January 12, 2016

We are especially proud to be working with the non-profit Akola Project. Not only are their stylish fashion products featured by the likes of Vogue and Vanity Fair, more importantly this company is all about changing lives; Akola Project helps women in extreme poverty.

If only more businesses had such a positive impact on communities worldwide! What’s more, all of Akola Project’s proceeds are reinvested into the community.

Watch their video below to get an idea of the difference this not-for-profit is making in the communities they work in.

What does your non-profit business do?

Akola Project is a non-profit social business working in Uganda and Dallas that seeks to uplift remote communities in extreme poverty through women’s empowerment. Our mission is to empower women to become agents of transformation in their families and communities through economic empowerment.

Akola Project is able to economically empower over 400 Ugandan women in extreme poverty with vocational training and dependable employment through our fashion line. Akola women are able to fully provide food, safe shelter, medical needs and school fees for over 3,000 children and are able to infuse capital into their local village economies. To magnify the impact of dependable employment and invest in each woman individually, Akola employment is coupled with holistic programs including health programs, education programs, financial literacy training and village savings and loans associations.

Our jewelry and textile fashion line is sold in over 350 boutiques across the US, on our website, at Akola house party trunk shows, and in our flagship storefront in Dallas, TX.

As a non-profit organization, 100% of the profits from Akola project sales are reinvested in our social mission.

What’s one of your favorite product ranges?

Our Color Collection uses meticulously hand-rolled paper beads, with new color ways and styles released seasonally. One of our favorite Color Collection pieces right now is the Adara.

To produce paper beads, Akola Project first works with local printing shops in Uganda’s capital city to hand mix ink into on-trend colors. The ink is then hand-poured into old printing presses, and once printing is complete, the paper is transported through the Mabira Rainforest and across the Nile River to the Akola Project headquarters in Jinja, Uganda.

non-profit

Akola Project staff then travel out to our four rural village sites where Akola women roll the paper beads. The paper is cut into long triangles, and rolled into various shapes. After rolling, the beads are coated with a non-toxic varnish.

After collecting paper beads from the villages monthly, they are transported to our jewelry assembly women’s groups and are used to create finished Akola products.

Paper bead rolling alone provides dependable employment for over 250 Akola women!

Why do you think your customers like this product range so much?

The work and care that the Akola women have put into each jewelry piece has advanced Akola products to a caliber that successfully competes with for-profit brands. Akola products have earned the attention of notable fashion editors including Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar and Vanity Fair. Akola has been featured on the likes of the Today Show, Fox Business, Huffington Post, Entrepreneur, Modern Luxury and the Katie Couric Show.

Beyond fashionable products, our customers become active contributors to the Akola vision and part of the Akola movement. They appreciate the fact that 100% of our revenues are reinvested in our social mission. The purchase of an Akola Color Collection product fully contributes to transforming the lives of hundreds of Ugandan women and their families.

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Can you give us a brief history of your business and the growth it has experienced so far?

In 2007, we launched the Akola model to uplift women and children. The women named it Akola, which means ‘she works’ in their local dialect. Over the last 8 years, Akola Project has blossomed into a thriving social business that has impacted over 4,000 women and children in extreme poverty.

Thanks to the incredible efforts of our teams in Uganda and in the US, Akola launched its first US department store in 2015, and we are poised to grow our impact significantly through our development projects and the success of our Akola product line.

How is Unleashed helping your business grow?

Akola Project has a very large and complicated supply chain with suppliers spanning three continents and seven countries. We strive to internalize as much material production as we can so that each product has the biggest impact possible. This results in an extremely complex flow of materials. Even the yarn used for our textile products is produced from cotton grown by the Akola women, which is hand spun into yarn, woven into textiles, and then tailored into the finished product.

We struggled to find an inventory tracking system that could track all aspects of our supply chain until we found Unleashed. The features Unleashed offers allows us to accurately keep track of all materials and capture the intricate flow of materials. It also alerts us when we are running low on any vital material at any point in our supply chain, and can show us which products are in stock in Uganda and which products have been transferred to our office in the US.

Is there something you are particularly excited for your business right now?

We launched Akola Dallas in 2014 to offer an economic alternative to marginalized women through business training and employment at our US distribution center, and through assembling our Akola products, including our new high-end Contemporary Collection. Akola Dallas works with women who have little education and no mainstream vocational skills. Some have been sexually trafficked, incarcerated, and many struggle to meet the basic needs of their families.

Is there something your business in particularly proud of?

We’re proud of every Akola woman, and are always excited to share their inspiring stories!

Each year, Akola women write a personal vision statement. Titto Tappy is a jewelry assembly supervisor for Akola. Here is Titto Tappy’s vision:

“I aspire to be a flexible person who is encouraging, caring, a friend to others, and a good mother. I will sell flour and paraffin in a shop, and I will cultivate land for growing crops. I will keep poultry, make soap to sell, and make baskets and tablecloths. I will own a home, a plot of land, a motorcycle, a car, and a cow. I will learn how to make soap, how to do catering, how to start a salon, how to grow garlic, and how to preach the gospel in a church. I have good business skills and will open a business that creates jobs for people in my community. I will pay school fees for my children and I will lend money to those in need.”

Are there any particular not-for-profit causes that you, or your business is passionate about, and why?

We are excited to share our model that has become a platform to inspire a generation of social entrepreneurs to deliver the highest level of impact to transform the lives of women and children in poverty. Our goal is to encourage new thinkers about international development and to inspire the next generation of social innovators.