National Jeweler Network

Retail Profiles

About Retail: How a trip to Africa inspired

By Brecken Branstrator

August 19, 2014


During one of his trips to Zambia in 2011, Doug Meadows taught a small group of women a new set of jewelry-making skills and how to use the new tools that he had brought with him.

Marietta, Ga.--A trip to a number of African countries spurred one jeweler to share his knowledge with the people there, teaching women in Zambia to make their own jewelry and, now, working to establish a business school in Kenya.

A few years ago, Doug Meadows of David Douglas Diamonds in Marietta was invited to go with Business Mission Trips on a four-country tour that included Uganda, Zambia, Tanzania and Kenya to visit local businesses and attend a number of conferences.

During the trip, he connected with a missionary named Dawn Bridget Close from the Foundation for the Realization of Economic Empowerment (FREE), who invited him to give a seminar to female miners in Zambia.

He partnered with Stuller Inc. and tool company Foredom to obtain new jewelry-making tools and used the opportunity not only to educate them about jewelry making, but on all the processes that take the gemstones from mine to market and how to add value to the gems they want to sell.

About a year later, he got a call from Close saying that the women wanted more information about jewelry making to continue growing their businesses, so she visited David Douglas Jewelers in Georgia to get another lesson that she could pass on to the women in Zambia.

These women now are successful jewelry entrepreneurs, turning recycled copper and semi-precious stone into finished jewelry. FREE has even since launched a new e-commerce website.

While they may have gotten their jewelry-making businesses off the ground, Meadows noticed during similar projects along the way in various countries that there was a general lack of business education in the nations he visited, a factor that he hopes to soon change as focuses on Kenya.

“I have a passion for teaching entrepreneurism,” he told National Jeweler. “I want to teach them not just a trade or a craft, but teach them about business. If we can teach them life or business skills, they’ll be light-years ahead when it comes to getting a job. My direction now is to working with orphans in Kenya.”

Meadows’ latest project is to set up a business school to teach entrepreneurial skills. It is set to open early next year at an orphanage in Nakuru, Kenya.

“The big vision is to change a generation, and to create not job seekers, but job creators.”

Most of the schooling will be done over the Internet, via Skype or web video, Meadows said, with an Internet connection and computers provided for the children.

Meadows’ hope for this school also is to include more people from the jewelry industry in the future.

“I would love to see jewelers get involved,” he said, adding that he thinks taking a trip to help with the school would be a win-win for any that decide to, as they can both use the time to purchase gems they might need as well as invest time into these children’s lives.