Let's Talk: 31 Bits

31 Bits. That's the name of the company that basically has me going bananas right now. Kallie.  She's the founder of 31 Bits, also the "creative genius" behind the designs, company "visionary" and also (super exciting) the subject of today's interview!

Background. A few years ago, while hanging out in Kampala on breaks from Sudan, I would always find my way to one of the local markets and was excited to find these unique necklaces made from recycled paper. Fast-forward a million years and I still rock the necklaces I picked up there with just about everything in my closet (in fact, I'm rocking it right now)! As you can therefore imagine, I was super thrilled to discover 31 Bits because not only does this company modernize these pieces and then make them available to you right here in the U.S., but by providing an international market, they create sustainable sources of income for the Ugandan women that they work with. Their program not only gives these women the opportunity to sell to you, they provide training and resources to help these women create their own businesses to survive beyond their time with 31 Bits. Honestly - I just go nuts for this type of stuff!

But that's enough from me...let's turn things to Kallie....

What are 5 words that come to mind when you think about Africa? 
Adventure, Life, Hope, Courage, Fun

What led you to first visit the continent? My first visit to Africa was actually the summer between my junior and senior year of high school. I went to South Africa with a missions group. It was amazing and I loved being in a new environment and new people. My first visit to Uganda was in 2007 when I was planning on working at an orphanage. I ended up meeting some amazing women that were making beads which led me to create 31 Bits with the rest of the team.

What is one of your favorite memories from time spent in Africa or around Africans abroad?
One of my many favorite memories in Uganda was on a Saturday afternoon. I was walking on the trail back to our 31 Bits house when I saw a lady carrying a rolled up mattress on the top of her head. My first thoughts were "how is she carrying that!!" As we came closer to each other I saw it was Nighty, one of our 31 Bits Designers. She had the biggest smile on her face as she told me about her new mattress. Nighty had been saving her income at 31 Bits to purchase her 1st mattress in her entire life. This was more than just a cushion to sleep on, it was something that she purchased for her family. She was glowing with happiness and pride.
If you could go to one place on the continent right now, where would it be and why? Zanzibar. I visited a couple years ago and fell in love with the architecture, clear warm water, fresh seafood, and amazing people.

How did you first get interested in fashion and jewelry, and what made you decide to launch 31 Bits? I have always loved being creative and loved color. The brighter the better. My interest in jewelry didn't happen until 31 Bits, where I saw a need and saw I could make a difference. I decided to launch 31 Bits because of a need: women needed to provide for their family, they needed to be empowered and they needed to be surrounded in a community.
When you aren't taking working on this amazing business, what else do you like to do? I love being in nature. This could involve biking the board walk, hiking in State Parks, running or laying on the beach watching my husband surf. I love anything nature :)
Where do you find inspiration when coming up with a new collection? It all starts with Color for me. I think that good color combinations is what makes a good line. I get inspired by being in new places. New places just makes you so much more aware of what is around you, this sparks new ideas and inspirations!

What's been the biggest challenge so far in launching and running a business such as this? It is a lot of work! I love traveling and seeing new places but with a start up business I can't just up and leave for a month or two at a time. I have had to come to peace with it, I would never choose any other life!

What has been your proudest achievement? It will be here in January. Our first group of Designers will be graduating our program with their own businesses. They will be self-sustainable and providing for their families through their businesses. I am so excited, we have been watching them dream and develop their businesses over the last 3-4 years. They are so proud of themselves and so excited for their future. It will be an amazing graduation party!

What is the best lesson you've learned so far? DREAM and dream BIG!
What dream would you still like to fulfill? I am a person full of dreams, so to choose one is hard. If I had to choose one it would be to start a bed and breakfast in the Caribbean with my Husband. We love scuba diving, warm weather, and new challenges.
What is your personal soundtrack right now? I love dancing and cooking Italian to Madeleine Peyroux. Best nights ever. 

Thanks Kallie!!

{Photos: 31 Bits}

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