Major confession here - for the last month, everyone that I’ve seen that follows me on social media has asked me about our trip to Peru, and I’ve been giving some pretty half-a$$ed answers that consist of some form of: “Oh, it was great. We had a lot of fun and got a lot done. It was really amazing.”
If I’m honest with myself, this response could basically answer any question...“How was lunch?” “Oh it was great. We had a lot of fun and got a lot done. It was really amazing.” “How was jury duty?” “Oh it was great. We had a lot of fun and got a lot done. It was really amazing.” “How was your meeting?”... you see what I mean?
In my defense, I think if I gave a truly honest answer about our experience in Peru, I would cry every time I had to answer questions about the trip. Which no one wants. So I’m going to take the next few minutes to share how our trip ACTUALLY was. In short, words like “great” and “amazing” don’t even begin to describe it…
Before we left on our 5-day trek, I knew very little about our connection to Peru. I knew Christina decided to move production to Peru when she needed to scale the business faster, and I knew that our hats were hand-knit by a team of female knitters. I knew that by working with us, the women were able to knit from home and earn a fair wage. Oh, and I knew that Peru was in South America...joking (kinda). The point is that I had a lot to learn, so I thought I would share 5 things I learned on our trip to Peru.
- This is a REAL JOB for these women. It’s easy to read one of our marketing cards or hear someone talk about how we employ women in Peru and think, “Oh that’s nice. STIK is giving these women something to do while they stay at home.” No, no. Do not be confused. This is a serious job, with real expectations and responsibilities. Each knitter is held accountable for their work, and they take that very seriously. When problems arise, the women work together as a team to creatively find a solution (and they’re incredibly innovative and creative). I may have gone into this thinking that in some way, we were doing charity work. But I was incredibly wrong - these women rely on this job, and they take immense pride in the finished product.
- Knitting really is meditative. All three groups of women we met with talked about how knitting gave them a chance to get their mind off things going on in their lives. Because of the focus required, knitting has turned into a distraction from anything going on around them. I have no business making assumptions or judgements about where and how some of these women work and live, but I can tell you that they are very different from the brick walk-ups of Boston. I can imagine that there is a fair amount to worry and stress about, but these women turn to knitting as a form of distraction and release from everyday life.
- They are making a move toward the glass ceiling. I’m not sure why, but there’s something really moving about seeing women rise up and do things that they’ve historically been told they can’t do. These women have grown up in a society dominated by men, and this job teaches them that they have ideas, they are creative, and they can solve problems on their own. It gives them financial freedom to buy something on the side of what they might get from their husbands, and in some cases, it gives them the opportunity to earn more money than their husbands altogether. I don’t care where in the world you’re from, that’s pretty bada$$!!!!!
- Peruvian women love to hang out with each other! One of the sillier things I learned is that Peruvian women LOVE to get together to knit. Working together in groups for Sh*t That I Knit gives them a reason to get together, knit, and catch up together. It was really amazing to see the camaraderie that these groups shared with each other. They are so intertwined in each other’s lives - it’s like a family. The STIK family!
- STIK would not exist without these women. On our way home from our day with the knitter, it really hit me that I would not have a job if it weren’t for the quality of work that these women put out. They hand-knit beautiful, complex designs every single day for us, and they work incredibly hard to make sure every hat, wrap, and bag is perfect. Sh*t That I Knit would literally not exist without our Peruvian knitters, and to be honest, I don’t think I can imagine this brand without their work.
It’s important to note that we do pay all of the women who work for us a fair, livable wage; that being said, it was very clear, based on our conversations, that this job is about way more than money. Yes - the money is important and makes a direct impact on their lives, but it’s really about empowerment, entrepreneurship, and opportunity - and those are their words, not mine. I share this, not to toot our own horn or make it sound like we are super heroes (because we're not), but to shed light on the fact that there are companies out there doing business the right way and trying to make an difference.
I left this trip feeling so thankful for everything these women do for us. It really is an honor to have them as part of our team, our STIK family. And I hope that our customers continue to love the work that these women do for us.