Accessory To Life by Ashley McIlwain
It first caught my eye because it was simply beautiful and unique. I really had never seen anything like it, and I had to know more about it. Where did it come from? How could I get one? Who made it? Little did I know that its outer beauty was surprisingly the least amazing thing about it.
Believe it or not, I am talking about a necklace. But, this is no ordinary necklace; it is a 31Bits necklace. Trendy, funky, and fresh, I have yet to ever wear one of their necklaces without getting asked where I got it. When it comes to style, 31Bits knows what’s up. As I mentioned before though, that is just the beginning of the story.
31Bits is more than just the creator of fabulous jewelry; it is an accessory to life. How so? Started by a group of college girls, this team is providing nearly 100 Ugandan women with an opportunity for a better life. The Ugandan women create these amazing pieces by hand-rolling paper into gorgeous beads that then become part of an incredible masterpiece adorning your neck or wrist. It’s simply an incredible story and mission that these ladies are out to accomplish, which is why I had to sit down with Alli Swanson, the 31Bits PR and marketing guru (and yes, she is as cool as she seems) to get the scoop. Check out what she had to say …
What is the inspiration behind 31Bits?
We started 31 Bits in 2008, after Kallie had spent a summer in Uganda, and in that time developed close relationships with some women that were making the jewelry. She brought a box of jewelry back with her, and we started selling it at school events, craft fairs, and any place we could. People fell in love with the jewelry and couldn’t believe that the beads were made out of 100% recycled paper by women in Uganda. At that point we realized that this jewelry could be those ladies’ answer to a better life. That next summer we traveled to Uganda with Kallie, spent time with the ladies, and developed a sustainable way of providing them with an income. We hired on six ladies and have since expanded from six to almost 100!
31Bits is all about providing opportunities for each of these ladies in Uganda. What is it about your relationship with them that is the greatest blessing for you all?
It’s the biggest blessing for us to see the way their lives are changing. Not only are they now receiving a sustainable income every month, but they are also attending English courses, health and finance trainings, counseling, etc. Seeing them be empowered is the biggest blessing for us. In a couple years, our first wave of ladies will graduate out of our program and start small businesses of their own. The day that happens will probably be the most surreal and memorable moment of my life!!!
How has 31Bits impacted your life?
31 Bits has taught me to dream big, and never, ever, underestimate what God can do! It is only by the power and grace of God that this is working!!!
What do you hope people take away when they purchase a bit?
Our hope is that when people wear their 31 Bits jewelry, they always think about the hard work and love that our ladies put into creating them. It’s so much more than just a necklace or a bracelet, but it’s hope, future, and restoration. I hope that as people wear the jewelry and are complimented on them, (I’m convinced 31 Bits is the best conversation starter), that they share the story behind the beads
To Alli and the entire 31Bits crew, “Thank you!” for not only sharing with us today and hosting our amazing giveaway but for doing something so incredible to impact the world! You are remarkable and inspiring.
Ollie Twist Necklace in Pink and Cris Necklace in Multi-Color
(Yup, there will be two lucky winners!)
Comment below to get entered to win today’s featured giveaway. For extra entries do one or more of the following AND include which you did in your comment:
Entries must be received by tonight at midnight Pacific Standard Time. Winners will be selected randomly and notified by email the following day. Open only to those living in the U.S. (So sorry )
UPDATE: Congratulations to our two winners … Alethea and Nicole!