Starting a nonprofit from scratch
In case you’re new around here, we pronounce BOH like “Bow”. Besides any number of puns and play-on-words that BOH affords, BOH also rhymes with “Grow” and that’s what we’re talking about this month, July. July being the month we celebrate our birthday, the month our official non-profit status was granted. This July, BOH turned 6!
Time to go BOH-nanas.
Since birthdays bring on the nostalgia, we’ve decided to bring out the ol’ slide projector and give you a few behind-the-scenes memories of BOH’s growing up years:
BOH became “official” in 2011, but the key relationships were formed a couple years before. Current Executive Director and Co-founder Natalie traveled to Uganda with another Co-Founder, Nikki, for a summer volunteer trip in 2009. There, they met Cathie and Sam, who had started a - wait for it - nonprofit called WOCAP (Widows and Orphans Community Action Plan) to help widows in their villages be able to support their families. This was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
In 2010, Natalie traveled to Uganda for the second time, and again, visited Sam and Cathie, deepening relationships made during her previous trip. While there, she saw the desperate poverty some of these widows were living in as they tried to care for their families. She agreed with Sam and Cathie - creating opportunities for these women to earn an income and provide for their children could change everything. When she returned to the US, Natalie brought a box of the women’s handmade jewelry with her to try selling the pieces to family and friends. People loved the pieces and were eager to hear stories of the women who crafted the jewelry they held in their hands. This encouragement gave Natalie the first inklings to develop a lasting partnership complete with an expanded dream and sustainable impact through a new nonprofit.
The first official year! During her senior year at UCSB, Natalie discussed starting BOH with Nikki and another friend, Allison, and took a class where she and her group created the initial business plan for BOH as their class project. After graduating, the three began official BOH operations in September and landed on the name “Because of Hope” in reference to the powerful hope exuded by the women despite their difficult circumstances. During this year, the three women developed BOH’s original logos, colors, website, marketing, online shop, and event circuit all while juggling as many as three jobs. Incredibly, they sold over $10,000 worth of jewelry from September to December which funded the initial filing fees, plane tickets to Uganda, and further jewelry purchases! Hard work, faith, and passion for the cause lifted BOH off the ground.
Natalie took her first official BOH business trip to Uganda and stayed in the village for two months. During this pivotal time, she, Cathie, and Sam prioritized fine-tuning the Beads Project as the first way for women to earn an income to care for their families. Natalie met with the women to learn the jewelry making process start-to-finish and iron out other issues: What’s the best way to ship from Uganda? Should the beads be dyed or printed for color? What does empowerment mean for this culture? What is sustainable? Who are these women and what do they hope for? While keeping up other operations, Allison & Nikki also started to process surveys taken from the women to determine their needs, resources, and desires for the future.
With the Beads Project stabilized and the surveys in their hands, it was clear that that one of the greatest desires of the women was to have their children attend school, even though they could not afford to send them. Therefore, the BOH founders started work raising money for student scholarships and planning for a new program: BOH Student Scholarship Program (BSSP). Natalie and Allison stayed in Uganda to get applications processed, kids approved, academic coaches hired, and scholarship recipients sent to their new schools. BOH now had two programs, three new Ugandan staff members and, on the U.S. side, it’s best jewelry sales year ever.
With BSSP still young, 2014 meant further maintenance and continued strengthening of the program’s framework. In February 2014 BOH hired our Bead’s Project Coordinator, Ahamed Ndhaye, who brought further improvements to the Bead’s Project. In the U.S.,Co-founders Nikki and Allison eventually moved away during 2013-2014 to pursue other wonderful endeavors and Natalie (wo)manned the ship for a few months as the only full-time U.S. employee. In Uganda, the women discussed new business ideas revolving around agriculture despite the fact that their harvests were neither large nor reliable enough to support these businesses. This sparked early ideas for a program related to improving agriculture…
Early 2015 brought BOH’s latest program: the Agriculture Program! With the women’s business ideas in mind, Natalie suggested talking with another nonprofit called Farming God’s Way which teaches local Ugandans best farming practices for their land and crops. The women approved and Henry, our Agriculture Advisor, went to Farming God’s Way for training and subsequently started coaching the women on the new techniques. The Bead’s Project continued to grow and BSSP saw its first student, Susan, graduate. On the other side of the world, Natalie hired two replacements to join her in U.S. operations - Jordy (BSSP Advisor) & Mackenzie (Retail Coordinator)!
After witnessing the Agriculture Program’s overwhelming success in 2015 (with harvest 6-10x greater than average), more women joined the program in 2016. The fledgling program was tested by a severe nine-month drought that brought hardship to rural communities. Despite the little rainfall, women who followed the new agriculture methods were still able to harvest some crops while others in the community lost everything. We hope this encourages more women to join the program and share the knowledge with their neighbors! In the U.S., Jordan orchestrated the second-annual BOH running team for the Santa Barbara half marathon who fundraised $11,950 for BSSP! Mackenzie, Ahamed, and the women created new jewelry designs for the Beads Project and celebrated growing sales online, in wholesale, and at local events.
We’re ecstatic to announce that we’re seeing new leaves of true empowerment pop above ground from the seeds planted over these last few years! During the first meeting of the year, the women discussed a new goal of each woman having pig in order to be able to sell off the piglets as a side business. They took initiative and started purchasing pigs with their own savings from their earnings from beading! So far, around half the group has pigs of their own and are learning the ins-and-outs of pig rearing. Having an idea that is culturally relevant, sustainable, and possible shows that the women are beginning to make positive changes on their own volition. This is empowerment in action!
Thanks to everyone who has helped make BOH grow!
Above: Original WOCAP group, 2012