The Umtha Story

  • Dave and Cheryl Milligan founded Best Beads in 1992.
  • As the prospects for the small company grew, our desire to give back to marginalised communities became a reality.
  • Our first employees from the township areas of Cape Town were trained in the art of beading. Because of this new development and to reflect our vision, we introduced the new name of Umtha. A Xhosa word, Umtha means “a ray of light”.
  • In 1998 Dave and Cheryl, with two of their employees, sold Umtha’s jewellery at an international conference in the United Kingdom. During this time we made contact with Tearcraft in London, which resulted in the establishment of 15 years’ of successful export trade. Tearcraft introduced us to the Fair Trade ethos, which resulted in Umtha being accredited as a member of the World Fair Trade Organisation (WFTO) in 2009.
  • 2010 onwards has been challenging as the economy took a downturn, but orders continue to keep us afloat! By 2013, we have more than 200 customers in Southern & East Africa, Europe, North America, and Australia.
  • Looking back, Umtha has had many highs and low over the last 21 years. We continue to progress and develop towards the achievement of our vision: to be an excellent business handcrafting quality, innovative jewellery and empowering people from marginalised communities.