The article first appeared on Forbes.
It all started with a summer spent in Uganda during college. Stewart Ramsey met a community of people who had been living in government camps for over 20 years because the rebel army had ravaged the northern part of the country where they lived. The camps were the only home some of these Ugandans had ever known, and they had grown tired of relying upon the government and aid organizations to fulfill their needs. They wanted to work and provide for their families, so when Ramsey returned home and told his two best friends the story, they instantly knew they had an opportunity to use their fashion experience to create jobs that could economically empower the Ugandan community to rise above poverty.
Originally from Spokane, Washington, the trio of friends had picked up a unique hobby in high school-crocheting. They used their uncommon skills to create unique headwear for snow sports popular in their area and quickly garnered a customer base. Ramsey, Kohl Crecelius and Travis Hartanov were dubbed the “Krochet Kids” by a local newspaper and while they reveled in the novelty of it, they ultimately went on to different colleges to explore new opportunities like traveling and surfing.
Over summer breaks, the young men would spend time volunteering in developing nations, seeking a better understanding of the global community in which they lived. Their experiences abroad quickly made it apparent how blessed they had been growing up and they made a conscious decision to give back in some way, to make a difference.
Friends and family encouraged them to teach the individuals they met to crochet and give them a skill they could use to break the cycle of poverty. And then Ramsey returned from Uganda and shared his story.
Halfway into college at this point, Krochet Kids (KK) was formally incorporated as a nonprofit in 2007 and the budding entrepreneurs gathered a group of friends dedicated to transforming northern Uganda by hook and yarn. The next summer, they found themselves sitting in a hut, alongside Ugandan women mastering the art of crochet.
Over the next ten years, they established a program that trained and employed women to create products that were sold on their website. They also developed a program model that taught the women to launch their own businesses within 3-5 years, and since inception, more than 150 women have graduated into locally sustainable careers.
To dive deeper into social impact, the team decided to create separate entities that could achieve greater scalability. The KK nonprofit arm was rebranded as Capable, the organization responsible for recruiting the women and managing implementation on the ground.
Launched in the fall of 2017, Known Supply is the new benefit corporation that is now the umbrella brand that runs KK and Capable. Producing a basic line of apparel, the ultimate goal is to humanize fashion by connecting consumers to the makers of their clothing. Each piece is hand signed and customers are invited to learn more about their maker, who comes from either Lima, Peru or Gulu, Uganda.
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