31 Bits was started by a group of college friends: Kallie Dovel, Alli Swanson, Anna Toy, Brooke Hodges and Jessie Simonson as they approached the crossroads of life after college. As they were making plans for post-grad life, they were inspired by Kallie’s travels to Uganda, where she had met impoverished but fabulously talented women making jewelry from old posters. When Kallie brought back jewelry for them to sell to family and friends, they realized they could combine the creativity of these Ugandan women with a business plan and market of buyers.
The following year they set up their organization and expanding the styles of jewelry being produced. The group sought to create a truly charitable business by giving the women in Uganda more than just payment for their services. These women needed education, health care and counseling, as many were victims of political turmoil. At the same time, they were selling the jewelry stateside at school events, craft fairs, and home parties, telling their story to anyone who would listen. In just 5 years, they have grown their business to sell in over 300 stores, with 120 Ugandan women in their program.
31 Bits jewelry is made from recycled paper sources from Eastern Africa. Paper from unused posters, advertisements and textbook pages are cut into strips, rolled, covered in varnish, which hardens the paper into beads to be strung in one of their funky designs. Each piece is made by hand and has subtle imperfections, which adds character to the jewelry.
We love having 31 Bits jewelry at Shift not only for what it looks like - but what it stands for. Their mission uses fashion and design to empower people to rise above poverty in an industry that needs serious reform.