A end of a chapter
My journey with Woven began when I was 19, living in Guatemala on my own for the first time. I had just spent a summer living in Huehuetenango, the northern region of the country while I interned at a nonprofit for the summer when I met an artisan that sparked the idea for Woven in me. After buying gifts for friends at a local market, her story was so compelling that I couldn’t leave without getting her contact information and a few products. I walked away with $70 worth of textile bags and an idea- creating an avenue for artisans to sell their handmade pieces to people who would value them in the U.S.
Five years later and here we are. We’ve gone from a small box of textile bags that I stored in my dorm and sold to friends in college to having had our scarves in HBO Promo Boxes, having products in boutiques in the US, partnering up with other amazing ethical brands, and being listed on marketplaces with powerful missions. Since launching Woven, we’ve partnered with hundreds of artisans and have made beautiful leather designs, home goods, ceramics, recycled totes, clothing and so much more. To say it has been easy would be a lie. I was only 19 when I started and the journey of learning the ins and outs of the complex artisan industry, export laws, business, taxes, marketing etc has been a massive undertaking. I’ve spent my early twenties spending every extra dime I had on product development, exporting, and inventory. I competed in startup competitions throughout college to fund Woven and invest into product development, skill training, and more. While I have loved and grown through this journey, I ultimately realized that there is a time and place for everything, even a business. Anyone who has started a business knows how much of yourself you pour into it and how difficult it is to part ways even when the time comes.
My goal when starting Woven in 2017 was to support talented artisans in my home country and while that channel has been through Woven products, it is now evolving into something more. In 2020 I hosted a trip to Guatemala for close friends who had been curious about the country and artisan culture. That initial trip included a natural dye and weaving workshop where we sat down for hours to see for ourselves how plants can transform cotton into a colorful thread. We wove alongside artisans and learned about these special techniques and their cultural significance. Seeing the wonder of people when they learned what truly goes into an artisan made product and the joy in artisan’s eyes when travelers made the intention to learn about their culture sparked something in me. That first trip was a trial run for what would become Frontierra Travels - A company dedicated to transforming the way we see the world through travel. I’ve been hosting Guatemala Culture Retreats for the past year testing out this concept and have seen so much validation in this new venture. We are now expanding trips to other countries like Mexico and Thailand too. My aim with these trips is to help travelers immerse themselves in local culture through meaningful experiences that involve locals at the core. It has been such a joy to host these trips and has ultimately led me to choose to dedicate myself to growing this vision.
Through this model, we aren’t limited solely to the weaving/fashion industry. Instead, we are able to visit micro coffee farmers and learn about the significance the coffee industry has in their life. We’re able to visit Permaculture farmers and see a community that co-creates their own systems of nutrition through ancestral farming techniques. We’re able to learn about innovative design studios sourcing Jade (a stone native to Guatemala) to create contemporary jewelry that speaks to each person’s unique identity. We're also venturing into adventure trips like volcano treks where we partner up with local guides to summit Guatemala's highest peaks. Ultimately, we are able to build connections through Frontierra that sometimes technology just can’t accomplish. While I have loved my journey with Woven, it has slowly led me to this next phase of life which is Frontierra Travels. These trips allow more industries, locals, and companies to be supported and help spread the love for Guatemalan and Mayan culture with the world ( and soon other countries too).
Our May 2022 trip during a locally led Jade jewelry workshop in Antigua, Guatemala.
I’m so excited to step into this next season of life and business which is more aligned with my vision of impact and human connection while continuing to support artisans and sustainable development across the globe.
If you'd like to know more about frontierra and our work there click our instagram account below.
What does this mean for Woven?
For the next few months, we’ll be running lots of deals on remaining inventory so we can clear out and give these beautiful Woven pieces a home and avoid any waste. If you’ve ever thought about purchasing a piece for yourself or someone else, now is the time! These pieces are intentionally made, have supported artisans and make great holiday gifts too. No Woven items will be remade after we close down so this is your last and final time to shop our pieces.
All artisans have already been paid for their work so these purchases help us pay back our inventory costs and close out the business sustainably.
If you’ve been here for a few months or since our early years, Thank You. Thank you for your support in whatever form it has been expressed. We’ve come a long way and there’s still so much that will come from what we have learned through Woven. I don’t know exactly what the future entails, if you’re someone interested in running an artisan business please do email me (email@example.com) because there is still potential for growth with the right person at the head. But for now, Woven is taking an indefinite pause as I embark on a new season of building a new way to experience the world through travel.
As always, your support means the world to me and I cannot thank you enough for having been part of this season with me. If you want to stay connected please do follow my new journey over at @frontierratravels and @hannnamking, I would love to see some of your faces on a future trip one day!