Wear a Piece, Share Their Story

Alumni Jessie Simonson, Kallie Dovel, Anna Nelson, Brooke Hodges, and Alli Swanson founded the jewelry business 31 Bits the summer of 2008.
Alumni Jessie Simonson, Kallie Dovel, Anna Nelson, Brooke Hodges, and Alli Swanson founded the jewelry business 31 Bits the summer of 2008.
Image: Courtesy of Jessie Simonson

What began as a mission trip to Uganda for Alumna Kallie Doval has grown into an international jewelry business that continues to change lives in powerful ways.

31 Bits imports jewelry made of recycled paper from Uganda to sell online, in stores and in boutiques for about $20 to roughly $40, depending on the bracelet or necklace.

Dovel traveled to Northern Uganda in summer 2007. While she was there, she met a group of women who made paper beads.

After spending time with them and hearing their touching stories, Doval wanted to find a way to give opportunities to the Ugandan women.

She brought some paper jewelry back to America and spent the next year finishing school at Vanguard.
Soon after, she recruited some of her friends at Vanguard (Anna Nelson, Alli Swanson, Jessie Simonson and Brooke Hodges) to help her dreams turn into what has now evolved into 31 Bits.

Since then, 31 Bits has grown rapidly and now employs over 115 women in Uganda.

“None of us had any business experience or business degrees,” Nelson said.”It’s so crazy that we’re all running a successful business now!”

The women worked extremely hard and had to rely on those with experience.

Doval could not wait to take her friends back to Uganda in August 2008.

While there, they found six women to begin buying jewelry from on a monthly basis.

“It’s more than just a job,” Nelson said. 31 Bits provides not only employment for the Ugandan women, but a chance to overcome poverty in their country.

They provide education, mentorship, English lessons, HIV tests and treatment. “We are constantly seeing lives changing,” Nelson said. “It’s cool to see what we are doing is working.”

31 Bits buys a fixed amount of jewelry each month to pay what a Ugandan schoolteacher makes.
With the income the women are making, they are able to move back to their villages and live their lives as educated, employed women.

“All of the women have so much joy,” Nelson said. “Despite everything they have been through, they have incredible hope.”

The name 31 Bits comes from Proverbs 31, which is about women providing for their families. The “bits” refers to the bits of paper that are used to make the beads on the jewelry.

The 31 Bits staff credit God for their growing vision to help the women of Northern Uganda.

The jewelry is sold online, or locally at Jack’s Surfboards, Almond Surf Shop, Yoga Works and at the 31 Bits headquarters.

For further information, go to www.31bits.com.

Tamara is a senior English major at Vanguard and is thrilled to be spending her last year on campus as Editor-in-Chief of The Voice.

1 Comment

  • Sharon Philips

    Tamara, I copied your story into an e-mail and sent it to almost every woman I know. I hope it helps 31 BITS’ business!!! Just imagine if all those women forward it to 15 of thier friends and so on, and so on!

    To God be the glory!

    Congrats to you on an awesome article! You’re quite a journalist and layout editor! Feel proud of your accomplishments!

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