“I remember a couple of holidays where rather than having a huge Christmas with gifts, we’d go as a family and help feed the homeless,” she said.
Mueller is a first-generation American in her family; her father is German and her mother Colombian. Mueller, now 30, has her own Buckhead-based, custom-design luxury accessory business called Mel Boteri.
The philanthropic aspect of the business is called “Shop the Cause,” which she is hoping to expand as her business grows.
“When I started my own business, it was important for me to have an element of giving back with it,” Mueller, of Marietta, said.
“So many people helped me along the way. I feel like I have to give back one way or another.”
Mel Boteri includes primarily handbags designed by Mueller but she said any accessory is “fair game” and she is adding shoes and jewelry to her fall 2013 line.
Her main organization of choice is the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund, which she donates an ongoing 20 percent of the cost of a purse called Ann Nicole.
“I just felt like breast cancer, which is obviously a huge issue, has so much support around it, and ovarian cancer affects a lot of women, too, but it doesn’t have a lot of support,” Mueller said.
“I’ve been very fortunate I haven’t had any of those issues in my background but I have met people through my business who have.”
Mueller has partnered with others including the American Red Cross and the Breast Cancer Foundation. In 2010, Mueller partnered with Kimberly Stone of Poshglam, which is a website catering to new luxury brands, to design a “functional, fashionable and philanthropic” bag, and 40 percent of the proceeds went toward the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund.
“Women typically at some point in their lives have to confront health issues,” Stone said. “Handbags are so synonymous with females, whether you’re a mother or a young 20-something. … We wanted to come up with a fashion savvy bag that is both quality and cutting edge to give back to a charity that we both believe in.”
Mueller said, in the future, she would like to partner long-term with several organizations and let her customer choose, and say, “O.K., I want to buy this bag and give a percentage to whatever organization I am passionate about.”
Then, she said she would change the signature turquoise inside lining of her bags to fit whichever organization her customer chooses.
“So, if you decide to donate to breast cancer, I would make it pink, or red for heart disease,” Mueller said.