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Under the Tree

“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”

This proverb is all too true for a business called Under the Tree in Northern Uganda (with business operations in Northern Wisconsin). What began as a simple way for the Gulu women to create beauty turned into a means of supporting their families.

It’s the brainchild of two friends, Kelsey Kidder and Caylin Muehlberg. They began their entrepreneurial journey in 2007 when they first learned of the needs of the Ugandan people. Feeling inspired to help yet not knowing where to begin, they traveled to Uganda where they witnessed first hand the extreme poverty and harsh living conditions the people were facing. At the end of their trip, a woman gave them gifts – paper-wrapped beaded necklaces. The young college girls realized what beautiful jewelry they were given and began to envision how this could help serve a greater purpose and work to end poverty in Northern Uganda.

If you ever get a chance to sit down with Kelsey or Caylin over coffee and learn about this business and its mission, do it. I had the privilege of doing that very thing last week. Let me tell you – there is a clear difference between many “fair trade” businesses and Under the Tree. This organization works to educate and train women to work as designers and jewelry makers – allowing them a lot of flexibility and say in what they make and the cost of their beautiful pieces. The women behind the business are unapologetically real and honest about their heart, as shown on their social media pages. You’ll find images and stories of real women – whose lives you’re directly impacting. There are no models. No marketing ploys. Just authentic stories of truth and beauty.

There are forty women who are currently employed by Under the Tree and many of them are the sole provider for their home. Some women are not only supporting a spouse or children, but siblings or grandchildren as well. Since being employed by Under the Tree, one woman was able to pay for her son’s college tuition while still providing for day to day living expenses. There are oodles of stories just like this one. And that’s why I love it!

In the short time since becoming aware of Under the Tree, I’ve seen their jewelry designs grow and develop into even greater and more elegant necklaces, bracelets, and headbands. Their beads are all covered in a water-resistant sealant keeping them safe in any weather, and they come in several different colors and designs. They’re my go-to accessories, and I won’t even admit how many pieces I’ve collected – but I will highly recommend the Margaret, the Juliet, and the Mama Molly… Ahem.

I absolutely love buying from local businesses or organizations with a cause. Why wouldn’t I want to purchase something that directly benefits an individual? Whether it be a local bike shop or an international business with a purpose, I love contributing to something greater than myself and knowing I’ve invested in something (and someone) with big potential.

Because this is one of my favorite organizations and I want you to own a piece, I am giving one green and blue Joska necklace * away! Choose one of the following ways to enter or both for a second entry. 

  1. Comment on this specific blog post. 
  2. Share my Instagram post or Facebook post AND follow Under the Tree on Instagram or like them on Facebook

I’m super excited about this giveaway and the opportunity to collaborate with the women of Under the Tree! The winner will be announced April 14th at 8PM Central Time. 

To support these amazing women and their beautiful designs, or to learn more, visit their site at or follow them on Instagram @underthetreecollections.

*The Joska necklace was graciously donated by Under the Tree Collections. 

Ashley Cooper

I strive to find joy in each ordinary day.

  • Leanne Reichhoff

    I love paper bead jewelry especially when the hands who made it are truly working hard to support their families in ways we cannot fathom. Would love to win this piece it’s gorgeous!!

    April 10, 2016 at 6:44 pm Reply
  • Andrea Carlton


    April 10, 2016 at 6:49 pm Reply
  • Alyssa Alaimo

    Beautiful necklace, story and business!

    April 10, 2016 at 6:54 pm Reply
  • Gwynette Werth

    I’m really interested in the jewelry. I bought some jewelry that was made my Uganda woman who lost their sponsor. It supported an orphanage. Could this be the same?

    April 10, 2016 at 7:07 pm Reply
  • Linda Schrankel

    Once more an awesome blog entry by a very talented author. This jewelry is amazing.

    April 10, 2016 at 8:04 pm Reply
  • Judy Darby

    Love this jewelry. I took several pieces to our family reunion last year for the silent auction and they were a hit!

    April 10, 2016 at 8:21 pm Reply
  • Grace Shaffer

    Love this company’s purpose and their pieces are gorgeous!

    April 10, 2016 at 8:27 pm Reply
  • Rita Wuebben

    Love the jewelry and this company!

    April 10, 2016 at 9:14 pm Reply
  • Alison French

    This is an amazing necklace and what the company is doing for women in difficult situations in Uganda to to give them a means of providing for their families is just wonderful! Happy to have discovered this company.

    April 10, 2016 at 9:28 pm Reply
  • Kate Harrington

    Love this kind of stuff. What an awesome way for women to make money for their families.

    April 10, 2016 at 9:35 pm Reply
  • Melissa Meyer

    Absolutely love what this allows for women in Uganda to do, plus the jewelry is gorgeous! Love hearing about the stories you share!

    April 10, 2016 at 10:37 pm Reply
  • Leah Wekseth

    What an amazing testament to being Gods hands and feet! Prayers to these awesome ladies for thier beautiful work!

    April 11, 2016 at 8:23 am Reply
  • Leah t. Wekseth

    This is great! Thank you for the opportunity to spread the word about this company!

    April 11, 2016 at 9:05 am Reply
  • Allie Gronning

    The jewelry is amazing and light weight!

    April 11, 2016 at 2:33 pm Reply
  • Heidi Cook

    Thank you for this story! I have sold jewelry for women in Bangkok, Thailand and it is amazing what an impact these ministries have on people’s lives!

    April 11, 2016 at 10:18 pm Reply
  • Erica Olson

    Thank you for teaching me about this last fall Ashley! The jewelry is very beautiful!

    April 13, 2016 at 1:24 pm Reply
  • Traci Munday

    I love this Ash!!! Will be keeping an eye on your updates! I love jewelry that has a story behind it and when someone asks me about a particular piece of jewelry.. I love telling the story behind it! Love this and this ministry!

    April 13, 2016 at 6:04 pm Reply
  • Katie

    Ashley! I love your blog! And Kes I am so glad you listened to God’s calling with the ministry. Love all my pieces from under the tree.

    April 13, 2016 at 10:38 pm Reply

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