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.

Getting down to business

Getting down to business

KUSIKUY coffeeSo excited about the design work that Jon and CommonSpace have been doing for KUSIKUY.  A lovely day over a chai and coffee at Greenfield Coffee a local shop we never visited yet, and will certainly visit again.  I met Jen and we talked KUSIKUY, really loving the “arm sock” feel of the glittens, so soft, warm and cozy!  Almost ready with the new logo design.  Here’s to our second round of development…

Early Morning Ski

Early Morning Ski

KUSIKUYDogSweater

KUSIKUY makes dogs happy too. Featured: hand knit, 100% alpaca dog sweater.

KUSIKUYColdYesterday it was 30 below zero, but the alpacas at my neighbor’s house were non-plussed about it all.  They had their lightweight, hollow-fiber, super warm coats keeping them cozy.  I had to put an alpaca sweater on my dog though when we went out for a ski across the pond.

Samples are in!

Samples are in!

shortglitten piano closeThe samples just came in from Bolivia and they are gorgeous!  The colors are intense and so sumptuous.  shortglitten floorThe fit is amazing and I love the long one too – reminds me of a stocking glove! Seeking models for some lifestyle footage of a day out with the ice fishers on the Meadows Pond and getting ready to launch a kickstater.  Freezing cold, beautiful day for inspiration.Longglitten pianoII

Day 13: Delivery and blessings

Day 13: Delivery and blessings

Ahh, blessings.  I’m working on a minimized web site right now.  The hardest thing for me it to tell and show so little about KUSIKUY – when there is so much to say and see!pillowbox

The newest thing is the delivery will be in a pillow box  with tan tissue paper and Bolivia string with pom poms.  We will have a small card with the name of the knitter written on it and her blessing (ch’alla).  It turns out all KUSIKUY products are blessed.

Usually the blessing is an invocation of the spirits of Pachamama (earth mother) and one’s ancestors to look over the wearer of the glove; that they stay warm, protected, healthy and happy.  The yarn is also blessed as are the animals.

The first day of the month is when Bolivian businesses and people pause for a moment, light incense and through messages delivered in the smoke, thank the spirit ancestors, Pachamama, protective mountains and rivers for all they have given and ask for continued help and remembrance  in all that is still still needed.  Spirits are invited to beer and pure alcohol spilled on the ground for them.

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Bolivians create a ch’alla celebrating the election of president Evo Morales.