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Brittany Underwood, Akola

“You were created as an agent of transformation… whether you know it or not. With faith, hope, love, and a little bit of courage, you can change the world. But most importantly, be changed yourself.”

Her story:

Every journey requires faith and a first step. In my case, it started with a woman. It was 2004 and I was a spoiled, selfish, 19 year old college student looking forward to a summer adventure. Two weeks into a trip I met a Ugandan woman named Sarah. Sarah lived her life with great meaning and purpose and sacrificed everything she had to care for 24 children who slept on her floor. I knew that there were poor children in the world. But for the first time, I SAW them. I saw their mats, distended stomachs, and their sores. I wanted to help. I moved to Uganda after graduating from SMU in 2006 and came to love Ugandan mothers like Sarah, who were desperately trying to care for their children. I realized that meaningful job creation is critical and started Akola, “She Works”, in 2007 with 15 women making jewelry under a tree. Today, Akola has blossomed into a thriving purpose-driven jewelry brand and manufacturing business that creates beautiful designs that build up the lives and livelihoods of 200 women living in poverty. Each Akola piece is handcrafted with the beauty and spirit of each Akola woman who makes it. It represents a story, a life, a family, hope and dignity. A product that heals, a product that restores. Beads hand knotted with pride. A first job. A first step. A new life.

About the brand:

Akola is a brand that creates striking designs that champion women around the world. Akola provides dignified employment that is empowering women in extreme poverty. Each piece of jewelry is handcrafted by nearly 200 Akola women employed in Uganda. As part of their employment, they are given holistic support and training to help break the cycle of poverty. Akola products are designed with local and sustainable materials such as up-cycled Ankole cow horn, raffia sourced from palm leaves, and recycled glass beads.  Akola is redefining what luxury stands for, connecting women with tremendous purchasing power to women who don’t have a voice. Akola was named one of 25 brands reshaping the future of retail by the National Retail Federation alongside Allbirds and Warby Parker. You can find Akola at Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus, and Saks. 

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