When I travel, I always seek out handcrafts by local artists. Every time I wear my Masai bracelet or Cambodian earrings, I think of the people who made them. Many artists in developing countries lack the resources to market and sell their creations beyond their local community. But a growing number of social enterprises and non-profits are changing that. The founders have created fair trade systems that empower local artists to earn an income by selling goods worldwide. Check out a few that I think are particularly inspiring…

31 Bits
I was originally attracted to 31 Bits because they work with jewelry artists in Uganda, a country near and dear to my heart. The beads made from recycled paper reminded me of the banana leaf bead necklace I received as a gift when I visited a few years ago. Since then, they have expanded to work with jewelry artists in Bali and just launched a home goods line. I also love the story about how the company was created.

31 Bits necklaces from Uganda

Globe In
Globe In is one of the growing numbers of companies that sell monthly subscription boxes. But they also sell individual items including jewelry, home goods, bath and beauty items, and non-subscription boxes. My favorite items are the hand painted dishware. I found Globe In while searching for a holiday gift for my Mom one year and couldn’t resist getting her a monthly box subscription The company does a great job of illustrating their impact on communities around the world.

Novica was created in 1999 and has partnered with other like minded organizations, like Kiva, over the years (see their history). They have made an impressive impact on communities around the world. You can find just about anything on their website – clothing, home décor, artwork, jewelry, and more. In addition to the wide range of options, Novica’s prices are also very reasonable. The two pairs of earrings I purchased came in themed packaging from the country where each was made.

Novica earrings from Peru and India

I love Soko’s modern jewelry designs, especially the earrings and necklaces! Although I have not yet purchased anything, I have my eye on several items. Soko uses technology to collaborate with Kenya artists in order to bring their products to market. See more about their business model and impact.

I wrote about Rajana after visiting the store in Siem Reap, Cambodia on our world trip. They were originally created as a UK NGO and became a Cambodian-run social enterprise in 2003. Over 100 artists create jewelry, clothing, accessories, handbags, and home goods in traditional and modern designs. See Rajana’s history, values, and impact.

Do you have a favorite social enterprise? Leave a comment and share your thoughts…