NEW! Rebozo del Lago

We’re so excited to announce our most luxurious weave – by that, we mean that the widest, thickest, coziest shawl we’ve made yet.  Of course, naturally-dyed with plants and using ikat techniques to make the patterns.

I was so inspired by the beautiful colors at Lake Atitlán, where our weavers are from.  That’s why this shawl is named after the magical place – “Rebozo del Lago” 💙

 

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Huge thanks to the very talented Devon Lach for these pictures taken in the San Francisco Bay.  I’m so thrilled she was able to capture the essence of this rebozo so perfectly – the cozy wrap around your shoulders with the light breeze of the ocean, walking barefoot comfortably on the beach.  It’s serene, earthy, ethical.  I love every bit of it.

We currently only have two Rebozos del Lago stocked, and the weavers are ready to make more, waiting for your order.

<<See our video about the dyeing and weaving processes>>

<<Order now>>

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Summer Picnic Bundle

We’ve got a fun-filled ethical bundle for you, straight from Guatemala!

Toj Kakaw

We’ve teamed up with Toj  to bring you this ethical bundle just in time for summer sunshine.  Get a hand-embroidered Kakaw Designs Picnic Blanket and a pair of Toj sandals of your choice for $140, including shipping to the US!  That’s almost $50 off, which we are able to do by combining orders together and shipping to you directly from Guatemala.

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I loved having these sandals with me in Mexico, with their interchangeable laces.  I’ve tried quite a few different ways to wear them, but I know there are so many more – it’s fun to play around with!

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Our Picnic Blanket is also great for the beach 🌴

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I love the handwoven straps, so many colors to choose from!  I’m a sucker for this lovely green.

Interested?  Just Email me (mari@kakawdesigns.com) and we’ll arrange orders through PayPal.  Offer valid until May 21st, and we’ll be shipping the last week of May, just in time for summer.

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Picnic Blanket Earth Lodge

A favorite for scarf season

*** Discount code at the very bottom 😘***

We love all our products, but we’re so excited that this chilly season the top favorite has been the newest scarf addition, our Corte Wrap.  It’s beautiful and cozy, but more that that, we are including two different groups of artisans in its production – the weavers who prepare the naturally-dyed cotton thread, and the embroiderers who do all the amazing embroidery work, stitch by stitch ❤️

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Francisca with the naturally-dyed thread her cooperative prepares.  She liked the finished prototype!

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Embroidery master sisters at work!

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Stitch by stitch…

 

And the result is a super soft, cozy scarf ❤️

 

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Kelly from Cardamom Collective snatched one of our prototypes!

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Adrienne shows off her Corte Wrap AND her Quetzal Backpack 😆

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Rachel and Laura both got a hold of these beauties with red stripes… lucky them!

Want your own?  Use discount code SCARFLOVE for $20 off your own Corte Wrap just until January 25, 2017.

 

Facebook Live Discussion: Working with Artisans in Guatemala

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We’re so excited to be hosting a discussion on the challenges and rewards involved in the work we do here as social entrepreneurs in Guatemala.  Join us for an interactive live video discussion on Perhaps you need a little Guatemala tomorrow, Tuesday, January 17th at 5pm PST!

Together with the lovely boss ladies behind Stela 9, Luna Zorro, and Uxibal we will be answering questions and having a fun discussion sharing stories.  Hope to see you then!

Join the event on Facebook.

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Backpacking in Guatemala

I finished college at UC Davis, and took off as fast as I could.  I backpacked for a year, and then landed a job on the Galapagos Islands teaching little humans, and during my time off got to explore much of the islands and the mainland.  I squeezed in a trip to Japan and then to Australia before relocating to Guatemala, which has become my home since.  I counted once, I think I’ve lived in 10 countries throughout my life.  Something like that.

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Somewhere in the middle of the Pacific… Galápagos ❤️

But since I’ve grown roots in this beautiful Antigua, I hadn’t really done much “backpacking.”  Don’t get me wrong, I travel often, especially to meet with artisans, but this leisurely “traveling for the sake of traveling,” not so much.  And so I took a little vacation at the end of 2016, and had such an amazing time I visiting places that I hadn’t been to in a while:

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Laguna Chicabal, one of my favorite places.

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Hiking from Xela to Lake Atitlán with Quetzaltrekkers.  Photo: Abby Price (our awesome guide)

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It got pretty cold at night during the hike!

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The beautiful trail at Semuc Champey.  Photo: Leander Khil

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The water was lovely!  Photo: Leander Khil

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I missed the tropical rainforest.  Photo: Leander Khil

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The Ceiba Tree ❤️

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And, of course, Tikal.

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I had fun being a Wild Thing.

It was a good reminder: I love to travel.  (There’s even this ExOfficio video about how much I love to travel.)  I grew roots, and that’s great, but that doesn’t mean I can’t get out more just to “travel for the sake of traveling.”  Right?

2017 – I’m looking forward to the adventures that lay ahead.  Because I still get Wanderlust, and I think that’s just part of me forever.

 

XOXO,

Mari

Why We’re Crowdfunding to Grow our Handmade Business

Note: This post was originally published on Eco Warrior Princess.

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By Mari Gray

Many people have asked me how I first got started with my artisan-made business Kakaw Designs. The short answer is this: through a small Kickstarter project for $2000. That was my way of figuring out if people liked the idea of custom-made boots using traditional Guatemalan textiles. The answer was yes, and we’ve grown so much in the three years since inception.

Now, we’re doing another Kickstarter project (until November 20, 2016) and I want to explain why.  Because clearly, ours is an existing business, not a recently launched one.

And it’s been going really well. So why another crowdfunding campaign? There are three main reasons…

We want to shift our business to work more with women artisans.

We started the business using beautiful repurposed textiles here in Guatemala. But the goal has always been to focus on our work with weavers and embroiderers. Because by working together for new textile designs, we are more directly contributing to supporting these dying traditions.

The downside is that this is more costly both in time and money. There is always trial and error involved, and the cost of making even samples is much higher because we need to prepare an entire loom of the commissioned textile. This all makes sense, it’s fair and that is how it should be, but it is an additional challenge that comes with ethical practices.

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We want to balance both direct sales and wholesale.

This has been a challenge. In order to get into different retailers, we’ve had to increase our final price on some products, and develop new products specifically with wholesale in mind.

Related Post: 4 Most Common Dilemmas of an Artisan Made Brand

So in case this is all new to you, this is how it works: Kakaw Designs sells 10 bags to Boutique A, and this is called “wholesale.” Boutique A then sells those 10 bags at a mark-up (they’re a business too, of course) and so the price generally doubles from wholesale to final retail. But in order to keep our final prices aligned both in stores and online, some adjustments had to be made, which means that we’re probably losing some direct sales beacause of the price increase.

This is a tricky balance that we’re still trying to figure out. How much should we dedicate to wholesale, and how much to direct online sales? We don’t have a clear answer yet, but we do realize that we need to have both things going for us – both wholesale and direct sales.

We want to have our products ready-to-go, which means stocking plenty.

All our bags and accessories are ready for quick shipping both in Guatemala and in the US. We have a shipping person in the US so that our delivery time is reduced. She also ships international orders because it’s just not feasible to ship directly from Guatemala to the UK, for example. We also keep stock here in Guatemala to sell within the country at different retailers, and people come to me directly as well. Word of mouth is a powerful thing!

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This is all great, don’t get me wrong. The business is expanding; we are growing. But again, the extra stocking investment is something we can feel as a small business.

Related Post: What Launching an Ethical Fashion Brand Really Looks Like

That’s why Kickstarter.

We’re using this platform to take pre-orders on our newest products focusing on increasing the impact with the women – for weaving and embroidery. The groups of orders are not even that big (ex. 10 Picnic Blankets), but it just means that we can go into production mode without having to invest in stock first, and wait around for a potential sale. By taking pre-orders, those products already have new homes, and that way we can also reduce our prices per product. We’re also not undercutting any wholesale opportunities because this is a one-time only project, limited-time. The prices will increase once the products make their way to our website. We’ve already developed the new products, and now we’re ready to gear up for production.

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I feel like sometimes there’s so much emphasis placed on the growth of a business, it can seem like a linear, positive progression. I think growth is good, but it does come with its own challenges. Kakaw Designs is at a critical point right now, one that I’m sure many small businesses have experienced as well.

It’s a great, exciting step for us in increasing our social impact and staying true to our mission of working with female artisans here in Guatemala. It’s the perfect opportunity to check our work and make sure that we are on the right path. And joining forces and grouping orders allows us to take that next step with ease.

Want to support the Kakaw Designs on Kickstarter? Check out the Kickstarter campaign here.