A chance encounter with President Ian Khama of Botswana connected a local Madison business owner with the country producing many of his diamonds.
Brent Meade, owner of Gruno's Diamonds, describes meeting Khama as one of the craziest things to happen in his life.
Forevermark Diamonds, one of the main designers Gruno's sells, is a brand of the De Beers Group of Companies and gets many of its diamonds from Botswana.
In July, Khama came to Madison to receive a Global Citizen Award for his efforts to better Botswana's health and sustainability. By chance, a representative of the De Beers Group could not attend, so Meade took their place at the reception at the Edgewater Hotel.
Ultimately, Meade met Khama at the reception and spoke to the United States ambassador to Botswana, who mentioned the president wanted to take a boat ride while in Madison. Meade, who had his boat docked near the hotel, offered to take the president on a ride.
Meade says throughout the boat ride, he was able to discuss Khama's personal story and impact on Botswana. Khama invited Meade to visit Botswana in late October to see the diamond mines, schools, medical centers and many other sights throughout the country.
When the diamond industry boomed in Botswana, Meade says a lot of the funds went straight to the people of Botswana and gave them jobs.
"Diamonds were the launching pad for the success of the country," Meade says.
For him, visiting Botswana was like seeing a garden where a tomato comes from in a salad because he got to see the source of his diamonds directly. Meade says the Forevermark diamonds are rare, but the mines in Botswana qualify with the standards. Through the mining business, the De Beers Group and those who carry the diamonds are able to give back to the community with schools and medical centers.
Overall, Meade says he was most impacted when visiting a rural medical clinic. Meade asked Moma, a leader of the clinic, what would be the biggest thing the clinic needed. Ultimately, she wanted a bench and some shade for the 30-40 people who visit daily to get a tuberculosis test.
"Such a selfless woman," Meade says. "And we can help do that."
What amazes Meade is the fact that Botswana was able to have success and an increased standard of living through its strong leadership, conservation efforts and business ventures.
"It's a humbling thing to go and see that," Meade says.