Sheridan’s Emily Acklin-Betzler Crafts Unique Shopping Experiences with Global Impact

BB’s paper beaded pieces are hand painted by an
artisan who has been given new opportunity to express his or herself as an artist, making our jewelry as
unique as it is beautiful. Photo Credit: Tuli

Emily & Colin Betzler have lived in Sheridan for over a decade.  Emily, originally from Prescott, Arizona, is responsible for the creation and launch of Bought Beautifully, a local nonprofit with a global reach that partners with artisans from around the world to bring their products to a larger market. 

Emily says that the purpose of Bought Beautifully is to give shoppers an easy way to use their purchasing power for good, and to share love and hope. 

Empowerment of artisans, particularly disadvantaged groups, is also abundantly front and center at Bought Beautifully, or BB, where shoppers can search for products based on the stories of the people who craft them and the impact that their support will have.  According to the organization, in 2017 they provided for 4,308 days of dignified employment, with 39 partners in 18 countries.

Specific BB impacts include:

Burundi: One month of work lunches for artisans.

Uganda: Two months of educational training in finance, health, and business for artisans.

Jordan: Four months’ rent for the women’s workshop.

Uganda: One month of tuition for 26 children in Gulu.

Peru: Etel Vina, a leader in her sewing co-op, is now able to send her daughter to college.  She will be the first in her extended family to do so.

Philippines: Hosted their first ever Christmas party to thank their workers, complete with gifts for the workers and their families.

Rwanda:Annual health insurance for 50 families.

Azerbaijan: Three months’ worth of business operation costs, including: governmental taxes, material storage, and accounting salary.  Visited three new communities to empower talented women interested in a sustainable job with fair wages.  Launched new community projects to teach younger people in the community how to knit.

Kenya: Three months’ worth of workshop rent, and two months’ worth of lunches.

Arguably, the value of these impacts is immeasurable.

The Betzlers moved to Sheridan because Colin worked a summer at Spear-O-Wigwam, back when it was a dude ranch.  “After graduating college, and a few (other) adventures,” Emily says, “a job opened up in Buffalo and we felt it was the right move despite other plans that had already been set in motion.”  So, the Betzlers moved to Sheridan, and have been there since 2006. 

“We continue to enjoy all the area offers,” Emily says, “but, it’s the friends and community that keep us here without a doubt.”

Emily’s friends, family, and colleagues aren’t surprised that she has found a way to make giving into both a business and a lifestyle.

Bought Beautifully Sales and Systems Coordinator Sasha Saur has worked with Emily for less than a year, but she is already very fond of her.She says it is obvious that Emily wants to put women with very little means at the forefront, through dignified employment and education.  “She is very humble, and has the most energy.  The amount of energy she puts towards her work is amazing.”

Emily’s mother, Julie Acklin, once told their hometown newspaper, The Daily Courier, that “… in kindergarten, when she did a project on ‘my wish,’ her wish was to build a big house for the homeless (her father is a contractor).  When they went on vacation, her daughter gave food to people on the street.  More recently, in school, she anonymously left pots of flowers for the folks who cleaned the locker rooms and dorm bathrooms.  And, she volunteered with Yavapai Exceptional Industries and Habitat for Humanity.”

In February, Emily broke the news—on the Bought Beautifully blog—that for the next two months, the entire family would be spending time experiencing life with some of their artisan partners in Central America.  Colin explained that they would often find themselves “talking shop” at home in the evenings, to the annoyance of their kids.  He said that, “…it’s one thing to tell someone why you do something… but it’s a completely different exchange when you’re able to show them why you believe in doing something.”  By bringing their kids to Central America, they hope that they can better connect the dots from their daily (and sometimes nightly) work to the actual people their work supports.

“A bonus, of course,” Colin adds, “is being able to immerse our family in a different culture to experience new language, customs, foods, and more.”

Emily recently answered some questions for 82801 from Nicaragua.

Here, Bought Beautifully owner and founder
Emily Acklin-Betzler encourages you to…
Be The One: To Make a Difference.

A lot of people may be familiar with Fair Trade products.  How do you source your products?   Is it similar?

All our partners follow Fair Trade guidelines, but not all are formally Fair Trade Certified.  Why?  Because we primarily work with very small producers, and the Fair Trade Certification process is expensive, long, and cumbersome, and often more than our partners can administratively handle—while prioritizing their true mission.

To work with Bought Beautifully, our partners have to go through an in-depth application process.  One part of our application includes operating by Fair Trade guidelines, which all of our partners agree to do.  We are confident in our application process and feel like we can really get to know each company through it, how the products are made and how the people who make the products are treated.   

Are there any particular stories that stand out for you where you felt like you really made a difference in people’s lives?

Yes – too many to share just one!  Ultimately, the products we sell truly do empower people, restore hope, and enrich the lives of those making them in significant and tangible ways.  We just finished compiling stats from 2017, and our purchases translated to over 4,300 days of dignified employment for our artisan partners.  It’s so cool to think about the power we all have in something as simple as where we make a purchase, and how our purchases are capable of creating such a radical change in someone’s life!

What advice would you give to someone who has an outside of the box idea for a business or nonprofit?

Go for it!  This is the 21st century, there has never been a better time to think and act on things that are outside the box… Or, maybe even in a circle!   As your readers know, it’s an interesting time to be alive with Airbnb being the largest ‘hotel’ without actually owning any properties, and Uber as the largest taxi company without even owning a single taxi. 

Meet Edilsa, “She has a smile that can light the darkest days, and she has a passion for the people in her community.” When you shop Bought Beautifully, you support people all over the world—like Edilsa and her family.

It seems like we no longer use the business as usual principle anymore, or at least we’re using it less and less, and we think that this can be a good thing.  When we first founded Bought Beautifully, our desire to organize as a social good business/charitable organization was sort of hard to explain to people.  Ultimately, Bought Beautifully combines our desire to follow Jesus by meeting physical needs – in that the most effective research-proven way to pull people out of poverty is through job creation and economic opportunity. 

Your blog mentions balancing family and profession.  While a lot of people try to cut back on their professional lives for greater balance, you chose to do something else.  What is it like to mix the two so completely?

Ha!  It is an adventure and a learning situation for sure.  For us, we want to prioritize the time we get to spend with our children especially while they are young.  We also came to a place of faith that made us realize how comfortable and safe our existence has been thus far.  We decided it was time to take some risks, to give up some of the typical American dream to become available to following convictions we have had on our hearts for years now, but just hadn’t really been brave (or crazy?) enough to follow-through and quit jobs, forego salaries, work as partners, and re-prioritize elements of our lives.  It’s a different existence than what we are used to, but we’re in a place where we don’t always have the right answers or the perfect strategy, and we are learning a lot in those positions. 

What were your kids’ feelings before the trip began, and how is it going for them so far?

They were generally excited.  Hudson, our 7-year-old son, was pretty thrilled thinking of all the animals that live in Central America and the chance he might have to see a few of them.  Storie, our 4-year-old, was peripherally excited but also didn’t fully know what she was getting into…  Otherwise, she would have likely (preferred to have) stayed at home with her friends, tasty mac n’cheese, and a closet full of clothes.

Now that we’ve been here for a few weeks, they are realizing it’s a very different life than they are used to, but they are doing great all things considered.  Eating different foods, usually less of them, bug bites, wind, sun, public transportation, loud chaos from time to time… It’s been a rich experience.  They definitely will be able to share their own highs and lows by the time we return.

Shaba Brass Bangle. Handcrafted from raw brass, this striking bangle lends just the right amount of weighty significance to the day. Wear it knowing that it also means a significant impact for artisan makers in Kenya ($32, boughtbeautifully.org).

How are everyone’s Spanish language skills coming along

Las palabras ya regresan!  Learning a language is a slow process, but our kids are picking up a few new words and phrases everyday.  For us, it’s coming back.  But, each country has its own take on the language.  For example, in Nicaragua they tend to drop the “s”, which has been different for us to hear.  All in all, it’s a lot of fun and good (for us) to be out of our comfort zone. 

Do you have any personal favorite Bought Beautifully products?

We have been privileged to work with so many talented artisans and organizations to-date with such an amazing capacity for creating truly beautiful pieces, whether jewelry, art, or home décor.

That said, we can’t wait to bring home some of the pieces we’ve been discovering here in Nicaragua!  There is much under-appreciated artisanal talent here, and we have found some truly beautiful and unique items. People can see sneak peaks of these products on our social media and then view and purchase them in April at boughtbeautifully.org. #LIVEOUTLOVE #PurchaseWithPurpose

Find beautiful handmade jewelry, home décor, scarves, bags, and more in downtown Sheridan at The Union at the Montgomery, located at 15 West Brundage St. Sheridan, Wyoming 82801.

Join the movement at boughtbeautifully.org, a curated marketplace of ethical products made by beautiful people from around the world—where you can support what you value through your purchases.    

By: Kevin Knapp for 82801

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