This is part of an ongoing series called Embodied, which features women who we feel embody some element of the persona they’re featured in. Today we are featuring Kallie Dovel, founder of 31 Bits—a socially minded business designed to give internally displaced women in Northern Uganda an opportunity to counter poverty. To catch up on previous Embodied posts, click here.
Hi Kallie! Could you start by telling us about what 31 Bits is all about?
31 Bits is a business using fashion and design to empower women to rise
above poverty. Their jewelry is made from recycled paper by women in Northern Uganda. Through the sales of the jewelry, 31 Bits is able provide each beneficiary with a sustainable monthly income and holistic development programs such as health education, finance training, English lessons, counseling, business training, and more. Each woman is being empowered to start her very own business in Uganda when she graduates the program. Every 31Bits necklace and bracelet changes a woman’s life, it’s that simple.
We love the way you’ve combined style with service. What inspired you to start 31 Bits and what was your original vision?
I went to Uganda in 2007 with the aim to work in an orphanage. While I was there I met some amazing women that were making beautiful jewelry but were not able to sell them. The women did not have enough money to send their kids to school, put food on the table or facilitate a stable home. It was this that inspired me to start 31 Bits; it was the women that put so much time and skill into their jewelry but didn’t have a market. I saw that I could make a difference through what they were already doing. We could empower them to change their own lives.
My original vision for 31 Bits was not even close to what it has become. My vision was to see change in the 6 women we started working with. This vision has not only come about but has surpassed itself greatly. We now work with over 110 women in Uganda and have developed programs to provide holistic care for the individual. I am blown away and extremely grateful.
You focus on women in Northern Uganda. Why did you choose that region?
I first decided to go to Uganda to work in an orphanage when I was still in college. To be honest I just picked it out of random. I had heard some news about Uganda and wanted to see a change take place. There was nothing planned or over the top thought out about the decision. I just went.
How would you describe your personal style? Would you say 31 Bits reflects it?
I would say my style is full of color. My personality is very bright and bubbly and I like to portray that through the things I wear. I also really like to push my perceived limits of my style, always trying things that aren’t currently in my wardrobe.
31 Bits definitely is reflected through my style. Our jewelry is very colorful and key on color combinations. I also like to push the limits with our designs just like I would with my style.
The 31 Bits website describes you as “the creative genius” behind the brand’s jewelry designs. What does your involvement in the design process look like?
They are too kind 🙂 I am one of the head designers, along with Emily Applegate who works in Uganda overseeing all of our up-and-coming designs. Emily and I do everything from choosing the seasonal color stories to designing the individual necklaces and bracelets. My favorite part of the design process would be choosing the color for the season. Color is the backbone of the line for 31 Bits.
What does “style” mean to you?
To me, “style” is the way you project one’s individual personality. It is a way to showcase who you are and what goes on inside of you. Sounds kind of deep, but I see a lot of my silly side through my style as well. I don’t take “style” too seriously, it is something to have fun with and to play around with.
What advice would you give to readers who are both style- and service-oriented?
I really advise people to look at who they purchase from and how they treat the people who make the product. There is a way to impact and help people just by purchasing products through companies that pay fair wages.
Images and video courtesy of 31 Bits.