Cali teen fashions Beauty 4 Life to help Ugandan artisans

A beautiful piece of jewelry can make an outfit, but it can also make a difference – especially when it’s from Beauty 4 Life, a business created by Catherine Mitchell. This 16-year-old from Oceanside, Calif., sells jewelry made by women in Uganda, and the money made helps the women take care of their families.

Just like the bracelets and necklaces she sells, Catherine’s community service has grabbed attention – she was named one of America’s Top 10 Youth Volunteers for 2012 at the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards. So we chatted up Catherine to learn about Beauty 4 Life, her hopes for the future, and her advice for girls with big hearts (like you!).

Girls’ Life: What is Beauty 4 Life?

Catherine: Beauty 4 Life is a socially-minded business that sells jewelry made by women in Uganda to empower them with a sustainable income so they can educate their children, provide for their families and keep their children off of the streets and out of wars.

GL: Beauty 4 Life is a great name. What does it mean to you?

C: The idea behind the women’s handcrafted jewelry and the business is that something beautiful (the jewelry) can give life to women and children in Uganda. Without the sustainable income from the sales of the jewelry, the women and their families would be facing death on the streets of Uganda, but the jewelry gives them the opportunity to live and thrive.

GL: How did your business get started?

C: During a trip to Uganda in the summer of 2009, I helped out at an orphanage where I met Jackie. Jackie is a five-year-old former street child who has a beautiful smile and a bubbly personality. But behind that sunny smile, Jackie knows that she will soon be orphaned as her mother is dying of AIDS. Touched by her story, I gave her my teddy bear and she gave me a delicate bracelet crafted from scrap paper and scavenged beads.

On the 22-hour flight home, I made a plan to turn my vacation into a vocation: empowering women and providing education to children. I landed in Los Angeles with a plan: to create a business to sell the unique handmade jewelry. At 13 years old, I started Beauty 4 Life, a socially-minded business that sells handcrafted, Ugandan jewelry, so that Jackie won't have to be an orphan living on the streets. Instead, Jackie can snuggle up with my teddy bear in a warm bed without worrying where her next meal will come from.

Jackie’s mother was one of the first women to make the paper bead jewelry sold by Beauty 4 Life. Jackie has started her first year of school and she is living in a house with her mother, paid for with the income Jackie’s mother received from Beauty 4 Life.

GL: What have you been able to accomplish so far?

C: I have built schools, women’s centers, and childcare centers in Uganda. Additionally, I have set up business, finance, English and health classes for the women to take in Uganda so they can go on and start their own microbusinesses.

GL: What are your hopes for the business in the future?

C: Beauty 4 Life is expanding to South America, Honduras, South Africa and India to empower women in those areas and sell their products.

Additionally, I have started a second organization called Impact U which has started Leadership Training and Development programs for students and advisors, designed to create, develop, and manage impactful community service programs. I develop and deliver curriculum in workshops at student leadership conferences. Also, I travel throughout the country, speaking to adult service organizations and to student organizations about Beauty 4 Life and how to start socially-minded service projects and businesses. In college, I will utilize technology to continue to work with students on a broader scale through webinars, downloadable curriculum, and podcasts. The book that I am writing to help students start socially-minded businesses will be for sale through Impact U along with other podcasts, webinars, curriculum and e-books.

GL: What advice do you have for girls who want to help others?

C: To create a meaningful socially-minded business or service project, girls should follow these steps: take an inventory of their interests, connect interests with needs of others, partner with professionals, and start an organization or service project. Using the resources of and Youth Service America, community mentors, and other entrepreneurs and non-profit owners, girls can learn a lot about starting a service project or socially-minded business. Girls should discover the things that they like to do and the talents that they have and use their gifts and passions to give back to the community. Girls, you already have everything you need to go out a change the world. Go for it, now is the best time in the world to start helping others.

If you’d like to support Beauty 4 Life, you can buy jewelry or even host your own jewelry party. For more information, visit the Beauty 4 Life website.

For more information on the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards and how to apply, click here.


by Marie Hansen | 2/1/2016