More Than Trendy Jewelry, 31 Bits is Empowering Women Globally
Written By: Iyana Edouard
Photographed By: Adam Gentry 31 Bits
Expert: Alli Talley-Swanson
Credentials: Co-Founder of 31 Bits and Director of Public Relations and Marketing
Q: Can you tell us about what 31 Bits is and your role in the company?
Alli Talley-Swanson: We started 31 Bits in college, I ended up meeting a group of women in Uganda during college. We fell in love with their jewelry and their stories, but they had no way to sell it, so we helped them and it just took off. We never thought it would be a full-time career. We have about 80 artists in Uganda, and now we’re working in Indonesia and Bali. We sell online and about 400 stores in the US and Canada and just got an order from Anthropologie.
Q: How did you balance everything in college without getting overwhelmed?
ATS: It was crazy and hilarious. We had boxes of jewelry in our dorm rooms under our bunk beds. We didn’t know what we were doing. It was a big learning experience and had a lot of late nights, but it was something we were so passionate about, so we kept going. The cause was so real for us having that as a catalyst.
Q: Your company really focuses on doing good. Do you think more businesses can or should implement giving back? If so, why?
ATS: It has its challenges working in two parts of the globe, but it’s so important. There’s so much potential for fashion to change, and I think our generation is a lot more conscious about where their money goes. People care more about what they are purchasing. I think companies can learn from that, meet the consumer with their needs. I’ll spend extra to know my money is going towards a good cause.
Q: What has been your favorite or most memorable experience thus far with 31 Bits?
ATS: Every couple of years we hit a milestone and it’s really memorable. Us moving into our first office in the US, we felt like we made it. To visiting our ladies in Uganda, especially this past summer, because I was able to see 26 women graduate from our program. I really see the way they have impacted their communities. The joy they have was really special, and it always hits me, because who knew 31 Bits would be able to touch so many lives.
Q: Who are some of your own female inspirations?
ATS: Jacqui Saldana on Instagram/@BabyBoyBakery. She’s gone through a lot of tragedy and uses her Instagram to inspire others. I think Leslie Schneider/@splendid_rags on Instagram should be on your list next year—she’s super creative and her blog and Instagram are super colorful.
Q: As a female entrepreneur what advice would you give to other aspiring young female business owners?
ATS: If you have a passion and have something you really want to do, really go for it. But also learn in the process, learn from experts. Take as many people out to coffee as you can and listen. That’s the only way we got to where we are now, anyone that had advice for us, we listened. We relied on tips and advice because we knew nothing. When you stop learning, you’re doing something wrong.
Q: What’s next for your career and 31 Bits?
ATS: We just launched in Bali and Indonesia and we’re really excited. We’re using metal for the first time as well, so we have some new looks coming that people are really going to love. My husband and I also have a side business and we travel a lot.
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The Backstory Behind 31 Bits