Est. 2006 in Guatemala
Wakami is a socially conscious brand that designs fashion accessories influenced by ancestral culture and weaving techniques from Central America and beyond. Our brand represents a rustic, yet urban lifestyle and encourages people to connect with one another—the Earth—their dreams. We aim to enrich the lives of both the artisans who create Wakami products and those who buy them, inspiring them to do what they love most: Traveling the world, creating art, or simply seeking new experiences, Wakami wants you to be your dream!
We work with artisans — 90% of whom are women—in remote areas of Guatemala and connect them with urban markets around the world. Wakami products are what we call messengers of connection— changing the lives of those who produce them and enriching the lives of those who wear them.
We work closely with our non-profit partner Comunidades de la Tierra to create sustainable, income-generating opportunities for people in isolated areas of Guatemala. Comunidades de la Tierra reaches out to artisans in rural villages all over the country and presents them with the opportunity to become entrepreneurs and establish their own formal businesses. Artisans participate in a two-year bu b siness training program that teaches them the valuable skills they will need to run their company. They begin earning an income after four months, and when they’ve finished the program they establish a formal enterprise that becomes a production partner with Wakami. This relationship provides a sustainable source of income for the advancement of their families, investment in their communities, or reinvestment in their businesses.
…is to inspire others to realize their dreams.
Dreams come in the form of inspiration. Dreams lead to creativity and passion and when combined with opportunity, help achieve prosperity. Wakami began with the dreams of just a few Artisans and has grown along with the aspirations of these creative people.
Our dream is to share this with you.
We dream of a world where diversity is celebrated, rights and responsibilities are treasured, and prosperity and security are attainable for all.
Our current goal at Wakami is to help empower at least 5,000 Guatemalan artisans. This seemingly small objective has the potential to improve, exponentially, the lives of generations to come. By participating in our partnership network, 5,000 families will be able to achieve economic stability. Through this process, they will access the means to educate their children and armed with this education, those children will be able to thrive and create a better life for the next generation—and so on.
The Wakami artisans are going after their dreams and we challenge the people that wear our brand to do the same.
Our formula is simple:
Dreams + Opportunity = Change
Our approach has many facets:
The “Wakami Village” concept is a platform for change in rural areas—it gives women the opportunity to transform their lives, their families’ lives and even their communities.
Our non-profit partner, Comunidades de la Tierra, have made Wakami Villages possible through their funding and support. The Wakami Village program prepares a rural community to become self-sustaining and independent. The program is all about economic liberation, and the artisans of Wakami are excited to participate. In the program, the cost of each development is based on a 50/50 split: half is paid for by Comunidades de la Tierra, and the other half by the participating artisans. This creates a partnership in which artisans take ownership of their economic future.
4 areas of impact:
Nutrition and education: The nutritional health of children is checked regularly based on their height to weight ratio. School attendance is monitored.
Water filters, stoves, solar energy kits, rain water harvesting units and other useful devices are provided to families, benefitting both the individual home and the environment.
Participants plant and cultivate organic gardens, producing fresh, healthy food. Solid waste management and recycling programs are implemented to provide an improved quality of life.
Local forums are open to the public for people to propose new initiatives that would benefit their community. Some community developments include recreational parks, arts and crafts centers and improved roads.
The Wakami Village program was created to give people in rural villages the opportunity to access products and services that improve their homes and communities. To learn more visit http://www.comunidadesdelatierra.org/index_en.html
In 2011, Eric and Ryan Dedola partnered with Wakami to start Wakami USA.
In the spring of that year the brothers, 22 and 19 at the time, were already sold on the concept of socially conscious business and were traveling in Guatemala looking for raw materials, when they saw their first Wakami creations. The boys had already fallen in love with Guatemala. They were inspired by its natural beauty and ancient culture, steeped in mysticism. They were impressed too by the indigenous weaving techniques and began to generate ideas about a company that channeled these unique talents.
The brothers traveled back to Guatemala establishing contacts, and on their third visit they met Wakami founders, Maria Pacheco and Queta Rodriguez. This meeting proved to be a turning-point, cementing their connection with Guatemala, its people and the Wakami mission.
Maria and Queta began helping the brothers develop their business and during this time Eric and Ryan became passionate about the brand. When invited to join Wakami and pilot their expansion into the United States, Ryan and Eric gladly accepted, and Wakami USA was born.
Starting Wakami USA has been an exciting journey and we are very proud to be a part of such a progressive organization.
Today, our founder Maria Pacheco, is the guiding inspiration behind the Wakami brand, the lifestyle it promotes and the values by which it operates.
Maria was born in Guatemala City, living there until the age of 12 when she and her family moved to the United States. When the war in Guatemala between the government and the guerrillas started to escalate, Maria first became aware of how poor and devastated her homeland had become.
Maria returned to Guatemala with her parents when she was 16 and within two years began working in a refugee camp. One particular experience in the refugee camp changed her life. She recalls a traumatized mother running to her, screaming for help, holding her lifeless child. This mother’s anguish and desperation ignited in Maria a desire to improve the quality of life in her native country.
After completing her undergraduate studies in Guatemala, Maria attended Cornell University where she earned a Master’s in Biological Agriculture. In 1993, Maria returned to Guatemala once again, determined to address the famine that was a perpetual issue in her homeland. Teaming up with 10 other activists, she started an organic farming program in the rural villages of Sacalá. Maria was convinced that, if properly cared for, the Earth would provide enough resources to generate change in the impoverished community. However, it would be nearly a decade before real improvement was realized.
In 2001, Maria and the activists she’d worked with in Sacalá joined together again to tackle the famine in Jocotán. They knew that planting gardens as they had before would take too long to make an impact. The people of Jocotán told Maria that real change would only come from economic improvement and so Maria and her team developed a commerce-driven program. They organized groups of artisans, skilled in ancient basket weaving techniques and sought markets outside of the villages to create a reliable income. They found a good distribution channel by securing a deal with the premium-quality rum company, Zacapa. The company’s first order of over 2,000 units marked the beginning of a very promising enterprise.
The success in Jocotán demonstrated to Maria that environmental sustainability was important, but that her best chance at breaking the poverty cycle was through commerce. A steady source of income would provide the people with clean water, food, health care, and education for their children. Educated children with access to global markets would be able to earn higher incomes, allowing them to educate the next generation. Maria believed that by expanding their earning potential, the cycle of poverty and famine could be broken and replaced by a new cycle of economic empowerment.
In 2004, Maria founded Kiej de los Bosques S.A., a business dedicated to connecting rural villages with local markets. The program’s success convinced Maria to expand into international markets, and eventually create opportunities for rural communities in other countries around the world. So in 2006, Maria joined with her cousin Queta Rodriguez to create Wakami, and the dream was born.