Akola

A disruptive jewelry brand empowering women in Uganda and Dallas.

Akola’s mission:

“Empower women to become agents of transformation in their families and communities through economic development.”

Led by celebrated founder, Brittany Merrill Underwood, Akola Jewelry has created a new social business model – empowering women in disadvantaged communities and connecting them to luxury retailers. The women make beautiful jewelry which is sold in Neiman Marcus and luxury boutiques. One hundred percent of the donations fund ‘brick and mortar’ projects to help women and their families – economic development.

Trained and employed by Akola, women in Uganda make beads which go into every necklace. They make hand rolled paper beads and hand carved Akola cow horn beads. When they work part-time, they earn nearly twice the Ugandan poverty level. Full time work gives them a salary comparable to Ugandan policeman and teachers. The average woman working for Akola is supporting nine dependents.

Women in Dallas who have criminal records and poor employment prospects, earn a living wage hand-knotting the beads onto silk – vocational training. They establish a positive employment record which enables them to apply to other jobs.

The 400+ women employed by Akola in both Uganda and Dallas work with dignity, get training and an employment track record – and an opportunity to support themselves and their families.

Akola founder, Brittany Merrill Underwood, has made an extraordinary impact through her dedication over the past 12 years to transform the lives of impoverished women and families through the Akola Project. Akola has created a new, high impact model for social business that is paving the way for high impact millennial run businesses that seek to have an impact on the world.

According to Inc. Magazine, “Underwood is a clear example of a servant leader practicing conscious capitalism to transform the lives of impoverished women and families.”

In 2017, Brittany was named among the top The World’s Top 10 CEOs in Inc. Magazine, the ‘Best Person in the World” by Yahoo in 2014, and was honored by clothing manufacturer Levi as one of 50 women around the globe who have changed the political, cultural, and spiritual shape of the future. She was awarded the Emerging Leader Award from SMU in 2013, the Young Leader Award from the Dallas Women’s Foundation in 2014, and was awarded a silver medal from the Business & Interfaith Peace Award given by the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation in Rio. Brittany has been featured on the Katie Couric Show, CNN’s Young People Who Rock, Fox Business and Modern Luxury. In 2014, she was asked to join the mentoring class for the Laura Bush Women’s Initiative and joined the faculty of Southern Methodist University as an adjunct professor in 2015 where she teaches a new course on Social Innovation. Brittany continues to devote her life to creating a brand that empowers women through economic and holistic development as CEO of the Akola Project.

Brittany and Akola offer five fundamental methodologies that are critical in order for social enterprises to be highly impactful and sustainable for beneficiary employees.

Want to help? Buy Akola jewelry.

Collar Necklace – Star comes in six colors and zebra. $76.00. There is currently a 40% off sale at checkout.

Donate to Akola. Akola is not listed on Charity Navigator, my go-to resource for evaluating non-profits, but their claim to give 100% of donations will fund the social programs that Akola pairs with economic opportunity to allow women to become agents of transformation in their communities is compelling. Donate to Akola.

Speaking Engagements

Brittany is passionate about sharing her experience, lessons, and expertise with audiences who are eager to make an impact in our world. If you would like to request having Brittany speaking at your next event, please complete this Speaker Request Form.