Where we started
The reason we wanted to send out this post, is to bring you in a bit more into our journey. Many of you who have been with us for the past few years, are now wondering why these big changes and it is only fair to share our process with you.
We started off 5 years ago in the alpaca business. We were manufacturing clothing made from alpaca wool in Peru and exporting the goods to our warehouse in the United States. Being from Colombia in South America, the logistics and the handling of the business remotely was a very big challenge, and very costly; more so because alpaca was having such high demand and the raw material was getting more expensive every day. In those 5 years, we also came to realize how we were so distant from our passion, our reason why, and in 2019, we decided to make a pivot to our company strategy and decided to focus solely on Colombian made goods.
One of our causes in this initial phase was to work in building a company that safeguarded children exploitation in factories and trafficking, and we came across beautiful organizations working towards similar natures. One of those organizations was the Central Valley Justice Coalition (CVJC). They are a faith-based non-profit organization located in Fresno, California and focus on the prevention of human trafficking in the Central Valley. They work with at-risk students at Juvenile Justice Center, schools, group homes, and churches. They provide resources and advocacy for victims and survivors of human trafficking, educate professional staff, and create partnerships to drive sustainable change in the California area. We have donated our alpaca stock to this organization, and this is what they were able to accomplish with those resources:
Our Aha! Moment
We had been working in the fashion and textiles sector for about 15 years, and as time passed, we were more and more unmotivated and separated from its dynamics. We were not liking what we were seeing, experiencing, we were not having fun. It was becoming such an anxiety-filled process, we were forgetting why we began in the first place. So, in January 2019, we hit pause and restructured our entire business model.
In 2017 we began our journey with artisans from indigenous groups in Colombia, (this is when we started introducing our mochila bags to our product portfolio), and we started visiting different regions and getting to know where we came from and learning from their philosophies and lifestyle. We wanted to get back to the truth, to the origin.
Our New Model
Our new Hope Made model works around indigenous communities and independent artisans from Colombia and is based on going back to the basics. While still focusing on fair trade and sustainability frameworks, our product portfolio shifted to handcrafted, unique handbags and objects from our culture, with a mission to provide more stable incomes to marginalized communities in our country and to bring their products to the international market under fair trading relationships. We want to be able to give women and indigenous women artisans a voice and a platform to earn a better living.
The vast majority of artisans work long hours and earn below the monthly minimum wage, which stands at COP$781,242 pesos a month, or the equivalent of USD$250 dollars. “The vast majority of artisans are women who sell directly, many having to go through the hardship of selling without receiving an acknowledgment of the costs.” (source: The City Paper Bogota)
Today, you are a part of this story. With each purchase, a woman is gaining economic independence and an opportunity to give her family a brighter future, and we want to thank you for investing in relationships that empower communities in Colombia.
Past and Present
Colombia is the country with the second-highest biodiversity in the world, behind Brazil. It occupies the first position worldwide in the number of orchids and birds, the second position in plants, amphibians, butterflies and freshwater fish, third place in species of palm trees and reptiles and globally holds the fourth position in the biodiversity of mammals. Having said this, the wide variety of raw materials we have to work with is infinite. (source: https://theculturetrip.com )
In as much as Colombia’s arts and crafts are treasured by tourists as a souvenir of a trip to this country, they are also a direct link between past and present, as most integrate skills handed down over generations by an indigenous group or clan, as is the case with mochilas knitted by Wayúu women in rancherías (townships) across La Guajira. Each mochila has a unique imprint, because each artisan interprets nature differently, choosing colors and patterns that represent their cosmogony. Many of Colombia’s arts and crafts are protected by a Designation of Origin (PDO), including the emblematic hat of coffee farmers, the Aguadeño, intricately made from the fibers of the Iraca palm, and the painted clay buses – chivas – elaborated by pottery makers in Pitalito, Huila. Colombia can take pride in having the most Designation of Origin products in Latin America – a total of 27, of which 11 are handicrafts. (source: https://thecitypaperbogota.com/bogota/colombias-largest-arts-and-crafts-fair-expoartesanias-opens-with-new-look-for-ancient-trades/21051)
Today, we are providing sustainable incomes to over 150 artisan families who are still under-employed. Our goal is to provide them with stable incomes to give them better livelihoods for future generations to come.
How will you help us impact more families?
** This article was written by Sara Milanes. Please excuse any typos or other errors as English is not her first language.