Our Story & Ethics
Mzuribeads is one of the many inspirational projects moving away from charitable aid, and onto the concept of business enterprise for sustainable income and development.
We are Uganda’s first and leading ethical loose bead company. Our handmade range includes unique shapes and interesting textures which Jewellery designers worldwide appreciate over other poor quality, mass produced components. We believe that although the market for ethical beads is currently small, it is set to expand in relation to the increasing global concern for fair trade and responsible sourcing. We understand that we have the power to create a larger market by simply raising awareness. The cooperative of women live in the village of Ndejje, Uganda. It is here that the four Ugandan women who founded the company, (alongside Angus and Kirstie Maclean) also live and lead the organisation.
On this video you can see Edith talking about the future of Mzuribeads, Pauline on the environment and Sarah dyeing the white barkcloth. Eleni (interviewer) and Angus (filming) stayed and worked with the women in Ndejje last December, 2014.
Preparing the barkcloth for the making of Mzuribeads, Ndejje, Uganda, December 2014.
My name is Namanda Edith,
I am project Manager of Mzuri beads since Mzuri started in 2005 up to now, I am so happy that have managed to pay school fees for my children and buy food for them so many thing I have got in it. I always am busy when we have the orders and when we run out of the order I have a sowing machine, digging in my farm so that I get more money. Now am known to so many people because of Mzuri and my children are so happy because of MZURI we do not lack for any thing since we are working , so please am proud of Mzuri
We need more order next year and hope to travel to UK if God wishes and I will be so happy to travel,
Hope to hear from you soon.
My Name is Teopistar,
I live in Ndejje and a member of Mzuri. I started this in 2005 when Mzuri was stating up to now am still with it. My children were still in secondary school but now some have finished so am so happy with Mzuri because I get money to help me when the orders are there so please we need more orders every month at least we get like 400,000 a month.
Hope to hear from you soon.
My Name is Polyne,
I am a member of Mzuribeads since 2013, and the period I have been in this organization I have greatly benefited from it and I really enjoy working with Mzuri when we run short of the orders I work in Kampala in my small personal business of selling ladies shoe when we get order I return to Mzuri and after I use my wage to improve my business I thank Mzuri for the support he give to us,
Hope next year it will be more good.
My name is Irene Namuyigwwa,
I have been a member of Mzuri since 2005 up to 2015. I started with Mzuri when I was still living with my Mother but now a married with two children. I have so many thing I got from Mzuri e.g all thing I have in my house now I have a small retail shop, from the money I have been getting in Mzuri. Now I live at Entebbe when Mzuri UK sends orders to us I go to Ndejje and do all the varnishing as am living far from the office.
The other ladies do roll the beads and I varnish what they have made this can take me like two days when am in Ndejje vanishing then after I go back to my business, I thank the founder of Mzuri.
So please we need Mzuri to increase so that we live a better life.
My Name is Nassolo Sarah,
As a member of Mzuri I also live in Ndejje village near Mzuri office. I have been with Mzuri since 2013 up to now the period I have spent with Mzuri. I found out as it is an organization which like to up lift the ladies though it still low jobs so what I would like Mzuri to do is to keep up the orders every month so that we can get our goal of going a head and to me the money to continue and grow a small business of cassava and Pancakes. I want to help my self by the time when Mzuri has no orders. I would like Mzuri to get us more orders and increase the amount we a getting as things are so expensive these days because of the dollars.
Hope to hear from you soon,
My Name is Nalubega Harriet,
I live at Ndejje , and am a member of Mzuri since 2005 up to now this is the year when Mzuri started. I have got so many things since Mzuri started I have gained many things, I can afford buying food for my children an paying school fees to my children , but when we dont have work with Mzuri, I do some other works like washing clothes for other people and get money , and digging, I would like Mzuri to add on making necklaces ,bags and baskets so that we can be busy not only making beads,
Hope to hear from you soon.
Angus MacLean (initial project founder), was a volunteer in Uganda when he encountered the four beaders. He located a small market in Kampala to sell their finished paper bead necklaces, and paid the women upfront for the full sale price of each necklace. The women were invited to become involved in the marketplace, and soon gained a greater confidence and sense of control of their product and financial prospects. However, the stall was small, and the women were up against a craft trade in Uganda which is highly competitive.
In 2006, Angus's sister, Kirstie MacLean, came to Uganda to volunteer, and was introduced to the paper beaders. She was inspired by the beauty of their work and confident that their talents could generate a sustainable income for the women. After working on quality, design and communications, Kirstie returned to the UK with heaps of jewelry and beads. She slowly began to sell the products, and made several trips back to Uganda to continue her work with the beaders. In 2008, Kirstie prematurely left her degree in Community Education at the University of Edinburgh, and loaned (with no interest) her educational finances (sum of £4,000) to Mzuribeads. Since that time, she has continued to advise the cooperative, assisting them on their journey to increase their product range and global distribution.
Mzuribeads currently relies on support from its voluntary managers, and other volunteers. However, our goal is to one day have the company entirely cooperative led. To this end, monies accumulated through sales of product will be used to establish training programs for the women in the Ugandan cooperative to become directors, quality controllers, global marketeers, product developers, etc. Mzuribeads is not a charity, and has never received any funding. We believe in our products and in our ability to compete in the global marketplace. We understand that by experiencing all of the good and bad aspects of a normal start up (ie. hard work, continuous training, learning from our mistakes, etc,) we will become strong, and offer our team the best chance at achieving a sustainable income.
To generate a sustainable income by offering our customers an exciting range of top quality, fashionable and ethical beads.
To promote and sustain cooperative values, upholding equality and transparency. To encourage community involvement in grass root projects. Investing in local community to maximise impact.
To provide social, learning and training opportunities, creating a community hub where individuals and groups can express themselves.
To generate employment and other opportunities, hands up not a hand out.
To launch as a high-end jewellery company, focusing on African/Ugandan elements. Inspiring people and promoting Ugandan art and culture.
To develop the company brand/image using websites, social media and other platforms. To enhance our Marketing campaign, establishing more customers and networks.
Mzuribeads is a cooperative business which pays a set price per product which is decided as a group. Whereby all members have equal influence, despite position or professional title. We decide our prices in direct relation to our highest possible sale price. Selling our products at a maximum selling price, ensures we are making maximum profit, and we can raise our producers cost in relation to this. We think is a fair as we can be. It is our policy that the producer always receives between 30 - 40% of the generated sale of products. We are delighted to have just recently been approved to join the Green America network.
HOW DO THE ARTISANS WORK?
The artisan is paid on the day (scheduled collection day) they hand in their products to the project manager at the workshop in Ndejje. We have and continue to have quality issues, so the artisans are very happy with this set up. This system allows the group to discuss and review each others standards. All material costs are paid for in advance and it also secures the team a smooth and safe production process.
The artisans have full information on the selling price of their beads. We display and review all this on the price review/negotiation days and they have 24hr Internet access so they regularly visit the website, facebook page, where they see their beads selling to retail customers online. We continuously encourage them to take more active involvement in the online marketing. Our project manager in Uganda uploads photos on Facebook and posting comments on all our business pages. Our business allows a network of skilled women to work as they please, when they please, and how much or little as they want to.
IMPACT WE HOPE TO ACHIEVE
We hope our platform will make a real positive impact within the community. By attracting individuals of different ages , both women and men, we aim to create new challenges and opportunities. If people really feel they can influence and change an environment or system, we hope it really will inspire them. This inspiration will hopefully generate talent and a buzz that will be infectious in the community. The platform will hopefully give people a purpose and a drive to follow their own dreams.
We hope that this platform will help in breaking down barriers and other frictions within the Ugandan community. If we are all included and welcomed hopefully people will accept others with disabilities or other health issues. The hope is to encourage communication, sharing and collective effort. To achieve sustainable long term development would be amazing.
A place where people can trust and rely on, a place of safety where they feel it is their own place. Because that is vital to the grassroots idea, it must be for the people not just the privileged few. An awareness hub, a place were people can learn for each other and discuss vital and important issues that are in day to day life. If individuals start to pass on what they have learned or discussed, it will really empower people and change the fabric of society.