Meet the Maker: 31BITS
At AMERICAN NOMAD, we sell goods, like the Starboard Bracelet, aimed at making a difference in the lives of less fortunate women. Purchasing a piece of jewelry made from the intricate workings of a woman’s hands as she sits in her home in the war-torn regions of Uganda, provides more than just a living wage-it provides her the courage to believe in her existence and hope for her future.
Founders Kallie Dovel, Alli Swanson, Anna Toy, Brooke Hodges, and Jessie Simonson embraced this same concept when they started 31Bits in 2008. Today, 31Bits provides work and a voice for more than 150 Ugandan women!
THE ROAD TO 31BITS
Kallie had intended on working at an orphanage in Uganda to gain knowledge relevant to her degree in nutrition while helping others. But her journey would lead her down a different path. Realizing this was not the opportunity she had expected and left with an inordinate amount of free time, she looked for ways to fill the void. In the evenings, she worked at an after-school program.
During the day, Kallie talked with the locals, absorbing their accounts of how the war had disrupted their lives. Oftentimes, stripped of their homes, jobs and farms, many women and families struggled just to provide food for their children.
Kallie watched incredibly talented women make beautiful jewelry, like the Dusk Bracelet, yet unable to provide basic needs for their families. With no place to sell their goods, Kallie saw an opportunity where she might be able to help.
KALLIE OFFERS TO TRY AND SELL ONE BOX OF JEWELRY
Kallie offered to buy just one box of jewelry, proposing to sell it back home in Oregon. At the local Christmas Boutique, the entire box sold like wildfire. This was the defining moment for Kallie and ultimately, her inspiration for 31Bits. She knew then she could provide jobs for these women. She enlisted the help of Alli, Anna, Brooke, and Jessie and together they began.
31BITS – THE FIRST SIX BITS
Working with the women Kallie had grown close to the previous summer, she and her college friends gathered a small group of 6 skilled, Ugandan women in need. They met at their homes and began making jewelry, building 31Bits to just over 20 people.
A PROMISE FOR HOPE
31Bits gives each artisan the opportunity to earn a sustainable wage. Through a five-year program, each artisan receives a decent wage, additional training, daycare and continued support. Graduates of the program go on to start their own businesses such as farming, tailoring and brick making. Some continue making jewelry and selling it in the capital city of Kampala or to tourists in the northern Uganda city of Gulu.
INSPIRING CULTURAL CHANGE
In many parts of the world, women still do not share the same opportunities as men. The situation, while improving, remains similar in Uganda. Recognizing the potentially harmful results in not including all members of the family, 31Bits created the Men-to-Men program. 31Bits pairs their managers with the men in the lives of the women who work for 31Bits. The men learn about finances, health, holistic family care and much more.
By offering goods like the Glacier Necklace, American Nomad hopes to continue empowering women and inspire consumers to purchase quality-made items.
AMERICAN NOMAD (AN) supports the purchasing of goods to positively impact the lives of impoverished women. Will you join us in becoming a powerful force for change?
shopamericannomad. American Nomad, 2015. Web 2 Oct 2015.
Hughes, Jennifer. “Questions for 31Bits blog article for American Nomad.” Message to author. 28 Sep. 2015. E-mail.
31bits. blvr, 2015. Web. 9 Oct 2015.