We really admire what the team at Krochet Kids International has accomplished. And that’s why we’re thrilled to have met one of the three founders, Stewart Ramsey. Stewart and his partners have built a thriving retail business by sourcing unique products from (formerly) impoverished people in Uganda and Peru. In doing so, they’ve empowered hundreds of people who were unable to make a living. Now those people are making products and supporting their families. It all started with hand-crocheted beanies, but the story gets even more interesting from there. Read on…
Tell us the story of how you got started.
A mysterious web of relationships, coincidences and accidents is actually the answer, but for the attention span of interneters: My two best buds and I learned how to crochet beanies in high school. We started selling hats to our friends and we called ourselves the “Krochet Kids”. We’d make you a custom beanie for like twelve bucks and we loved to crochet.
As we graduated and moved into university, we had amazing opportunities to volunteer in different developing countries. The summer of 2006 I was working in an orphanage in Lira, Uganda. After the kids went to school, I ended up spending a lot of time in IDP (Internally Displaced People) Camps. These are essentially refugee camps for Northern Ugandans due to a long and tragic civil war. I spent time with lots of different folks and in different camps and a consistent theme kept coming to the surface. People wanted to work. They were tired of having to rely on organizations for food, water, healthcare, education, etc. Parents wanted to provide for their families. A lot of the international aid fostered a culture of dependency and people wanted to provide for themselves.
In response, Krochet Kids from High School began the slow metamorphosis to KK intl. the non-profit organization with the mission to empower people to rise above poverty. The following summer in 2007 we taught the first ten women how to crochet beanies. Fast-forward to today, we employ around 200 individuals in Uganda and Peru and they are producing a wide variety of fashion accessories, bags, and apparel. Women are graduating from our programs and their lives look radically different as a result. And we measure that! Our impact is driven by data. We monitor and evaluate every woman in our programs from the day they start till the day they leave. Impact is measurable and provable. We define impact as a result, it cannot just be an action. For instance, providing a woman with a job is an action, we are more interested in the result of that action.
It’s evolved. I’ve currently promoted myself to head janitor. But depending on the context I tell people that I’m a cofounder or the VP of Sales and Marketing.
What was your first job?
Working for my father. He was a general contractor but did a lot of plumbing, heating & HVAC work. I pushed a broom and learned how to spin a wrench. (This is why I’m a master of the custodial arts).
What are 3 words to describe your brand?
Authentic. Impact. Empowering
What do you do when you are not working?
It varies greatly, but this is how I choose to invest those precious hours:
- Rock Climb
- Taste different beers or coffee.
- Hunt for the perfect breakfast burrito. *Current Leader is ‘Super Pollo’. Criteria is taste & price.
When you were a kid what did you want to be when you grew up?
- Depends on what age:
- Kindergarten: FBI Agent.
- 4th Grade: Astrophysicist (Still a nerd, fascinated by space and time)
- Freshman Year of College: Surf Bum.
- Now: I want to start a brewery.
What was your big break?
Still waiting for that one.
What is your best selling product?
All time best seller: The 5207.5. This is named after the street address of the beach house we lived in when KK intl. started in college.
What is your favorite product? Why?
Our new Standard Tee’s. Living in Southern California I don’t wear a ton of beanies. But I do wear a tee shirt almost everyday. The Standard Tee fit is near perfect. It has become my uniform: Undies, Socks, Black pants, Black tee. I don’t like spending time thinking about what I am going to wear. Black goes with anything and can go anywhere.
There are no walls in our office. This is usually epic. It allows for high communication, lots of laughs and helps work not feel like work. Sometimes I have to duck out to actually accomplish something.
If you could eat lunch with any person (from history or currently alive) who would it be?
Oh man. I love lunch. Probably Wes Anderson, but if he was busy, Alex Hannold or Ben Franklin & the Founder Fathers Posse.
Other than your own, what are your favorite brands in your sector?
I’m a fan boy for Patagonia. An inspiring marriage of function and purpose.
What’s the best piece of advice you have ever been given? Who gave it to you?
Worst-best advice ever, from my Ma: “To whom much has been given, much is required.” It is nondiscriminatory advice, it can apply to anyone, no matter his or her station in life.
If you could try any job for a day what would you try?
Professional Surfer or Mountaineer or Steven Spielberg.
What have been the hardest parts of getting to where you are now?
Understanding my pride, ego, and selfishness and navigating these with others.
If someone were to make a movie of your life, who would you hope would play you?
Probably Johnny Depp, but I’d take Ryan Gosling, Brad Pitt, or there’s Robert Redford or Paul Newman (circa 1976). Scratch that, Charlie Chaplin.
Thanks, Stewart. We love what you guys do, and appreciate hearing the story.