beyondBeanie started online operations in March 2014 and currently carries a collection of winter and spring beanies, bags and ponchos. Every item is hand-signed by the artisan who made it. Below is a Q&A with Patricia Lucero, Co-founder of beyondBeanie.
When did beyondBeanie become more than just a cool idea, when and where was that moment when you said you know I want to make this a business?
The idea to start a social clothing brand inspired by Bolivian ethnic culture was born during the visit of my friend Tito to Bolivia last year. During this backpacking trip, Tito and I discussed the possibility of starting a clothing brand that could help to both employ impoverished artisans, especially women; as well as to be able to provide in whatever way possible a better future to the estimated 9000 + orphans found in Bolivia (source: unicef)
To start things off, Tito took back to Switzerland a few products which he showed to his closest friends. Realizing that people liked them, I sent to Tito a test order which he sold through friends and referrals. Happy about the results and response from friends, Tito and I decided to evolve this “cool idea” into a full-time business. At the moment we carry 3 lines of products: beanies that give meals, bags that give school supplies and ponchos that give uniforms.
In addition, every product carries the signature of the person who made it, whose life story can be read at our site.
Does bB work with local organizations to provide the meals, clothing, or school supplies?
At the present time, we work directly with the Salmon Klein orphanage in Cochabamba. Concurrently, we are in the process of forging relationships with community centers in the outskirts of Cochabamba and La Paz areas. Our goal is to whenever possible work and collaborate as close as possible with the centers that we help.
How are the artisans chosen, is there a person that tries to find artisans that are interested?
It is me myself who looks for artisans to incorporate in the project. I select them based on the needs that they have, such as women who have been victims of family abuse, single or abandoned mothers, HIV- victims, etc. It is important for me to get to know the artisans, visit their houses and understand their needs at a personal level, etc. Our aim is to continue to establish close relationships with the artisans that we work with and expand our network as ours business grows.
What has been the response in Bolivia about beyondBeanie? Has the community embraced the idea?
The response in Bolivia has been much better than we had expected. Indeed, we also have the support of local professionals in areas such as graphic design and photography who are contributing to our project with their talents.
What have you learned about business in your journey so far with bB, what has been the hardest challenge so far?
The hardest challenge has been to make the decision to start something new. Challenges are constantly coming and going, and it is important to have the right attitude and keep moving forward no matter what.
In addition to supporting artisans. beyondbeanie also works with the Amanecer Salomon Klein Center in Cochabamba to provide meals, school supplies and uniforms to 38 orphaned children in Bolivia. The Salomon Klein is a center that offers care for orphaned and abandoned children from ages 0 to 6. These are children are often abandoned as babies on the streets or are recovered from areas such as under bridges or isolated districts in the outskirts of the city.