! I have (slowly) but truly change aspects in my business that align more with my personal (eco-conscious) life as well as my efforts to spend my money where it matters: my local community. It’s no easy task to make it happen, but so rewarding when you do.
    It’s so important to me for my business to feel like an extension of myself, no more icky feelings! I love the way my personal ethics align with my business, it’s so rewarding!

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