In episode 62 of the Disruptors for GOOD podcast, I speak with Joe Demin and Rachel Connors, Co-Founders of Yellow Leaf Hammocks on their social enterprise journey from selling hammocks out of a van to getting a $1 million investment on Shark Tank.
This is a fantastic conversation with two founders who bootstrapped their social enterprise for years, created design innovations, and created sustainable impact.
Years of hard work and dedication led to a $1 million investment from the founder of KIND Snacks, Daniel Lubetzky.
This episode is a must listen for any impact entrepreneur!
Founded by husband and wife Joe Demin and Rachel Connors, Yellow Leaf is a lifestyle brand focused on relaxation and driven by positive impact. Yellow Leaf makes products that empower people to practice daily relaxation and to live their best, most stress-free lives. The brand’s first product is a line of hammocks that are impeccably handwoven, shockingly soft, and technically engineered for extreme comfort. Best of all, Yellow Leaf is committed to creating high-wage jobs for women in rural Thailand who weave each hammock by hand. The team’s goal is to empower artisans to lift their families from poverty to the middle class.
Joe Demin has been an entrepreneur since before he knew what that word meant. When he came to America at age 5, his family was fleeing the USSR as refugees. Like many Jewish families, they came with what they could fit in their suitcases and prepared to build a new life from scratch. Joe taught himself English by watching Sesame Street and soon began growing the lustrous black beard he’s known for today. Joe’s first job came at age 6, when he persuaded the adults on his block to pay him to move their garbage cans down to the curb every Monday morning.
His next was selling gas station candy to other kids on the school playground (at a reasonable mark-up). After Joe put himself through college at DePaul University (through a handful of Ferris Bueller-esque schemes), he entered the high-stakes world of commercial real estate development. As the first undergraduate ever hired at Chicago’s most prestigious firm, he was convinced that he’d found the path he’d tenaciously pursue to the top. This was 18 months before the 2008 recession kicked off by toppling the commercial real estate markets. Making layoffs into lemonade, Joe took off for Hawaii, where he discovered that his personal definition of success didn’t revolve around ruthless money-chasing or putting his name on buildings.
Instead, he realized that he wanted to pursue … happiness. Joe is now the co-founder and Chief Relaxation Officer of Yellow Leaf Hammocks, whose mission is to spread global bliss and empower families to rise from poverty. The origins of Yellow Leaf are a pretty crazy story (involving elephants, a secret map and a 600-mile cab ride), but the results have been absolutely incredible. Yellow Leaf sells the world’s most ridiculously comfy hammocks and preaches the life-changing results of daily relaxation. Through their supply chain, they’ve empowered hundreds of families in rural Thailand to rise from poverty to the middle class.
Yellow Leaf has received international accolades (Best for the World B Corp, Kiva.org Microfinance Partner, Oprah’s Favorite Things, shoutouts in Vogue, Forbes and Fast Company), but by far the greatest measure of their success is the bright future they’ve assured in their weaving communities. Joe sees himself as a conduit to share these families’ stories with the world.
Rachel Connors is the co-founder and Chief Enthusiasm Officer of Yellow Leaf Hammocks, a social enterprise dedicated to defeating global poverty through sustainable artisan job creation. She is passionate about social justice and impeccable design, the twin pillars of Yellow Leaf. Artisan activity is the second-largest employer in the developing world. Through her work with Yellow Leaf, Rachel is dedicated to conquering the supply chain challenges that have trapped artisans in poverty and kept their goods from breaking through to the mainstream marketplace.
By working with mothers in BOP communities to create authentic, inspired products that enrich customers’ lives, her work is creating a transformative new model for 21 st century artisan enterprise. Under her leadership, Yellow Leaf has been recognized as a “Best for the World” B Corporation and amplified their global message through partnerships with Kiva.org, Made in a Free World and as the “official hammocks” of SXSW. She has collaborated on products with Bloomingdales, Tommy Bahama and CB2 and her work for Yellow Leaf has been featured by Good Morning America, the Wall Street Journal, Vogue and Oprah’s “Favorite Things.” Rachel is a fellow of GSBI, the Global Unreasonable Institute, the Opportunity Collaboration, REALITY and The Coaching Fellowship.
Founder of Causeartist and Impact Recipe // Social Entrepreneur