"What does that REALLY mean?" is a Sh*t That I Knit blog series that offers insights into things that you feel like you should know about, but are afraid to ask. Don't want to get into a heated argument about something semi-controversial? Feel like you should know what it means when someone talks about annuities? These are the types of topics that we'll cover in this series...okay, maybe not annuities; apparently those are super boring...
Hi there - Sarah here (ops manager in case you forgot.) We talk about Peru a lot here - “We employ 170 women in Peru to knit our products.” “We source our materials from Peru.” “We went to Peru to meet with our team.” You get it. But what exactly does it mean when we say we work so closely with Peru? What are we actually doing when we go down there? We wrote a blog a few months ago about what it means that our products are made in Peru. But we're here to pull back the curtain and share the deets on what it really means when we go there.
The reality is, with the business growing so quickly (thanks to all of your buying so many beanies,) we’ve had to increase the amount we’re ordering from Peru. We’ve also (as your know) expanded our product line. With all of this happening, we had a sort of revelation that we probably needed to meet with our team in Peru in person more than once a year. We work VERY CLOSELY with our Peruvian partners (like, we text and Whatsapp back and forth 24/7) and while it’s nice to be in contact all the time, sometimes it’s just nice to be face to face when you’re making big product and inventory decisions. Enter - traveling to Peru on the reg.
Not to brag, but we’ve gotten pretty good at zipping down to Peru for a quick, but incredibly productive visit. The first thing you should understand is that, by “zipping,” I mean putting in a full travel day to get there and then another full travel day to come back. It is about 10 hours of flying, 1 hour of driving, and as many minutes as possible jumping on wifi to get some work done in between. To be honest, there is really nothing zippy about getting to Peru, but Christina and I have gotten really good at filling our laptops with TV shows and sleeping in uncomfortable positions on planes.
When we finally arrive in Peru, we find ourselves in Lima, the capital city of Peru. This is where all of our knitters live and where our Peruvian partner team has their office. Lima is a huge, sprawling, city with a larger population than New York City. The parts of the city that we spend most of our time in are really not terribly different than any bustling city in the US-neighborhoods with differing personalities, lots of traffic and honking, and high rises. Most of our knitters live in the outer parts of the city, where houses are built into the hills and may look more like what you’d picture Peru to be like. Confession: one of the best parts of Peru is THE FOOD! You truly cannot have a bad meal in Lima. Peruvians are known for their ceviche, but everything they make is just delicious.
We usually land in Lima late in the evening and drive about an hour away to the charming, artsy part of Lima called Barranco. We always stay at our favorite hotel, SecondHome Peru. SecondHome is the former home of famous Peruvian artist, Victor Delfin. It has the most beautiful view of the coastline and there are pieces of Delfin’s work literally everywhere you look. The owners treat us like queens - they serve us a delicious, hearty breakfast each morning and make us feel right at home. It’s always nice to start the day.
From SecondHome to the office is about a 30 minute cab ride. When we arrive at the office, everyone is incredibly welcoming. As soon as we walk in the door, all the employees stop what they’re doing to turn and greet us with a smile. Andrea, our main point of contact,, rushes over for a big hello and a customary kiss on the cheek. Similar to STIK, our Peruvian partners are growing super fast, their team is spread thin, and they are bursting out of their office. They often rearrange their crowded office just so that we can have a room to ourselves when we visit. This also means there is no time to waste when we’re in their office. After quickly catching up, we get right down to business.
As I mentioned, our team in Peru is just as busy as we are. The weekly Whatsapp calls are great for what’s on the immediate horizon, but when we meet in person, it’s a perfect time for us to catch up on allllll the things beyond the day-to-day including (but not limited to):
- Team updates
- Quality control
- Future growth
The more transparent we are with each other and the stronger our relationship is, the better we can work and grow together. We usually grab a meal or two with our team to talk about things unrelated to work - it’s always fun to catch up over pisco sours.
As you could imagine, designing new products 4,000 miles apart can be a littttle challenging. Without these visits, we have to send samples and feedback back and forth until we get it perfect, which is not only expensive, but takes a long time. When Christina has an idea for a new product, we run with it. There is not usually time for weeks of back and forth on new products.
We send over several ideas months in advance of the trip, check in regularly on their progress, and let our team in Peru handle the rest. They are experts in textiles and have a great idea of our standard of quality. There is someone on our team in Peru who is dedicated to gathering samples and ideas for our new development. This last trip, we walked into a room with a table chock full of samples. The options and quality was overwhelming!
When we give feedback on samples live, there are often knitters or makers who are in the office to knit up another sample or answer a logistical question. The team is truly a wealth of knowledge and it allows us to get sh*t done quickly. Sometimes looking at a table full of samples will inspire a brand new idea. I can’t tell you what it is ;) , but this happened last time Christina and I visited...
My favorite part of visiting Lima is when we interact with the knitters. I love any opportunity to show them how much their work is appreciated and to hear directly from them how much this work means to them. These women are strong and inspiring.
I think it’s important for our customers to know that the stories we tell about our knitters come directly from what they tell us. They open up to us about their experiences as knitters and we communicate their words to our customers. They consider their groups part of their family, they are sisters, mothers, and daughters to each other. They use their close knit group as therapy and solve their problems together. They help each other.
Beyond that, they are ambitious entrepreneurs. They’ve started their own ventures, grown their team and increased their volume capacity, they’ve figured out strategies to achieve our standard of quality, and they are eager to try new products. They believe “nothing is impossible.”
Our visits are quick, but motivating, impactful, and productive. Now that we’re going more often, there is less pressure on each trip. We squeeze in as much work as we can and know that STIK will be back soon!