31 Bits: Changing the lives of Ugandan women one bit at a time

31 Bits, a jewelry company, began when a group of young women felt inspired to help women in Uganda after a mission trip. They purchased jewelry made from paper that the women created and brought some back from their trip. After showing friends, the jewelry sold out extremely fast and the women realized they had a hit on their hands.

Thinking that they’d like to help, the women started thinking of ways they could help and actually make a difference. The women in Uganda needed more than money, and were desperately in need of education, healthcare, and counseling.

They began purchasing more jewelry from the women and sold the products at craft fairs, school events, and home parties, including the Ugandan women in the process. Five years later, 31 Bits was sold in over 300 stores.

The company focused on creating a five-year holistic program that stresses education in health, finance, job training, and life skills. 31 Bits now has over 120 women graduated from the program and able to sustain themselves by selling jewelry.

31 Bits is now sold in boutiques, Christian stores, and bookstores across the country. My friend Graysen is a campus representative for Lipscomb and hosts trunk shows and various get-togethers to promote the company.

If you would like to contact Graysen about purchasing jewelry from 31 bits, follow her on Instagram @31bitslipscomb and check it out! Her personal style blog is @ahintofgray and her style is adorable!

If you’re looking for some Christmas ideas, check out the company’s website and take a look around. The necklaces are higher-priced, but the bracelets and earrings are relatively affordable on a college budget!

Which of 31 Bits’ jewelry products would you be interested in?

 

YouWood: Doing good with wood products

YouWood watches and accessories help the less fortunate one wood product at a time. The organization is involved in various campaigns, from human trafficking to victims of sexual abuse to poverty and orphans. Some of the profits directly help victims of trafficking a chance to become educated and self-sufficient.

Recently Sadie Robertson has become an advocate for YouWood, and I learned about the company through her discussions about it on Instagram. She has partnered with the company and advertises for them on her Live Original tour and her social media sites.

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To appease those worried about the use of wood, YouWood takes part of its profits and gives them back to nature restoration causes around the world. They have been able to cover all of their boundaries by helping not only the less fortunate directly, but also the environment.

Their mission statement says:

“At YouWood we believe that the solution to big problems comes down to one little word: You.
We design wood products with a big purpose: TO DO GOOD!

Every YouWood product makes an impact by sharing a percentage of the
profit with one of three causes:
food for the hungry, freedom for slaves and care for orphans.

We believe the only way change will come is if we choose to
engage the world, problems and all, and change it.

You can play a part, no matter how big or how small, in seeing our world change. 
Buy a product and become a part of the solution.” 

While it is simple, it is effective. For me, its mission statement brings forth feelings of empowerment and change. When I read it, I feel like I can really do something to help.

YouWood is new to the nonprofit scene, but so far it has done extremely well. Its mission statement is full of passion and excitement for loving others well, and despite its small beginnings I believe the company is on their way to great things.

I highly recommend following them to receive updates. Which of YouWood’s products would you be interested in buying?

Roma boots give poverty the boot

Roma boots, founded by Samuel Bistrian, came from humble beginnings. Growing up in communist Romania prior to its revolution, Bistrian experienced poverty firsthand before moving to the United States with his family at age eight.

An avid volunteer throughout college, Bistrian found himself returning to impoverished countries during his summer breaks instead of vacationing at the beach. He returned to Romania in 2001 and noticed that while the government situations had improved, the poverty level had not.

Bistrian graduated and began working at Neiman Marcus, where he met TOMS founder Blake Mycoskie. He felt inspired by his story and decided to use the retail experience he had gained to do something about his home country’s poverty issues.

Thinking of the children he saw in Romania trudging through snow wearing thin shoes or no shoes at all, Roma Boots began to take shape.

Today, Roma boots focuses on a one-for-one policy helping bring shoes to children in need. Each pair is stuffed with educational supplies, and teams go on “Boot drops” to make a difference. Furthermore, its goal is to end the cycle of poverty and educate receivers on how to do so.

The company has recently gained traction from its newest celebrity endorsement. Teen motivational speaker and reality TV star Sadie Robertson has partnered with Roma boots alongside her Live Original brand to create a line of boots and young women.

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Roma boots has been featured all across the press by the Today show, The Huffington Post, and Forbes among others.

To me, there is nothing better than a company that produces quality products and focuses their efforts on giving back.

What other one-for-one companies do you enjoy purchasing from?

Project 615 lives out Matthew 21:40

Project 615 is a Nashville-based retail store focused on serving others. Its mission is to lead people out of homelessness, addiction and mental illness. The company began in 2010 when founders Derek Evans and Matt Blinco visited Skid Row in Los Angeles, California. This large homeless community inspired Evans and Blinco to make a difference in the homeless community of Nashville.

It models its company after Matthew 21:40, which says, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for Me.”

The products offered by Project 615 vary from baseball tees, V-necks, pullovers, and baby clothes. Another popular product choice is the Project 615 sticker pack!

The great thing about this company (minus the awesome philanthropy focus) is that while the products focus on Nashville life, they do not scream “tourist.” Each shirt gives a cool, laidback local vibe that would fit in at any coffee shop on 12 South.

The company has recently started a new line to benefit Set Free, and their T-shirt options fit a variety of styles. Set Free houses over 40 men struggling to get out of addiction and homelessness, along with mental illness. Since Project 615 has partnered with this company, it has raised over $55,000 to donate and help.

The company has locations in East Nashville, Germantown, Hillsboro Village, Arrington, historic downtown Nolensville, White Creek, downtown and West Nashville.

With all of these location options, you’ll definitely have to go check them out! The company also posts on a blog to give more backstory and product information.

Are there any local stores you like that sell Nashville pride wear?

Thistle Farms heals women with love and employment

Thistle Farms, located on Charlotte Avenue near downtown Nashville, is an effort that began in 2001 as a cottage-run company founded by Reverend Becca Stevens. Many of its first products were created with Old Testament recipes using ingredients such as frankincense and myrrh.

In 2010 the company moved to a 10,000-square-foot space on Charlotte Pike, where it is still run today. Two doors down from the retail store is Thistle Stop Café, which serves coffee, sandwiches and soups. All of the employees in both the store and the café are women that have survived prostitution, trafficking and addiction.

Since its beginning, Thistle Farms has made $1.7 million in social-enterprise revenue and with this have been able to pay $700,000 in paychecks to survivors.

The company also focuses on healing programs for the women involved. With the graduate program, eighty-four percent of women are clean and sober two-and-a-half years later. Their lives are changed, and they now possess a valuable skill in creating products.

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As soon as I walked in, a handful of women greeted me and asked what I was looking for; I told them that I had heard a lot of the company from friends and had seen products for sale in other stores but wanted to come see the main retail space and meet some of the women working.

I explained that I write a blog about nonprofits in the Nashville area and wanted to feature them for this week’s post, and I told them a little bit about myself and my future plans with school.

The first woman that greeted me informed me about the products and their natural ingredients, and her smile lit up the room. She didn’t go into detail, but bits and pieces of her story broke my heart. She told me that part of her paycheck always ends up going back to Thistle Farms because she knows that the women making the lotions and sprays come from a place of hurt and darkness.

“When you write about us and tell your friends, remember to tell them that love heals,” she said. “That might be our slogan, but it really means something to us. I never imagined a few years ago that I would be here and be happy and in a good place, and Thistle Farms has changed my life.”

The entire time I talked, all I could think about was how thankful she seemed. It amazed me that a woman who experienced so much hurt and pain in her life could look at me and smile with a positive attitude and good perspective. She had every right to be bitter and angry, but she chose joy instead.

She told me about her favorite scents and how the products they sell are all-natural, and she convinced me to invest in some moisturizer. While I couldn’t catch her name, her story stuck with me. She walked me to the door with a pat on the back and told me to try the café soon.

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If you ever get the chance to stop by Thistle Farms, buy something to support their endeavors! Their various lotions, jewelry and beauty products make great gifts and all help women create a better story for their lives.

If you’ve ever been to Thistle Stop Café, what’s your favorite thing to eat? I’m eager to try it soon!

The Dove Awards: Finding nonprofits in the chaos of backstage award shows

In this post, I’m taking readers a bit off-road from my previous posts. Grace & Giving has focused on nonprofits in the Nashville area, and so far each company/organization I’ve written about has had a major impact on Nashville consumers.

I had the privilege of volunteering at the Dove Awards this week and was given the job of “talent escort.” My job involved running a music act from various areas of backstage and getting it prepared for its performance before escorting those performing to the media room to end the night.

It was fast-paced, stressful, and exciting! Everyone I rubbed shoulders with looked glamorous and important, but each act I spoke to was friendly and relaxed.

Before I left for the night I ran into a table piled high with various products. A new company called MAD Marketplace (Make A Difference Marketplace) is starting soon, and the founders hope to launch it online on Nov. 1.

The women informed me that the idea behind MAD is simple – an online company giving various nonprofit brands a platform to further business. MAD takes an array of brands and hosts them all on its website, and the nonprofits can all be categorized and shipped all over the country. Think of Amazon for the nonprofit community.

Before I left I was handed a bag of goodies and a business card with contact information. The ladies stage whispered, “We usually reserve these bags for artists in hopes that they’ll do some advertising for us, but we’ll make an exception for you.” With the promise to do a little bragging on social media, I left with some great products.

Two of the items in the bag were Good Spread peanut butter and IntegriTEA.

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Good Spread is an all-natural nut butter company. With every jar sold, the company provides a packet of RUTF (peanut butter filled with essential ingredients) to children suffering from sever malnutrition. When a child eats three servings of RUTF a day for four to six weeks, over ninety-eight percent of cases are taken care of.

IntegriTEA is an all-organic tea company that supports sustainable agricultural tea practices. There are no fillers, no chemicals and no guilt!

Better Life Bags was also featured.

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This company makes bags, key chains and other quilted accessories, and the mission of Better Life is to hire women with employment barriers. They create the bags and learn a valuable trade, giving them steady employment. Check out the company’s Design Your Own section!

One of my favorite items I received was People Water.

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Unlike my previous products, People Water is actually a for-profit business. However, it uses its products to increase sales to provide clean water to various countries. The return the company gets pays for both wells and the upkeep that comes with them. Drinking water has never tasted so good!

Last but not least, the Akola Project is a fabulous jewelry company looking to serve others.

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Started in Uganda, Akola Project translates to “she works” and provides economic opportunity for women and children that have escaped the sex trafficking trade or are faced with employment barriers. It has been featured on Yahoo, CNN, the Today show and in People magazine, among others.  Actress and advocate Sophia Bush has given the company some traction in the media, and the message behind the products is fantastic. Check it out!

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The products I received in this bag are so great! Goodspread has become my new favorite peanut butter, and my People Water bottle has become a great conversation starter about the company and its efforts.

Volunteering at the Dove Awards made for quite the exciting night, and I’m glad that I got the opportunity to meet both talented artists and some sweet ladies that I share similar interests with!

Which of these products would you be most likely to try?

Philanthropy: Downtown Franklin store delivers fashion in feel-good form

Franklin is one of my favorite spots in the Nashville area, and it’s small-town feel comes partly from the local shops and boutiques on Main Street. If you’re looking for something fun to do on a fall weekend, a trip to Franklin for the day is a must!

One of my favorite stores on Main Street is Philanthropy, a boutique filled with unique clothing and jewelry all going to help causes across the globe.

The boutique opened in June 2007 with the intent to spread charity and Christ’s love to areas of the world that are less fortunate, and it has been succeeding ever since.

The store has used its profits to benefit people in the United States, the Caribbean Islands and East Africa. Since it opened, Philanthropy has been able to donate over $500,000. That is amazing for a store found in only one location!

While the clothes are more high-priced than the typical college student can afford, each piece is well-made, and only a few are offered in the store. The store puts out all of the items it has, guaranteeing that only a handful of people that shop there have clothing that looks alike.

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One of my favorite parts of the store is their Prayer Wall. Similar to the wall I mentioned in my previous post about The Well, customers shopping can write prayer requests and hang them on the wall and (if they choose) take a prayer off to take with them. This section of the store feels a little more peaceful, and I have yet to witness a negative response about the wall while shopping.

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Its Wearable Compassion line also gives customers a chance to purchase items that donate one hundred percent of its proceeds to good causes. The store mentioned giving proceeds from this to help save the Franklin Theater back when the line was first launched.

If it means giving to a good cause, I don’t mind spending a little bit extra. Philanthropy not only offers high-quality products that are in style but also gives back to so many people in need.

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I highly encourage you to grab a group of friends and spend the day on Main Street checking out the stores! Philanthropy is a great place to stop for a cute fall dress or scarf, and you’ll leave with the knowledge that you made a difference.

Check out some of its offers online and use your extra paycheck money to make a difference in someone else’s life!

What are some of your favorite stores in Franklin?

The Well: Changing lives one coffee bean at a time

Upon first moving to Nashville, one of the first local businesses I heard about was The Well coffee house. Nashville is a hub for hip, local coffee joints, but something about The Well sounded different. I could hear it in people’s voices that this particular shop was loved and appreciated by the Lipscomb community.

I decided to go and try it last year as the fall season approached and felt immediately at home. Cozy and decorated with a sense of rustic charm, the coffee tasted great and the atmosphere felt warm and inviting. I’ve been a fan ever since!

While coffee joints seem to be a trend in the Nashville community, The Well not only offers locals and students refuge from the bustle of day-to-day life, it promises coffee that will “change lives.”

With an artisan cup of joe, this organization uses its profits to build wells in poverty-stricken countries. Not only do they provide clean drinking water, they provide hope for the future with one small act that will forever impact their community.

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The Well Coffeehouse - Nashville, TN, United States

In addition to water, The Well partners with Blood: Water Mission, Living Water Project, Exile International, JOYN, Fashionable, Mission Lazarus, Thistle Farms, and OneLess to support poverty-stricken people and rescue them from the bonds of thirst, hunger, and other trials.

One of my favorite parts of The Well is the Wishing Well wall near the entrance of the shop. Those interested can either write down a need or prayer and leave it behind, or they can take a need/prayer with them and make a point to pray for that person. In some instances, the needs of others have been met through this wall.

I had the pleasure of taking a business class with Rob Touchstone last semester. Touchstone is one of the co-founders of The Well, and despite not having a business degree or business experience prior to The Well, those around him can testify that he is passionate about loving others well and helping the broken.

In class last semester, he told us a story of a need that was met through the Wishing Wall. A young woman moved to the area to start over in life, and she desperately needed a vehicle to get around.

A local man came to The Well and saw the need on the wall, remembering that he had an old passed-down truck he did not use. He was able to contact the woman with the help of Mr. Touchstone and supply her need, thus changing her life.

It’s stories like this that remind me of the power of using business as a mission. I support The Well because I find comfort in knowing that while I might pay a few more cents for my coffee, I know it is going towards a cause that will make a difference in the lives of others.

I highly recommend that you grab a friend and step inside The Well for a visit. You’ll find warmth in a great cup of coffee, and you’ll find hope knowing lives will be changed.

If you’ve been to The Well, what’s your favorite drink? The Fireside is my favorite for fall!

The Giving Keys: Company opens doors for homeless with fashion

The Giving Keys is a Los Angeles based company focused on using fashion to give back. While I will be mainly focusing on Nashville-based nonprofit and charity companies in my blog, this jewelry company sells its items in countless stores across Nashville.

I first stumbled across The Giving Keys last year while visiting Philanthropy, a nonprofit boutique in Franklin. A wire tree display held necklaces in different finishes, all labeled with words of encouragement and inspiration. “Faith,” “hope,” “brave” and “dream” were all printed on keys of various designs, all about the size of a typical house key.

A sign next to the display read, “Pay it forward. Embrace your word, then pay it forward to a person you feel needs the message more than you. Write us the story of why you gave it away on our website.” As I read on, something stuck out to me: “We employ those who are transitioning out of homelessness.”

I forgot about the keys later on, but their mission kept finding me as I explored local stores in Nashville such as White’s Mercantile and Sisters of Nature.

This year after moving back to campus, I decided to try and find one to suit me and support their cause. Fear is something I have always struggled with, and as a natural worrier I knew that a meaningful word could help me manage that struggle. I unfortunately searched in vain, however, and ended up ordering from their website.

I clicked on their About section and read some of the backstory to the company.

Caitlin Crosby, a singer/songwriter and actress, stayed in a hotel in New York and began wearing the key as a necklace while on tour and played with the idea of engraving keys with words of inspiration. She realized that people, like the keys, were unique but flawed and sometimes mistreated; Crosby decided that the keys should have their purpose renewed continually.

Caitlin in later months discovered a homeless couple looking for food, and after inviting them to dinner learned that the woman made jewelry. Together they came up with a business idea and eventually started the company, using their profits to pay for an apartment and then a home of their very own. The story in her words is even more compelling than you would imagine.

I absolutely loved this business’s mission to use an everyday accessory like jewelry and use it to give people jobs and a fresh start in life. I ordered my word, “fearless,” and love the continual reminder to worry less and enjoy life more.

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The coolest part of their website focuses on telling the stories of people who passed on their key. Hundreds of men and women have passed on their key to spread the message and inspire others, and in turn they pass it on to someone else. I can’t wait to pass on my key to inspire someone else to live fearlessly!

How could The Giving Keys expand their product line to feature more items?