Before this busy holiday season begins, we are taking some time to reflect on the positive impact that our Yellow Leaf Hammocks community has achieved.
As you can imagine, we are incredibly excited about all of the progress we've made-- and also more driven than ever to build this movement and transform even more lives!
Our mission is to create high-wage jobs that will empower families to escape their dependence on subsistence farming and slash + burn agriculture -- but people are usually surprised to learn that families in our communities had been working in corn fields, not rice paddies.
While many people associate agriculture in Thailand + southeast Asia with rice farming, corn has become the prevailing crop for impoverished families tilling the poor soil of the uplands- and this year, the price of corn is down nearly 40%.
With their sole source of income slashed, economic disaster has struck many families in the poorest regions of Nan and Phrae provinces, but the families in our weaving communities have been giving thanks for their alternative income stream this autumn. Hammock weaving continues to positively impact their lives and opportunities.
We are especially excited about our partnership with Kiva and the weavers who have joined our microfinance program. Weavers who join the Kiva program go through their first financial training, learn how to create a household budget and get assistance opening their very first bank accounts! They also have monthly meetings to talk about their progress and go over their accounting.
Their interest-free loans help them stabilize their family budget and they are able to weave hammocks at their own pace in order to gradually repay the Kiva contributors.
This is an incredibly exciting milestone for our weavers to reach. They aren't just excited about having a new source of stability and gaining the knowledge to take control of their economic future -- they are also incredibly touched and awed by the people from around the world who step in to help them progress toward their goals!
To date, 29 of our weavers have entered the Yellow Leaf + Kiva program and their zero-interest production loans have been funded by 725 individual contributors!
Many of these people spent years of their lives trapped in debt slavery. Faced with the choice of watching their children starve, they fell into desperate cycles of predatory loans and worked in back-breaking field labor without hope of ever escaping their debt burden.
Can you imagine what it would be like for someone with this history to experience the compassion and generosity of strangers half a world away?
To share their story, their hopes and their dreams and realize that it has moved dozens of people to reach out and try to help them build a better life?
And to realize that, for the first time, they have the dignity of achieving their goals through their talent and hard work, by creating hammocks that are beloved and treasured by fans + friends all around the world?
We are so honored to be instigators of the positive change that our hammock community is bringing to the world!
Each and every hammock you have purchased has directly helped to empower our weavers and transform our communities. We are so thankful for all of you!
We thought we couldn't be any more excited to share our new website with you guys -- and then we saw our name in the New York Times!
We are so excited about our Marketplace Partnership with TOMS.
It’s a unique collection of 200 products from more than 30 social entrepreneurs, like us, who are using business to improve lives. We’re truly honored to work alongside so many companies that are doing such meaningful work around the world.
This calls for a celebration! Our favorite way to celebrate is by kicking back in a hammock (of course)-- so we decided on a HAMMOCK GIVEAWAY! This is a contest for all you "pinners" out there - a PIN IT TO WIN IT Giveaway!
How to Enter: Explore our new site and pin your favorite hammocking pics. Each photo that you pin and hashtag #dogoodrelax + #yellowleafhammocksis an entry! We'll announce a random winner on November 30, just in time for holiday gifts!
When you're done pinning, head over + check out the new TOMS Marketplace, including a hammock made exclusively for TOMS.
Holy smokes! Has it been two years already?
We launched Yellow Leaf Hammocks in August 2011 with a dream to transform the lives of our customers AND our artisan weavers and we never could have guessed how far the next two years would take us.
The mission of Yellow Leaf has always been empowerment through sustainable job creation. We believe deeply in that old saying... "teach a person to fish." Through the purchase of insanely comfy handwoven hammocks, each Yellow Leaf customer directly contributes to long-term sustainable artisan job creation in our weaving communities. From the depths of extreme poverty and debt slavery, hundreds of weaving families now have the opportunity to permanently break the cycle of poverty, feel the dignity of self-determination and build brighter futures for themselves and their communities.
Our impact is entirely owed to the support of our friends, family, fans, customers, partners and the vast hammocking community that has grown up around this amazing dream. Our thanks and love to each and every one of you!
In honor of this exciting anniversary, we want to take a moment to share some tremendous updates and commemorate the progress that has been made in two short years.
Through your purchases and support, hammock weaving operations have grown like crazy in 2013!
To date, more than 140 weavers have been trained and 30 more people are in our training program right now!
We have been racing to keep up with hammock orders, which has helped more artisans transition away from field labor (in destructive, illegal slash + burn agriculture) and focus on weaving and family life.
Your hammock purchases have allowed us to train and hire 40 new artisans since April, providing a path out of poverty for 40 new families and bringing our production force to 140 artisans.
As you may know, a single weaving job for a parent impacts an entire family and transforms their future prospects. By 2017, it is our goal to transform more than 1,000 families through long-term jobs.
This spring we launched a pilot microfinance program in partnership with Kiva. We instituted a financial training program in Ban Boonyuen Village and tested this program with nine long-time weavers, to amazing results.
For the first time, these weaving families were able to plan a long-term budget for their family's needs and determine their income to meet that budget. This week we posted 6 more zero-interest microfinance loans on behalf of weavers from Huay Oi Village and we will be rolling more weavers into the program as the year goes on. (Read our weavers' stories on the Kiva site)
These zero-interest loans help ensure that no one has to resort to slash + burn field labor and risk being pulled back into the cycle of indentured servitude through predatory loans (very common in this region).
One of the biggest challenges of launching the Kiva microfinance program for our weavers was convincing them no hidden strings or traps were attached to the loans. For communities who have been taken advantage of time and again, there is an understandable suspicion! GOOD magazine profiled this process of building trust and financial education in a story about Yellow Leaf this spring.
Your favorite hammocks have been blowing up this summer! Yellow Leaf Hammocks were featured in Martha Stewart Living, TimeOut New York, Us Weekly, Natural Health and the Sunset Magazine "Idea House"... (It's a good thing we're so photogenic!)
Because sales growth=social impact, we are doing everything we can to get the word out and we couldn't be more grateful to the media partners who have helped us share our story!
We are also excited to mention that Yellow Leaf took 1st Place in the William James Foundation LOHAS social venture competition. After an intensive application and judging process, founder Joe Demin presented onstage in Boulder, CO and won the audience vote as the enterprise with the strongest plans for growth and the most potential for transformative social change!
We became a B Corp because we want to stand united with other values-driven enterprises and share in the collaboration, debate and vision that will help bring market-driven solutions to the world's social ills.
Yellow Leaf Hammocks scored 145 out of 200 possible points on our evaluation, placing us among the top 10% of all B Corps for social and environmental impact. We love B Corp because they help us demonstrate the values and methodology behind our practices, connect us with inspiring fellow Bs-- and draw a line in the sand between shady greenwashers and the awesome companies truly committed to changing the world!
Over the next few months we will begin offering new hammock designs, introducing some limited edition products, as well as some game-changing collaborations (we REALLY can't wait to tell you about them!!).
Make sure you are signed up for Yellow Leaf e-mails so you can be the first to know as we roll out the exciting news! (There's a sign-up box on the left of this page).
We can't wait to introduce you to the newest member of the Yellow Leaf Hammock Family!
Here's a sneak peek from our amateur shutterbug at the latest photo shoot... The professional photos are coming soon!
Setting off for a shoot. Sunny and 70, Thank You San Francisco!
Searching for the perfect hammock trees... Chief Relaxation Officer Joe has an eye for these things.
Caught! Setting up a few test shots with the Islamorada Hammock.
Hammock season is definitely in full bloom!
We can't wait for you to meet Sedona!
"Vacation Inspiration" behind the newest design: The Red Rocks of Sedona, Arizona.
Toasting to a successful day of hammock photography!
It's a wrap! Headed back to HQ... And back to work!!
*Do you have a Kiva Code to redeem? e-mail rachel [at] yellowleafhammocks [dot] com for redemption information.
Friday, March 8, 2013 is International Women's Day, a day to applaud the achievements of women, celebrate the strides we've made and, most importantly, shine a light on how far we still have to go to improve the lives and health of women internationally. At Yellow Leaf, we are committed to spreading awareness about the obstacles and opportunities women & girls face, especially in developing economies. In northern Thailand, where our weaving communities are located, hill tribe women face a complicated matrix of issues. Nearly 50% of Thailand's hill tribe population (>1 million people) have not been able to gain recognition as citizens of Thailand, leaving them vulnerable to poverty and exploitation. Without citizenship, they are not able to work legally and do not have access to education or health care. Women in this situation are especially vulnerable to sexual violence and exploitation- prostitution agents travel the hills attempting to buy girls from starving families, or entrap hill tribe girls who have traveled to cities looking for factory work. It is estimated that one in three sex workers in Chiang Mai comes from a hill tribe family. UNESCO confirms that "lack of proof of citizenship is the single greatest risk factor for a hill tribe girl or woman to be trafficked or otherwise exploited." At Yellow Leaf, our mission is to directly empower our weavers by creating and sustaining high-wage weaving jobs. Weaving work is highly paid, flexible to the family schedule and can be done at home or in the community center. The vast majority of our weavers are mothers seeking a better life for their families.
Weaving offers an alternative to destructive slash & burn field labor (often the only other option for income). Our weavers can earn as much in a week as their whole family would earn in a month of back-breaking field work. This increased economic power has even helped the members of our weaving communities lobby for and obtain citizenship!
We are also empowering women within the family unit. Our policy is that the weaver is the only person who can collect payment for weaving- not her father, brothers or husband. It's not a coincidence that our foundation of a stable microeconomy begins with putting money in the hands of women. "When you invest in women, they typically invest 90% back into the health, nutrition and education of their families, as opposed to 30-40% for men," according to Karen Sherman, Executive Director for Global Programs at Women for Women, a non-profit that provides financial aid, job training, rights awareness and leadership education to women.
Here are some of the other beneficial changes a higher income through weaving has brought to our communities:
>Escaping toxic slash & burn protects the local environment and their long-term health
>Children (including girls) are able to go to school instead of working in the fields (opening up future opportunities) >Improved nutrition means children are physically outgrowing their parents at an unprecedented rate >Malaria has been eradicated (previously a 50% infection rate) through better health care >Infant mortality has been reduced nearly to 0 over the past ten years >Corollary jobs (like working in the new post office) are springing up, making it possible for young people to find work close to home instead of becoming vulnerable in distant cities All of this has been possible through the sale of our stylish, "insanely comfy" handwoven hammocks! We're spreading our "Do Good. Relax." philosophy and creating a global sales channel for these extraordinary hammocks. For our weavers, there is a special satisfaction and dignity that comes from seeing our customers fall in love with their beautiful, useful creations. Thank you all for your support and for sharing in our journey! Please spread the word about International Women's Day! Visit us on Facebook to share a post with friends, Tweet with the hashtag #IWD or e-mail a note to an inspiring woman in your life! Tweet This!! Empower women from the comfort of a hammock! Celebrate creating jobs for hill tribe women #IWD http://is.gd/IWD2013 Seeking more inspiration to spark conversation? Here are a few resources: