Increasingly, people around the globe are looking for ethical or right livelihood, work that helps people, as opposed to causing harm to people, animals or the environment. LeAnn Kurtz, a San Francisco writer and photographer, decided to seek employment that worked to help other people on the planet. She answered an ad in the paper about selling Acholi Beads and has never looked back.
Acholi Beads are handmade from recycled paper by women in the Acholi Quarters slum in the northern region of Uganda. We caught up with LeAnn to find out more about Acholi Beads and seeking right livelihood in an increasingly disconnected world.
Why did you get involved with Acholi Beads?
I decided it's time in my life to make a difference and get involved with a business that is meaningful. When I heard the women’s story I was especially intrigued because I have been wanting to open my own Fair Trade import business.
I spent over a month in Africa just a year and a half ago and really fell in love with the beautiful jewelry and crafts that come from the different African countries.
Tell us about the beads.
Our beads are made from recycled paper, and they are made in the women's homes. We sell beautiful necklaces, bracelets and earrings. This is the kind of jewelry that you can wear for a fancy night out, or dress down and go to the beach. You are helping impoverished women become independent with each item of jewelry you buy.
How does the company work?
When people think of Africa, we find that most people think of charity. Acholi Beads is a for-profit, socially proactive Fair Trade certified business. A socially proactive business is one whose success is tied directly to fixing a social ill. I think that business is a more powerful force for economic development than charity. Good business and good jobs are the goal of economic development, and are also the most powerful means to get there. The company acts as the liaison to bringing a global market to the artisans who would otherwise have no means to sell their jewelry.
We pay generously for the jewelry as we want to make sure they can afford education for their children, medical expenses, and have savings. The company also provides further training for all the Acholi Bead makers in personal finance and entrepreneurship to set the bead makers on the road to lifelong success.
Where do you sell the beads?
We sell wholesale to stores around the country, and our reps also have the opportunity to sell retail at street fairs, farmer's markets, jewelry parties, anyway they see appropriate.
For every 10 stores we sign on, we get to take on another bead maker and help her out of poverty.
Does the story behind the beads make them more attractive?
Definitely. When I approach a retail store, I tell them the story of the Acholi people and most people after hearing that are already half sold. The beads are beautiful, so people are drawn to them for political, as well as aesthetic value.