Bits of Love

Bits of Love: Sweetheart bracelet crafted from paper beads in Uganda

Bits of Love: Sweetheart bracelet crafted from paper beads in Uganda

When Kallie Dovel traveled to Northern Uganda in 2007, she saw what the world knows best about the country: impacts of war, poverty and destruction. But she also discovered its many nuggets of beauty, such as women who were crafting beautiful jewelry from paper beads there. Recognizing that the women had a skill but lacked a plan for marketing and selling their creations, Dovel began 31 Bits in order to provide a market for channeling their skills. Starting with six women, the company has since grown to now work with 108 women who are simultaneously becoming part of a hope-building community and developing business skills to eventually work on their own.

As someone who’s passionate about innovation, social enterprise and community development, I consider 31 Bits to be a superb model. Four reasons I love it:

  • They approach poverty with holistic solutions
  • They’ve built sustainability into the job creation program
  • They’re scaling the business with high-quality products
  • They use social media seamlessly
31bits collage

31 Bits provides women with community, education and place to dream about their future.

Holistic Approach

Women sign a 4 year contract with 31 Bits during which time they receive an education, financial skills, business skills, vocational training, AIDS and health education and English lessons, if they so desire. All of this occurs in a supportive community with other women who are developing those skills.

31 Bits empowers women in Uganda to leave poverty

31 Bits empowers women in Uganda to leave poverty


The goal is that they will have the skills to sustain themselves after 4 years of going through the program and being part of a supportive, caring community. Not only are they able to feed their families, they have developed a career, confidence and a voice. From feeling greater respect in their homes in Uganda to being featured on their designer page, the women are given dignity and recognition. Plus the enterprise is sustainable in that the products are crafted from recycled paper and other local materials using a handicraft skill the women already knew.

31bits woman with clutch

31 Bits uses fashion and design too creatively solve problems of poverty

Upscale Jewelry

From being featured on Hallmark to spotted on celebrities, 31 Bits sells only high-end products that customers feel a sense of pride in owning. For example, browsing their online wedding shop feels like stepping into a boutique bridal shop.Beautiful clutches like the one pictured above are infused with a special touch of style.

Social Media

From a regularly updated blog, to Facebook to Pinterest to Twitter and instagram, 31 Bits is on top of it when it comes to connecting via social media. Plus they’ve integrated it seamlessly into their website and new product releases. They update each one regularly with relevant and interesting content. As you can see, I’m a huge fan!

Getting Things Done

Getting Things Done

Entrepreneurs must be organized and stay on top of loose ends to accomplish big goals.

As entrepreneurs, we have a lot to manage. In addition to normal demands on our time–household chores, relationships, errands, groceries, e-mail, bills–we have our passion to pursue! This often involves networking, meetings, conference calls, creating and updating social media, marketing, bookkeeping, product designing…and the list continues, sometimes in addition to holding a full-time job! Getting things effectively checked off our ever-growing to-do lists requires efficient planning and organization.

I’m a “P” personality type, according to Meyer’s Briggs, which essentially means that when left in my natural state, I go-with-the-flow, have amazing friendships and a lot of fun, but live with the guilt that I’ve let essential things slide, most importantly my passions of creating sustainable social enterprises. How-to books like David Allen’s Getting Things Done have helped me develop basic life skills for managing these many tasks effectively.

Allen’s primary recommendation is that we de-clutter our brains by jotting down everything we need to do in some sort of list. If an activity can be completed in less than 2 minutes, do it immediately, otherwise assign it to a list. While Allen has a crazy exhaustive list of lists to keep track of, I’ve found the following to work well for me:

  • Yearly planner for thinking ahead when the best time to do something would be (I try to limit a day’s activities to 2-3 items, after working 8 hours, or 4-5 on weekend days)
  • Grocery list on my refrigerator door
  • Shopping list in my iPhone
  • Phone calendar for meetings and scheduled events
  • Comprehensive Word doc to-do list where things I know I won’t get to in the next week, or possibly the next month even, live. This list includes titles of books to read and movies to watch.
  • A Gmail task list for my daily work activities
  • A 30 Things to do when 30 list for fun
  • A list of the next dozen blog posts topics I want to write about

So maybe I am competing with Allen when it comes to keeping lists! But lists, if followed, help create a time and space for actions, for getting things done. As professional organizer Regina Leeds eloquently stated, “So how do we quiet the clutter? We clear the debris. We create systems to handle the things we want to keep by giving them a designated place to live. And we honor what we have created.” (p. xi, The 8 Minute Organizer).

Hillman City Here We Come!

Hillman City sign

Hillman City sign

As part of Rainier Avenue Church’s community development team focused on Hillman City in South Seattle, we’re challenging our congregation to get out in the neighborhood to participate in the work with us.

Food is always a fabulous place to start. So our January challenge has begun there: eat at one of the local establishments. Now these are not restaurant chains like Pizza Hut or Olive Garden. Nor do they have the ritzy vibe of an oceanfront seafood lounge or the cool ambiance of a hipster cafe. Instead, these are mom and pop establishments primarily staffed by people originally from the countries that their culinary wares represent. Some have bars on their windows. Others (like the taco truck) have a tin shed for the dining room (but, hey, those tacos sure are tasty!).

Inside Juba Cafe

Inside Juba Cafe

Today we revealed the challenge and backed it up with a sampler table of local delicacies. Among other things, our refreshments consisted of Somalian samosas,  Filipino spring rolls, Mediterranean baklava  and a  taco truck burrito downed with delicious chai tea…all purchased within a few walking blocks away from the church.

Filipino food from Kawali Grill

Filipino food from Kawali Grill

Next week we set foot on Hillman City and take groups to explore the world of cuisine inside these uniquely beautiful eateries. And this is only the beginning. Hillman City here we come!

First 13 Posts in 2013

bucket list

I keep determining that I’m going to start blogging regularly, and although I got this cool site set up with an awesome url last fall, the whole blogging part hasn’t happened yet. Yet again, one of my New Year’s Goals was to post twice a week. Well, I was discussing New Year Resolutions with a group of good friends and one of them mentioned how like over 90% of resolutions don’t make it through the year. I thought about how my friends who’ve made bucket lists for a set amount of time (e.g. 30 Things to Do When 30) tend to have a much higher completion rate. Perhaps this is because because someone with the goal of running a marathon, for example, feels more motivated to make time to run regularly than does someone with the resolution of running 2 or 3 times per week.

“I need help re-wording my blogging goal” I told them. “I keep saying I want to post twice a week, but it’s not happening.”

“Maybe you should just make it once a week,” a friend suggested.

“Maybe you should just force yourself to write every day for a month and then it’ll be a habit,” said another, the one who ran a marathon last year.

I decided instead to take the bucket list approach to blogging. Because part of my 5 Goals for the year is to create quarterly sub-goals, I’m starting by listing 12 topics I plan to blog about between now and the end of March, with #13 being this one. And, yes, I’ve reduced my aim to once per week rather than twice as it seems more achievable. So below are the topics in no particular order:

1. Tierra Nueva: an organic farm and social enterprise that empowers migrant workers in the NW

2. Street Bean Café: a Seattle coffee shop that trains and employs homeless youth to be baristas

3. The Now Habit: best ideas from book on avoiding procrastination

4. Getting Things Done: tips for getting things done (duh :))

5. Freedom Stones: a social enterprise that trains and employs trafficked women in Thailand to make beautiful jewelry

6. To Buy Can Be Better Than To Give: Why I Bought a Necklace Instead of Giving a Donation

7. 31 Bits: an upscale jewelry line that employs women in Uganda to make their traditional paper beaded wares

8. Hillman City Here We Come! Challenges my community development team is making in South Seattle

9. Community Development initiative in India (can’t think of the name right now and brochure on it is in my bedroom where the international student I’m hosting is sleeping)

10. Coffee for a Cause: interview with my friend James who does development work with coffee plantations in Kenya and other countries around the globe

11.  Surprise #1

12. Surprise #2