Archives for 2016

Presenting and Networking – social media up…

Presenting and Networking – social media up…

imagesWe’re moving ahead.  Had a great presentation at UConn for a program on New Frontiers in Fair Trade.  Loved meeting Robert and Noushin of Vega Coffee – what a great business model.  Direct buy hand roasted coffee, days fresh, straight from Nicaragua – delicious!
Then it was on to pitch KUSIKUY at the Franklin County Chamber of Commerce breakfast.  Great veggi omelet made with local potatoes from the farmer down the road.
Our social media is growing – come like and follow KUSIKUYCo on Instagram and Pinterest.
52Loving the work of Mario Testino, especially in Peru – reminds me of another favorite, Jan Saudek of Czechoslovakia (when it still was).

Travel to Bolivia – May 8th

Travel to Bolivia – May 8th

Exciting news.  I’ll be traveling to Bolivia for a short visit to oversee production, labeling and review construction details so the KUSIKUY glitten truly is the best glitten ever!  I will also be  documenting the knitting lifestyle.  Right now we’re deciding which technology is best – DSLR or Mirrorless for capturing small videos and photos of the women’s life on film.  What do you think?

mask 2I am amassing face masks, head lamps and reading glasses to help make knitting a more comfortable endeavor for our elite artisans.  We’re looking for donations!  Please mail items to PO Box 2293, Brattleboro, VT  05303 or contact me.

I’ll be returning with supplies for our Kickstarter campaign – bringing back Bolivian gifts and prototype glittens to offer to the folks who support the re-launch.  What would you want to receive with a kickstarter?  Charango guitars?  Pan flutes?  Chairo soup?  Dried llama meat?  Bolivian coffee?  Chocolate?  Backpack?gifts 2

Shark Tank!

Shark Tank!

Kusikuy_FB_ProfileIcon_v1I was just getting off the plane in San Fransisco when I checked my phone and saw that there had been a missed call from the office of Kevin Harrington on my phone. They contacted me because Kevin Harrington of Shark Tank wanted to talk to me about new programming featuring KUSIKUY.  What?!
I put my pitch talents into full gear, calling upon all support mentors, friends and colleagues to help coach me through this.
I was scheduled for a phone conversation the following week and I was ready!  I had been doing lots of internet research and watching tons of Shark Tank footage, getting a real feel for the show and the people.  In the process I had found a small site of complaints against Kevin for selling them a $19,000 infomercial package, and not a spot on Shark Tank.  Hmmm.
Anyway I prepared for the best, stayed positive and had a great conversation with Ron Rubin in production.  I pitched them that we can collaborate together through KUSIKY to bring their As Seen on TV and Shark Finds brand to a large and growing sustainable, luxury market.  Waiting to see what will happen next!

 

 

And when I’m not “KUSIKUYing” I’m mentoring 28+ student enterprises!

And when I’m not “KUSIKUYing” I’m mentoring 28+ student enterprises!

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With MHC student entrepreneurs (I’m on the far left) on the way home from San Fransisco after a successful weekend at CGIU.

It’s been a busy year at Mount Holyoke College (MHC) where I am the  Entrepreneurship Coordinator and Visiting Lecturer in Economics.  Things began getting very busy when my students began winning competitions and making it into final rounds for entrepreneurship presentations and pitches this past month.  Last week I traveled to UC Berkley with with 15 MHC students who were invited to attend the Clinton Global Initiative University, based on a competitive application process.  They engaged in innovation and leadership in education, health care, justice and environmental challenges.  

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CGIU winners!

While there, I made up a list of all of the enterprises I am working on.  It turns out there are now 28 active student social enterprises (up from the 3 that were there when I started this job in September 2015) that I am mentoring/coaching at MHC!  So far they have generated over $6,000 in revenue though I expect that to triple by the end of  this month with their participation in the Draper Competition,  Grinsoon Banquet, and CGIU Foundation funds!  

Some student enterprises arose from my classroom, others from our weekly Entrepreneurship Learning Lunches and others from classroom projects that inspired action.  

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My students at the SIT Institute busy creating social marketing solutions for the local Winter Famers Market in Brattleboro, Vermont.

So proud of the ladies at MHC (women’s college) and the awesome work they are doing.  Projects range from apps that help with diet, business and safety  management to conflict transformation training programs rom Columbia, water pumps in Kenya,  air masks made from water bottles in China, artisan production in Rwanda, Malawi, work study in Ethiopia, rape prevention and health training programs in Bangladesh, trauma art therapy in Nepal, and more!

Kudos to he 18 SIT Graduate Institute students who worked with me to create wonderful solutions for better customer retention and involvement at the Brattleboro Winter Farmers Market!

 

Moving along – on Target!

Moving along – on Target!

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KUSIKUY unveiled – mock ups of hand tags and labels. Production in the print shop now!

 

Things are cooking here at KUSIKUY.  With our first order of mittens in production, labels and tags being finalized and social media getting coordinated, it feels as if we are putting the last coat of wax on our showroom floors!

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KUSIKUY – a tradition of attention to detail and fine handcrafting with the world’s best materials.

It has been an amazing journey re-discovering my beloved clothing company and imagining our future.  I come form a long line of NYC entrepreneurs, my father is one and my grandfather too and back in the old country my great grandparents were also entrepreneurs.  However, rather than hand down a single company from generation to generation, we chose to be a family of stubborn entrepreneurs, with each of us growing (and selling) our own enterprises: my great grandparents were jewelers, grandfather a processor of precious metals, my father a dental equipment manufacturer and myself a fine, handmade clothier.  Though we did not pass down our enterprises, we did pass down a strong business ethic, shrewdness, discerning eye for detail, an innate honesty and a commitment to labor, being sure to provide the best working conditions and benefits to secure a committed, talented force.  I bring this NYC sensibility to KUSIKUY carefully choosing the best designers and brand agents in New York to bring contemporary styling to Andean heritage and make world famous sustainable luxury.

Graduating the Mentorship

Graduating the Mentorship

Wow!  6 months ago, the KUSIKUY relaunch was an idea.  I was going to mom & pop – DIY the glittens along with the knitters, struggling ceato keep prices low and quality high, squeezing corners and still not getting it to work out.  Selling KUSIKUY as “eco ethical” and trying appeal to the amorphous “eco friendly” market.  Then I met John Sorontino of the Cambridge Entrepreneur Academy and he changed my life.  “These are the best mittens in the world!” he exclaimed and then went on to show me how they were, and he was right!

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KUSIKUY mittens are hand knit by Bolivia’s elite knitters, descendants of the clothiers of great pre-Incan kings.

 

Made of the finest fiber in the world – Bolivian alpaca is scientifically proven to be of the highest quality there is and a direct lineage from the original herds of Incan kings.  With production by elite knitters, and descendants of Incan courtiers,  And a rich, deep history of dating back to the world’s greatest ancient empire, KUSIKUY brings the heritage of Andean luxury to today’s royalty.

Working with Valley Venture Mentors and the many other folks who helped along the way: Jennifer Williams of Verilliance, Amy Shapiro from the CDC,  Rob LaPorte of 2Disc, and many more.  KUSIKUY is now emerging as a leading Sustainable Luxury Brand.  Even more awesome I just graduated from the VVM mentorship program with a great cohort of 8 other entrepreneurs looking to make a difference and bring amazing products and services to the world.  Now it’s actually happening…

1000 stitches

1000 stitches

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KUSIKUY – hand knit with love by 20 generations of royal Inca artisans.

Each KUSIKUY glove is knit with at least 1,000 stitches.

Blogger Brandie wrote this beautiful poem about knitting 1,000 stitches and it so perfectly echoes the sentiments the KUSIKUY knitters share with me as they knit, imagining who the busy person in a far away land wearing their knits will be…

And as I knit each stitch for you,
I knit in prayers of happiness and joy
I knit in wishes of a life of lots of laughter
I knit in hopes of goodness and lots of smiles
I knit in hugs and love for the moments you need them, despite hoping you never will
I knit in thoughts that you will have a well-knit community around you.
This is what I knit for you.

As I knit, my anxiety slips off like a stitch being dropped
As I knit, the sadness I carry lightens
As I knit, worries about my health disappear
As I knit, I feel like I’ve found my place in the world
As I knit, I am filled with joy and happiness as I picture you with the finished product
This is what I knit for me.

I knit for you
I knit for me
As the yarn is joined together, for a moment, so are we
Just for a moment. 
As I knit each stitch for you

Thank you, Brandie and all of the world’s  amazing knitters.

Buy Once

Buy Once

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KUSIKUY Kids – hand knit alpaca wool sweater, ears hat and woolens.

I was checking on a KUSIKUY order at Green Mountain Diapers today (yes, besides glittens, we make amazing hand knit alpaca night pants and woolens) and was having a lovely chat with Karen, the owner of this great natural diapering company.  20 years ago, we were both starting our companies out of our homes while raising kids in a natural, healthy way. Karen was talking about how a friend of ours who owns Vermont Woods Studios is selling beautifully hand crafted furniture as “Buy Once.”  You get a lovingly hand made piece of furniture that becomes a loved part of family life, forever.  It reminded me of KUSIKUY.

Handmade in Vermont - Buy Once, love forever!

Vermont Woods Studios – Handmade in Vermont – Buy Once, love forever!

 

In 2007 KUSIKUY launched the “8 year sweater” a guarantee that our hand knit alpaca sweaters would last 8 years.  To support this, we free offered hole repair and replacement services.  We waited and braced ourselves to see what would happen.  Now 7 years later, we have not had a single sweater returned or sent in for repairs.  The reason?  Most of our KUSIKUY sweaters last for 12 years and counting.  An 8 year old sweater is still a “young adult” in KUSIKUY sweater years!  So with KUSIKUY, I guess you can also say, Buy Once!

KUSIKUY Baby Dream sweater - 10 years old and still kicking!

KUSIKUY Baby Dream sweater – 10 years old and still kicking!

Here is my friend’s daughter in her 10 year old KUSIKUY hand-me-down from her 2 big sisters who each wore it for years!  Years of heavy play and machine washing and it’s still a favorite.  KUSIKUY certainly is Buy Once!

KUSIKUY’s first investor!

KUSIKUY’s first investor!

Mock up of KUSIKUY's new hang tags - coming soon.

Mock up of KUSIKUY’s new hang tags – coming in April.

So exciting.  I got a totally unexpected phone call today.  It was an investor wanting to know how he can help KUSIKUY.  “Can I pay for the labels he asked?”  Instead of accepting payment for labels, I signed him on as KUSIKUY’s first investor.  Now this is his chance to be a part of the KUSIKUY history, coming in at the ground level as we are just getting started with our next decade of growth and development.  Even better, he is no longer “paying for labels,” instead he is making a three-year investment with interest.  How great is that?

Watch for KUSIKUY's May Kickstarter coming soon!

Watch for KUSIKUY’s May Kickstarter: Design your own glitten – coming soon!

So other investors in the wings this is the time to come forward – send me a message and we’ll talk!  We have other exciting fund raising opportunities coming up too such as a May kickstarter and summer-long discounted pre-sales.

 

Scaling KUSIKUY – $5 million in 3 years

Scaling KUSIKUY – $5 million in 3 years

KUSIKUYLLamaSo something folks are constantly asking me is if it takes us 12 hours to knit a glitten, how will KUSIKUY scale?  The answer is through place.  We will continue to seek out enclaves of amazingly skilled artisans  with access to local natural fibers and work with them to keep expanding the KUSIKUY line.  Building capabilities and opportunities.  After Bolivia we can expand to Peru, where KUSIKUY has worked int he past and still is in contact with its former producers.  Then it’s off to Africa for a summer line of hand made brilliantly dyed cotton dresses and shirts for men and women and then on to Asia for some silk.. All the while maintaining Fair Trade standards, celebrating the artisans, delighting the consumer, and making gorgeous clothing that lasts, is loved and makes everyone feel wonderful.