It’s part of the growth strategy for this jewelry company helping Ugandan women
Akola is known for selling beautiful jewelry that is made by Ugandan women. Akola means “she works” in a local dialect, and it’s a fitting name for the company as it is women who design and craft the jewelry from sustainable materials. Akola is a globally-inspired brand that creates striking designs to lift up, nourish, and champion women around the world. Akola provides these life-changing job opportunities through vertically-integrated manufacturing, employing nearly 200 women in Uganda to make each Akola piece. Akola is building a community of women united by the belief that radical change comes from the giving of oneself for the sake of another.
Like many consumer products companies, Akola has faced some challenges in the past few years in order to continue to grow, among them capital and changing consumer buying habits. Wright Connatser is helping Akola meet these challenges.
“Akola has come to a point where it needed to change its legal structure and establish a platform for growth,” said Robin Minick, who leads the Wright Connatser team working with Akola.
An important component of that growth strategy was recently announced – Akola secured a $5 million loan through the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation. DFC is a federal government agency that invests in private sector solutions to challenges facing the developing world, aiming to mobilize private capital to develop and deliver innovative and sustainable solutions.
Part of the loan will be used to help fund a new manufacturing facility in Uganda to expand to other lifestyle products and to increase Akola’s online selling capability. Perhaps most importantly, it will help continue to keep the women in Uganda earning incomes despite the economic impact of the global coronavirus pandemic.
A couple of years ago, Wright Connatser counseled Akola on changing its legal structure from a nonprofit organization to a public benefit corporation (PBC), a designation that gives the company the ability to secure capital investments yet still provide a return on its mission of improving the lives of women and their families in East Africa by selling beautiful jewelry that is designed to empower women worldwide. (Read more about public benefit corporations here.)
“We were at a crossroads in our evolution, and Wright Connatser helped us formulate our strategy to become a public benefit corporation and establish the plan that is leading us to continued success,” said Sheeba Philip, Akola’s CEO.
Akola was operating bricks-and-mortar retail locations, but found that wasn’t an efficient option to meet the demands of changing consumer behavior. Those locations have closed now, as Akola is selling exclusively through its website and in select major retailers such as Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, and Saks Fifth Avenue.
Akola was founded in 2007 as a purpose-driven brand and early on participated in the United Way of Metropolitan Dallas’ program promoting new ventures, the Social Innovation Accelerator. It was there that Wright Connatser attorneys first interacted with Akola and its leaders. The relationship between the company and the firm is representative of the work Wright Connatser does to help developing enterprises (whether in the for-profit or nonprofit sectors) grow and achieve their goals.
Robin Minick can be contacted at Robin@wrightconnatser.com.
Sheeba Philip, Akola CEO