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
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.
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.
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.
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!