Our Story

It started with beads. Our story begins in 2004 in Uganda. While walking through a slum, our founders Devin Hibbard, Ginny Jordan and Torkin Wakefield, stopped to talk to Millie Grace Akena. Millie was sitting outside of her mud home in the sweltering sun, rolling beads from strips of paper. Though she struggled to put food on the table, Millie found joy in creating beautiful things with her own hands, and she was determined to build a better future for her family.

For women. By women.

Millie’s spirit was contagious, the beads were beautiful, and she became the inspiration behind BeadforLife, a fair-trade nonprofit that employs women artisans and helps them sell their items in the export market. What started with Millie ignited a movement to eradicate poverty. And fifteen years later, we’re stronger than ever, with two separate, independent non-profit sister organizations, BeadforLife and Street Business School.

Today, BeadforLife bead sale profits support Street Business School entrepreneurial training, providing thousands of women the opportunity to start businesses, put food on the table, send their children to school and lift themselves and their families out of poverty.

Did you know? 75% of BeadforLife artisans have businesses two years later.


BeadforLife is founded as a non-profit organization, bringing recycled paper bead jewelry to hearts and homes and empowering women to earn income.


Street Business School is launched from our beads-to-business curriculum, teaching women to gain confidence and launch new businesses to transform their lives.


With a goal of selling 1 million pieces of jewelry by 2027, BeadforLife profits continue to support Street Business School and its goal of reaching 1 million women by 2027.


Profits from BeadforLife jewelry sales have contributed $500,000 in funding to Street Business School, now a separate, non-profit, sister organization. 

Did you know? 98% of BeadforLife artisans have children in school.

Our BeadforLife Mission: To Educate, Engage & Empower.

BeadforLife employs women artisans to create beaded jewelry from recycled paper. Through our jewelry sales and events, we educate people on how job creation and economic empowerment is a solution that can lift entire generations out of poverty. At the same time, when they wear and help us sell our fair-trade jewelry, they make a difference, becoming part of the solution.

You have the power to empower. Join us!

Wear our unique beads and share our story with the world. Your involvement gives women a world away the confidence to change their lives.

Did you know? We’ve helped 89,290 people through our combined programs to date, and that number continues to grow.