Co-Founder & CEO, Krochet Kids intl.
Kohl is the Co-Founder of Krochet Kids; a company that empowers impoverished women across the world to create hand crafted products to be sold in high-end retailers here in the U.S. What makes Krochet Kids unique, is they operate almost exactly like a for profit, but they are actually a non-profit. All of the earnings from their products go back to restoring the lives of the ladies in their communities.
Tell us about how KK intl. began and who you are as a company?
KK intl. was a response to help those living in poverty break a cycle of dependency and to reclaim dignity and ownership over their lives. My friends and I had traveled internationally a lot during college, volunteering with different aid organizations, doing what we knew to help. It didn’t take long for us to recognize that the traditional approach to philanthropy and international aid was out of whack. Time and again we saw people living in poverty becoming dependent upon the aid they received, and more importantly, they were not content. While traveling in Uganda people told us they wanted to work. They wanted to be the ones to care for their own children. So simple.
“They wanted to be the ones to care for their own children. So simple.”
While still in college we decided we’d try to do something about it. We had formerly had a custom beanie business where we sold hats to friends and family in the Northwestern USA. We realized this skill was easily transferable and that it could serve as a job for women living in poverty, and a first step toward breaking the cycle of poverty. In 2007, we went to Uganda and worked with local organizations to identify and train a group of 10 women to crochet. We then started selling the hats they made back here in the states and our brand was born.
Where did the idea for the worlds greatest beanie come from?
It was simple. We highlight the producer of our headwear, but we haven’t had as much visibility throughout the entire supply chain as we would like to with every product. We knew the factories and have good relationships with them, but we wanted to know WHO was responsible to each step of the process. On top of that, we wanted to challenge ourselves to make a product that was purposeful in every way. Being environmentally friendly was extremely important here as well. We took to Kickstarter to make this project a reality.
How has the way you think about empowerment changed over the years?
“Our goal is to equip people toward their own self-reliance, caring for their families independently of any outside aid including our own.”
Our goal is to equip people toward their own self-reliance, caring for their families independently of any outside aid including our own. What has changed is our sophistication in accomplishing this goal. We have developed our programs and a monitoring and evaluation system ensures we are generating the impact we hope to. Women are equipped with jobs, education, and mentorship at KK intl. facilities in Uganda and Peru, and we measure over 45 key indicators of their progress out of poverty. (Major kudos to our VP of Impact Adam Thomson for spearheading this portion of our work.)
What inspires you to keep going even on the difficult days?
People like yourself. It’s easy to feel like you are on an island or that you are “fighting your good fight” all on your own. I am so encouraged by all the creative and beautiful humans who are working to shine a light on the issues around our globe. The world needs all of us pursuing our unique passions, using our skills to make a positive impact. Beyond that, it’s the specific stories of impact that we get to see from our work everyday. Stories like Beatrice’s (link :http://www.krochetkids.org/beatrice/ )
What kind of change do you hope to be a part of through your life and work in this industry?
I would hope our work, and the lengths we go to in order to ensure social impact and quality construction, would inspire others. I would hope we have the opportunity to continue to work with bigger brands, showing them alternative ways of handling their production, even if it starts with baby steps. And I would hope the model for empowerment that we’ve built over the last 8 years would be useful for others as they set out on trying to marry doing business with having a positive impact.
What encouragement would you give to someone who is waking up to the idea of people behind the products for the first time?
“Start making small and manageable steps to build in a healthy awareness of what you are buying.”
Breathe. It’s easy to be overwhelmed with the enormity of the challenges of the global supply chain and to have a desire to get rid of everything you own. Start making small and manageable steps to build in a healthy awareness of what you are buying. It really doesn’t take much time or effort to begin to find ethical alternatives to items that you buy, and you are lucky because today there are better options than there ever has been in history. You don’t have to sacrifice your personal style or quality to purchase consciously.
For more info visit: krochetkids.org