Acholi Gras + Haiti

Today we’re launching our second annual Acholi Gras clearance sale!  And this time there’s a twist.  We’re donating 100% of the proceeds from this sale to Partners in Health for their relief efforts in Haiti.

So you get incredible discounts on last year’s line of Acholi Beads, and we’ll give 100% of what you spend to help the people suffering in the wake of Haiti’s earthquake.  We’re all about the win-win.

The people of Haiti are suffering many of the same difficulties that our partners in Uganda have been through – their homes are destroyed, they’ve seen loved ones killed, and now they’re displaced without enough food, water, or shelter.  We hurt with them, and we’re glad that our business has the potential to support their relief and recovery.

Shop the Acholi Gras sale here.

Meet Mama Esther

Mama Esther – A Video Portrait from James Pearson on Vimeo.

Acholi Beads brings you a video portrait of one of our first bead makers, Mama Esther. After being attacked twice by the Lord’s Resistance Army, Esther fled with her family to Acholi Quarters. She struggled for more than a decade to support her family, until she found Acholi Beads.

For more info, visit

Business Will Change the World, chapter 4: If you don’t buy it…

Business is the most powerful force shaping our lives, so this chapter asks: How do we guide business to do more good and less harm?

I believe that this question is one of the great callings of our moment in history. If we can aim the unprecedented power of global business in the direction of progress, and I believe we can, then we might not only avert a number of potential crises, we will also make enormous improvements in the lives of billions of people…

read the rest now at

Acholi Beads in Fred Segal!

Starting tonight at 7pm, Acholi Beads will be featured in a window display at internationally renowned retailer Fred Segal, courtesy of our friends at Falling Whistles.  They are hosting an incredible kick-off event tonight at the store.  If you are anywhere near LA, be there.  Details here:

Special Acholi Beads, Falling Whistles joint hang tag.

Special Acholi Beads, Falling Whistles joint hang tag.

Business Will Change the World, chapter 2

Business Will Change The World


Business is the most powerful force shaping the world.  I don’t often use superlatives like ‘biggest,’ ‘best,’ or ‘most powerful,’ because they are usually wrong.  But today I’ll make three assertions, and they will all be superlative.  Although these can’t be definitively proven, there is evidence by the freighter-load to back them up, and it’s headed your way.

1 – Business is the most powerful force shaping the world.
2 – Business is the most powerful force shaping your life.
3 – Your business decisions are the most impactful part of your life.

Assertion # 1: Business is the most powerful force shaping the world.

Perhaps the biggest change in human culture since the advent of agriculture is happening right now – billions of people are moving from rural lands to cities, following the promise of prosperity offered by business.  In Africa and Asia 1 Million people per week are showing up in cities, looking for a future.  As people move off the farms and grazing lands that used to sustain them, they become consumers.  Business’s influence in the world grows with every new family that arrives on the outskirts of a city.

Some of business’s other accomplishments: The percentage of the world population living in extreme poverty has dropped by half since the early 80s.  The average person’s income in the world today is 50x more than it was in the late 1700s, at the kickoff of the Industrial (i.e. Business) Revolution, and that’s adjusted for inflation.  Today there are over 1 billion cars on the roads.  There are over 1 billion computers running Microsoft Windows.  There are over 1 billion people using the Internet.

Maybe bigger, we’re changing the composition of earth’s atmosphere, and the huge majority of that change comes from business – even the gases attributed to cattle are largely from industrial (i.e. business) farms.  With me now?  Let’s move on.

Assertion # 2: Business is the most powerful force shaping your life.

Look around you right now.  How many of the things that you see were made by a business?  …

[Read the rest at]

The Success Chain

If Acholi Beads becomes as big of a success as I believe it will be, it won’t be our success.  It will be the market’s success.  Acholi Beads’ success is testament to our customers and retailers, their belief that business should make the world better, not worse, and their desire to share a connection with a wonderful group of women on the far side of the world.

Our success here at Acholi Beads will be when NUPECA succeeds.  NUPECA is the co-operative of women that handmake every piece of Acholi Beads jewelry.  We helped these women to organize and found NUPECA, and our success will be turning the market success of Acholi Beads to the benefit of these great women.

NUPECA’s success is when the women, families, and communities involved thrive.  When their children have great education, their homes are rebuilt, and their communities are flourishing once again after two decades of war.

That’s how it works.  Success starts with you.  Let’s go there.

Business Will Change The World, Chapter 1

Business Will Change The World


Business will change the world. This isn’t a pitch or a proposal, this is a fact about the future. I am as sure of this as I am of the sun peeking over the eastern hills come morning.

The last 200 years plot a story of global transformation. Billions of people moved from subsistence farms to cities, where employment and education hold the chance for prosperity and wealth, and services like water and electricity promise comfort. Last year, for the first time in history, more people lived in cities than not, and the move is accelerating. By 2030 it is expected that 5 billion (5,000,000,000) people will live in urban areas and their slums and suburbs.

This is a massive cultural and geopolitical change… [Read the rest at]

Open Circle 1: The Foundational Choice

Socially Proactive Business is bigger than Acholi Beads.  In an effort to remove some of the barriers that people face in entering this sort of business, and also to invite discussion and advice, I’m open-sourcing our business model.  This continuing series, Open Circle, will share many of the challenges we have faced and the best practices we’ve established for making Acholi Beads successful on both sides of the world.

My first principle for starting a business in a culture that I don’t belong to, and especially in a developing country, is this: Find and partner with a local visionary.

This where success starts.  It is the most important thing you can do to position for long term success by an order of magnitude.

What is a local visionary?  She’s the person who knows what is needed in the place you’re looking to work, and knows how to make it happen.  How does she know?  She grew up there and knows its culture, strengths, and lackings intrinsically, absorbed them like language.  She has long been working there to advance the goals that you share, using whatever resources she has marshaled to better her friends, family, and community members.  Her life bears the unmistakable gleam of service – the sincere smiles of her community when she sees them.  She is the one that her community happily rallies around when she brings them an idea for development.

She is your beginning.

Why is this important?  To answer this I like to tell the story of Mahabir Pun, a soft-spoken, pot-bellied, middle-aged man from a small village in rural Nepal.  When I met him he had spent the last decade working as a volunteer in his and surrounding villages, building up the local education system.  These villages are separated by days’ hikes over steep Himalayan geography, so Mahabir walks and walks and walks, up mountains and down again, sleeping on rough wood or dirt floors, in order to see the children of his home succeed in the rapidly modernizing world.  “As long as I can walk I can do this,” he says.

antennaIn college I had the marvelous fortune to visit Mahabir and assist in his work to connect these villages to each other and to the world through a long distance wireless network.  A brilliant friend of mine wrote a grant to supply the equipment, and we flew to Nepal.  Over a month of beautiful monsoon hikes we networked five villages, using two high-altitude relay stations and an internet connection 30+ kilometers away in the nearest city.  Leaving Nepal we felt the happy exhilaration of success.  But Mahabir’s work had only begun.

In the ensuing years Mahabir networked many more villages in the region, and in other parts of Nepal and Asia, and his work has been hailed with awards and honors from around the world.  His success did not depend on us; we only walked alongside him for one step of a much grander journey that he has continued every day since.  Mahabir is a local visionary.

Like Mahabir, a local visionary will ensure that your work is to the greatest benefit of the local community.  He understands how to organize and manage people in his community, and since he is broadly respected by his peers they trust and appreciate his leadership.  He will make your partnership with the local community easier, more enjoyable, and far more effective than otherwise.

What if, you might ask, after an exhaustive search you cannot find a qualified local visionary where you want to work?  You have two choices: 1) Go somewhere else, or 2) Cultivate one.  Acholi Beads chose option 2, which has brought us a unique set of challenges.  These I’ll share in a future edition of Open Circle.

Open Circle is written by James A. Pearson, and is an invitation to join Acholi Beads in using business for the benefit of those who need it most.