Ben Higgins wearing his MudLOVE bracelet (Courtesy: MudLOVE)

Before Ben Higgins went on national television to choose his future wife he made a different sort of jewelry-related commitment.

Throughout this Bachelor season, in most scenarios, including his proposal Monday night to Lauren Bushnell, Higgins sported an electric-blue string bracelet with a small clay plate resting atop his wrist engraved with the word “hope.”

One might assume the small affirmation was a nod to his desire to find “the one” on the show. It’s a reality show, at its purest intent, built on hope. “The Bachelor” always believes with earnest that “my wife is in this room.”

But Higgins didn’t wear the bracelet to stay mindful of his wife-finding ambition.

The bracelet is from a tiny pottery shop, MudLOVE, in his hometown of Warsaw, Ind., that gives 20 percent of its proceeds to a charity that provides clean water in Africa called Water for Good. Higgins visited the store when filming promotional shots before the season began, and the owner, Luke Wright, told him to pick from the multicolored assortment of bands, each with an inspirational word. Higgins chose “hope.”

Wright, 30, never asked Higgins to promote it on the show.

“A lot of people ask a lot of ‘The Bachelor’ in terms of what to wear and to do, but he didn’t even ask me wear it,” Higgins told reporters at the beginning of the season. 

And for that reason, Higgins decided he was going to wear it for the entirety of the show. It was a daily reminder, he has said, of the importance of hope in the world outside the bubble that is being “The Bachelor.”

After the first episode aired, with the bright blue band in full display, Wright was floored.

“He’s wearing it on the show, this is crazy,” he said he thought. “We started getting phone calls about it, people sharing about it, and talking about it.”

He called Higgins to thank him and the two decided there was more good to be done with the bracelet’s overnight national acclaim. Higgins works with a nonprofit called Humanity and Hope United Foundation that helps create jobs for people in Honduras. Wright agreed to give 50 percent of the “hope” bracelet proceeds to that group, while his store would continue giving 20 percent of everything it sells to Water for Good. They launched a campaign, “Get Hope, Give Hope.”

“People get food and water and jobs and a life for their family based on some crazy bracelet I wore on the show,” Higgins said in the January interview.

Crazier still is that the bracelets were never part of Wright’s original business plan. He left a construction job and started selling pottery out of a garage in 2009 and about a year later, on a whim, started hand pressing words like “hope,” “faith,” and “love” on small clay plates and affixing them to hair ties. He sold them for $1. Customers would come in and he’d try to direct them to his other work, but they were all drawn to these little bracelets, he said.


MudLOVE bracelets (Courtesy: MudLOVE)

Demand was so great — people wanted them in bulk, they wanted them personalized — that they moved out of the garage and into an actual store a few years later. They now have some 50 employees making the bracelets.

Wright can’t quite explain why the bracelets were so instantly popular — and only more so now that Higgins has been wearing one — but he thinks it’s because people derive deeper meaning from the simple words.

“The stories that have come out of it are enough to bring you to tears,” Wright said. “Just knowing a little word on a clay bracelet can mean so much to people.”

Since teaming with Higgins only a few months ago, they’ve sold almost 4,000 of the bracelets. They’ve donated $30,000 to employ 12 Honduran women at a new sheep farm. They also sold enough to ensure 75 people in the Central African Republic have access to clean water for a year.

Higgins announced the campaign’s success on his Instagram, where several of his shared photos are of him showing off the bracelet. He wrote, “Hope exists in this world.”