Tell us about your entrepreneurial product or service.
APOCCAS (Ancient Power On Cashmere, Cotton And Silk) is a luxury fashion accessory brand. Our organic, silk scarves are hand woven by artisans in rural Thailand. The inspiration behind the building the brand is to play a part in improving the livelihood of Thai artisan women by giving them a voice internationally, by showcasing their creations to a global audience. We believe in empowering rural communities. We want economic independence for all and work directly with organic silk farmers and cotton growers, expert spinners, traditional dyers and artisan weavers in rural Thailand. In short, we are missionaries of trade, not aid – our aim is to help others help themselves.
What inspired you to launch your business idea?
In 2010, I took a sabbatical from a demanding job in finance. I lived in Bali for nearly a year to gain a fresh perspective on life, to connect with myself. Random visits to a nearby indigo-dye village community reignited my passion for colour and textiles. Soon afterwards, I sought and found the most extraordinary traditional master weavers in Thailand. I became infatuated with learning every little detail from silk and cotton farming to yarn dyeing and weaving the intricate artisanal styles associated with the ancient ways. I knew then that it was time for a career change. The matron weavers with their love for nature and community had set in motion an unstoppable desire in me to start a socially and environmentally responsible business that would lend a voice to near-forgotton art of textile hand looming in Ancient Siam.
What problem does your business or organization solve?
Emerging economies, like Thailand, undergo the typical pitfalls modernisation brings with it. Professions like silk farming or botanical yarn dyeing or hand looming are often abandoned by the younger generations as soon as the bright industrial city lights call. When the promise wears off and the only jobs available are prostitution and minimum wage factory work, it is often a harsh awakening. APOCCAS has made it its mission to proliferate the old ways: our sustainable business model creates job opportunities in these rural communities by paying fair wages directly, making the “middle-man” a thing of the past.
Our weavers, spinners, dyers and cotton or silk farmers are ensured a fair living wage so that their artisanal skills unique to Thailand remain intact; reinforcing a niche market in the country’s rich cultural milieu.
What has been your biggest challenge as an entrepreneur and how are you working to overcome it?
The ‘joys’ of becoming an entrepreneur often seem insurmountable. Nothing prepares you for the journey or the myriad of its taxing parts. The most important advice to build a business – triple bottom line or otherwise – came from Ernesto Sirolli. http://www.ted.com/talks/ernesto_sirolli_want_to_help_someone_shut_up_and_listen.html: building a solid foundation by recognising you can’t do everything yourself. Finding the right team to manage growth and learning how to delegate are lessons that are nearly impossible to learn from a book. The word ‘challenge’ often doesn’t even scratch the surface of what’s coming but when the reward finally kicks in and small rays of success appear on the horizon – then you know the rough roads travelled have all been worth it.
Give us one word that people might use to describe you.
How about I give you three: JResourceful. Relentless. Resolute.
How has Project Eve helped you and/or your business?
I think that as women we can find it difficult to enter a supportive network of entrepreneurs. Project Eve allows me to engage with other women who are equally ambitious about their business ideas and to gain inspiration from their stories and how they approach their goals and aspirations.
Give us an insider tip that relates to your industry or startup story.
Fashion is a massive industry. It is fickle and the press is dominated by the larger brands. Finding a good fashion PR, who can fight your corner, is key – as is turning your benchmarks into friends, not enemies. Fending for the right to gain ground within the fashion industry is tough enough as it is but finding your balance within while promoting sustainability and heirloom luxury adds quite another twist of note – but hey, someone’s gotta do it! We’ve only got one planetary habitat called Earth.
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