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For Kora’s Maxandra Short, life has been one big ol’ happy accident. When co-founder Amy Walker’s public health gig in Africa took an unexpected turn towards handicraft development, the duo discovered horn and decided to build a jewelry line around the material together. Following the smashing success of the trunk shows unveiling their Rwandan bracelets, Maxandra left her film job in Los Angeles behind and never looked back. “That’s the best time to start your business—when you really hate your current job,” she laughed.

As a kid growing up in Southeast Asia, the designer moved around between places like Seoul and Jakarta, collecting antique and Indonesian jewelry and making her own, too. Though her childhood interests weren’t supposed to evolve in a career, her passion for overseas travel, business development, and craft made it a perfect fit. “My absolute favorite part has been when I’m in Kenya and I’m at the workshop, working on the piece together and trying to tweak it with them,” she said. “When you get it, it’s the best feeling in the world.”

For the past four years, Maxandra and Amy have focused on building a line from four sustainable components: brass, recycled aluminum, glass shards, and, of course, the one that started it all. While it’s probably easy for Maxandra, who has been alone at the helm since a few months ago, to get distracted by collaborating with Rooney Mara or seeing her designs in Vogue editorials, she has committed big-time to economic development in foreign countries—a passion that keeps her bopping around the globe as much as possible. —carlye wisel