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The 31 Bits team

Kallie Dovel, Alli Swanson, Anna Nelson, Jessie Simonson & Brooke Hodges

By Suzanne BroughtonPublished: November 01, 2012

31 Bits, Costa Mesa
Hot factor: Created a successful jewelry design firm that empowers Ugandan women to rise above poverty

Founded in 2008 by five Vanguard University friends – Kallie Dovel, Alli Swanson, Anna Nelson, Jessie Simonson and Brooke Hodges (now all only 25 years old) – 31 Bits has grown into a thriving socially minded jewelry design company. Their jewelry is made from 100 percent recycled paper by internally displaced women in Northern Uganda.
Business is good. 31 Bits’ wholesale numbers have tripled over the last six months, and distribution has climbed to over 250 stores nationwide. As a result, the media have begun to notice. Their jewelry has been featured on “E! News,” “The Today Show” and “Access Hollywood,” and has also appeared in the pages of BAZAAR, People and InTouch magazines.
“Using fashion and design to help empower women to rise above poverty” isn’t just jargon that rides on the success of other charitable brands; it’s the main motivation behind their efforts.

“The women are the reason why we do what we do,” says Swanson, who heads up the company’s marketing efforts. 31 Bits has started to see the results of their work in Uganda.
Beginning in 2008 with only eight jewelry makers, they now have 110 and will send off their first “graduating class” in January 2013.

“We teach them how to save money, speak English and run a small business. After four years, they graduate to go start their own businesses,” Swanson says. “Because we realize what we do is not for us, but for a greater purpose, it’s made it easy to be successful.”

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