Today was the third day of Carnival, which is celebrated hugely in Villa Abecia. People from all over come to celebrate in our small town and spend their days drinking, dancing, and shooting each other with water guns and balloons. As part of todays festivities Michael and I gathered around the center of town to watch the Queens of Carnival smash grapes with their feet, a Villa Abecia tradition. While we were taking photos a woman came up to us and asked if we spoke English, when we told her we did she told us to join her and her family in the traditional dance around the center of town. She was a Bolivian woman married to an American currently living in North Carolina. We held hands and danced around the center of town and afterwards she invited us to her families bbq that evening.
Taking every chance we get to eat anything besides oil soup and hamburgers, we found ourselves in a beautiful outdoor hostel awaiting a smoked meat, corn on the cob, sausage, steak, and salad. During conversation I mentioned that we loved Villa Abecia, and that I’m so happy we are opening a scarf line here so that we can have a good excuse to visit often. At the mention of scarves a woman looked up from her yummy plate, and began to tell us all about the artisan work she does.
Her name is Soma and she has been working on crotchet goods for over twenty years, and serendipitously just so happened to have started to make scarves. But not just any scarf – Soma employees woman from around Villa Abecia to sheer the sheep, clean the wool, use natural dyes to color them, and then crotchet them into unique and beautiful pieces of art. The only issue she has, is she doesn’t have anyone to sell the scarves to. She has sold a couple in Argentina, and a few in the bigger Bolivian cities such as La Paz or Santa Cruz but she has been praying for a way to sell in the American market.
Enter Jacob’s Scarves.
When I first decided to create a scarf line in Bolivia while we are here, I envisioned something truly unique. All while traveling through Bolivia before reaching Villa Abecia, I kept my eyes open for opportunities. Perhaps using the traditional fabric that the women used to carry their babies, or a new beautiful design of knitting using alpaca yarn. My mind was spinning with ideas and possibilities, but when I got to Villa Abecia and met with our original 15 women, I realized that those ideals were a little to big. Alpaca yarn wasn’t easy to find in Villa Abecia, the traditional fabric is too stiff, and the women here didn’t have access to unique pieces of fabric. So, we took this new information and dealt with it – coming up with simple knit scarves that the women could create so that we didn’t have to purchase from China for our winter line. I was happy about this fact because I want to move away from purchasing wholesale in China as soon as possible, and instead employee women with a fair wage. However, I couldn’t help but feel a little bummed that there would be no ultra unique Villa Abecia scarf line.
But tonight, when I met Soma for the first time, both of our prayers were answered. Together we are going to be employing women from all around the Villa Abecia area to use what they already have to create these perfect scarves. These women will be able to raise their children, run their homes, and care for their livestock all while making these scarves to support their families. For some women, this will eventually mean that their husbands don’t have to move to Argentina for work, and instead can stay home to help raise the family and live stock. For all these women, in means their children will have more to eat, warmer clothes, and will have the opportunity to receive an education.
THIS is why Jacob’s Scarves exists. We are here to find these opportunities that are waiting for us, the ones that will change real lives for real people. We are helping turn the American marketplace into something that makes a difference for people all over the world. So very often I can lose sight of what we are doing, and how truly beneficial this work can be because of all the hard little stuff that running a business requires, but then miracles happen and I remember why this work is truly worth it. The women in Villa Abecia will now create our knitted winter scarves, and their very own unique Jacob’s Scarves line – and I couldn’t be more thrilled!