How Five College Friends Turned a Social Enterprise Into a Million Dollar Business
College friends building a business into a million-dollar brand using recycled paper beads isn’t the average fashion startup story.
These five college friends–Kallie Dovel, Alli Swanson, Anna Toy, Brooke Hodges and Jessie Simonson–however, spent their early twenties zigzagging Ugandan streets on the back of motorbikes with bags full of recycled paper, which would often get soaked in a downpour, trying to set up a mission-driven business.
“When I look back, I’m surprised there weren’t more casualties,” says Simonson, laughing. “We were college girls who had never run a business, let alone a business in Africa.”
That recycled paper, sold openly in markets in Uganda, was converted into stylish beads, and strung together for sale. “The local women don’t wear it. They make it mostly for the tourists and visitors, but there are few visitors in the area,” she says.