Jordan Guildford: Empowering Women through Mentorship and Community Building

20 under 40: Inspiring Leaders to Watch


Jordan Guildford is the founder and CEO of Gems for Gems, a charitable organization committed to making a difference in the lives of women and girls around the world. A natural leader from the start, Guildford has been making her mark on the world since she was a young girl. Her leadership style is characterized by a deep, sincere commitment to the cause she lives for. She is a passionate advocate for the rights and well-being of all women and works tirelessly to ensure they receive the recognition and respect they deserve. With her strong vision and unwavering commitment to the cause, she has inspired many people to join her in this fight for a better, brighter future for women and girls.

Let’s delve more deeply into Jordan’s inspiring journey.

Aspioneer (A): Thank you for doing this with us, Jordan. Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your organization?

Jordan Guildford (J): “Gems for Gems is a registered charity with a mission to end the cycle of domestic abuse by focusing on economic recovery and the empowerment of survivors. Gems for Gems is an accidental charity, grown ‘in’ purpose and with a real focus on providing the means for real, and lasting, change in the lives of survivors and their children. Each one of our initiatives was created to fill a gap in support here in Calgary. By doing this, we have never reinvented the wheel, stood on anyone’s toes, and have operated in a very unique space in the domestic abuse world.”

(A): Could you tell our readers a little bit about your past?

(J): “I grew up with very little. Food, heat, and hot water were often not available. The struggle and exposure to abuse myself truly custom-made me for the role I have today in Gems for Gems.

When people are in survival mode, they either soften and become more compassionate or they harden. Each member of my family reacted differently to the hardships we all went through. Each of the three of us kids existed under the same roof, had many of the same experiences, yet we all responded differently. My Mum was the same. She had her own way of coping. Through it all, the life lessons taught by the hardship, and some very significant ones by my mother, have made me who I am today. A flawed human, but very aware of what one person can create out of an act of kindness, a willingness to accept the past, and utilize it all to create an impact.”

Jordan Guildford: Empowering Women through Mentorship and Community Building
Jordan Guildford

(A): What inspired you to establish Gems and Gems?

(J): “Gems for Gems has been in operation since 2015, but the reality of what that has looked like over the years has changed enormously! In 2015, we began with our namesake, the Gems for Gems Jewelry Drive! The inspiration for this came from a memory of my childhood, when my siblings and I went to the store and bought Mom a little bracelet. It had what we thought were diamonds—definitely plastic—but it was sparkly and beautiful! We were so excited to give it to her on Christmas morning, but when she opened it, tears came, and she left the room. When Mom came back, she was wearing her best clothes; her hair and makeup were done, and she told us that this little piece of jewelry put her back on her radar. When my family and I moved to Calgary from Nova Scotia, I was reminded of this story in November, before our first Christmas out here. I decided to do that for as many women as I could. I partnered with a local gym and started collecting ‘like new’ jewelry from women in public, cleaning it, and gift wrapping it for women in shelters. In three weeks, we had 436 packages! My goal had only been 20! This was the start, and we never looked back. As a team, community, and country, we have now given over 20,000 gifts on Christmas morning across Canada. All because of women stepping up.”

"We are not trying to duplicate anyone else’s efforts. We are always looking for opportunities to serve where no one else currently exists."

(A): What motivates you to stay on track? Can you also elaborate on the challenges you overcame and the accomplishments you made along the way to your current level of success?

(J): “I listen. I ask questions. I brainstorm, and I read.

My struggles? Well, this is an interesting story, and one of encouragement for ‘the little guy’. Due to Gems for Gems being an accidental charity and being a young family just starting, we had zero funds to be able to invest in marketing, grant writing, etc. The only free marketing I had at my disposal was social media and stages. I created social media pages and started posting all about what we were doing. I reached out to influencers to host our events, wear clothing with our logo on it, tag us, post about us, and please keep us in mind when they were speaking to their friends and clients. We were given an incredible gift by being contacted to be the featured charity at the Academy Awards Gifting Suite, and that skyrocketed the city’s awareness of us. We were such a hit that we were then asked to attend the Toronto Film Festival too! Simply incredible, and what a gift. This fell into our laps because of all the tagging people did for us on Facebook. 100% free.

I was blessed to have landed in a highly vibrant city with so many incredible events. I found every stage I could and contorted my speech into whatever would fit the theme of the event, just to be able to find ways to weave Gems for Gems in! I spoke on neural plasticity, happiness, charity, leadership, being an entrepreneur, living life in alignment with your purpose, and so on. Always looking to give them what they wanted and pop Gems for Gems in there as many times as possible. I was out 4–7 nights a week and would often have luncheons where I was speaking during the day too. Yes, I was tired. But also wildly excited because of what was happening. Gems was flourishing, and I was just doing everything I could to do justice to it. I am now more discerning about where I speak. Only take opportunities that very much align with Gems and that feel good.”

(A): What, according to you, is the downside of your domain? How do you plan to maintain the lead going forward?

(J): “I think one of the downsides to our sector is that many people feel they have the answer. But the truth is that there are many answers, many ‘right ways’ to do things, and no one treatment or solution is a cure-all for everyone. We are not trying to duplicate anyone else’s efforts. We are always looking for opportunities to serve where no one else currently exists.

My best resources for determining our path forward are my incredible team, the community, and my creativity. All three elements inform every new initiative we introduce, every collaboration, and how each will be put into action. As far as your question about getting ahead of a story goes. 

    • We make sure we always tell the truth.

    • We make informed decisions, making them easily defensible.

    • We are willing to have others disagree with us because we are sure of our decisions.

    • We are always willing to admit we were wrong and/or apologize.

Those four elements have guided us well over the years and have become pillars our organization has become known for.”

(A): How has the pandemic changed your perspective? What do you think the industry’s future holds?

(J): “I want to say the future of my industry is bright. That the number of abuse cases will decrease instead of constantly increasing. That organizations will start rallying together instead of focusing on box-ticking and competing for funding, pointing out our differences instead of working together with each other’s strengths. But sadly, as long as the funding continues to come from the same main source (government funding) and the board of directors for so many organizations keep selecting executive directors who focus on numbers instead of people, I don’t believe there will be much difference except for a few exceptions, as there are now.

COVID-19 opened my eyes to the dark side of my sector. As such, we continue to be an open door for those who are like-minded to join us, collaborate, and support each other. But those who have shown themselves to be dark in a time where we needed to bring as much light as we could will remain in that category for me until I see they have chosen to refocus on the people we are all here to help.”