Change begins as a seed of an idea. In the case of humanitarian and entrepreneur Devin Hibbard, it was a Ugandan bead.
Walking through the streets of the capital city of Kampala, Hibbard came upon a woman rolling strips of paper into beads. She bought some beads and realized that every time she wore them, she would receive compliments.
“Women liked the beads, but they loved the story of that woman trying to make a better life for herself and her family,” says Hibbard. “They wanted to buy beads to help support her and other Ugandan women.”
Hibbard soon realized that this was a business in the making. With just $5,000 in seed money obtained from a grant, Hibbard created the non-profit BeadforLife, which creates beautiful jewelry fashioned out of the Ugandan paper beads, among other economic and socio-political endeavors.
Today, the company has 60 staffers on three continents and has generated revenue of over 5 million dollars last year alone. “We are about to enroll the 1000th woman in the program,” says Hibbard proudly. And in a country fraught with poverty and famine, BeadforLife encourages the Ugandan women to become self-sufficient entrepreneurs. “Some women would sit in the hot sun, crushing rocks for 12 hours a day and earn less than a dollar a day,” she says. “In this way, they are in charge or their own business and can support their families.”
Hibbard’s own family splits their time between the U.S. and Uganda. Her son, Nile, has even been given a Ugandan nickname by the local women: Tumakunde, which means, “Let us love him.” Despite such dire circumstances, the Ugandan women are happy to be entrepreneurs — and an inspiration to women everywhere. “These women have lived through horrible experiences, but from that horror comes these beautiful beads,” says Hibbard. “It’s truly a symbol of mothers standing together around the world.”