We know the holiday season can be a stressful time and this year hasn’t exactly been easy. If you’re looking for gifts for loved ones that bring joy – or you want to treat yourself – our directory helps you find local businesses that share your values. Today we’re featuring Pokoloko, a fair trade & ethically minded business offering little luxuries, from Turkish towels to kimonos. They support global artisans through capacity development and are committed to sustainable business practices. We’re proud to have included their hand embroidered llama ornaments, made by Peruvian women victims of domestic abuse in our Holiday Gift Box. Read their story and learn about their impact below!
What is the story of how Pokoloko started?
Pokoloko comes from the Spanish phrase poco loco meaning “a little bit crazy.” This is what our Ecuadorian artisan partners used to call co-founders Case and Jessie at the very beginning of their relationship, when Pokoloko was just Case and Jessie working out of the back of Case’s old Volkswagen Jetta in 2014. Indeed it did sometimes seem like a little bit of a crazy thing to do, but a drive for travel and a way to give back made it all worthwhile. As our organization evolved, the central meaning of this phrase has stuck with us and reminds us every day to think outside the box, trust your gut, do what you love, and never stop adventuring.
Case Bakker: Case is a born and bred entrepreneur who grew up learning from his family’s seasonal shop in Manotick Station, Ontario. Always one to make his own rules, Case started Pokoloko in its earliest form, sourcing and selling products to his family’s business. Case is the brain behind Pokoloko’s scale, and always keeps us focused on what’s important and what’s next. When he’s not working, he is downhill skiing, long distance biking, playing guitar, and making great coffee.
Jessie Lyon: Jess is a passionate entrepreneur who builds businesses that give back. She has worked in 9 countries, in both the non-profit and private sectors, in the retail, arts, and international development industries. Jess is Poko’s general manager, she ensures the execution of our organization stays streamlined and evolving. Other than conscious business, her great loves are yoga, traveling to remote places, and playing violin with local bands.
Tell us about Pokoloko’s commitment to following fair trade and ethical sourcing practices. What impact does working directly with skilled artisans have on them and their communities?
Being a fair trade & ethically minded business is at the heart of the company. It’s vital that we know our artisans, their working environments and you may notice the term “capacity development” on your Pokoloko product tags. This refers to the direct impact your purchase power has in supporting the entrepreneurial artisans we work with to grow and evolve alongside us, together as a team. We love the quote, “You can’t empower women in one country while exploiting women in another.” It’d be nice if fair trade principles could just be a standard for all of humanity some day – you as a consumer can help tip these scales by mindfully supporting ethical businesses and products.
Learn more about our Fair Trade commitment and practices here and read our artisan direct impact stories below:
Ecuadorian seamless scarves, throws & blankets – our first artisan partners!
Peruvian Dryer Ball & Needle Felted Alpaca Artisans
Indonesian Kimono and Cozy Knit Artisan Blog
We’re so excited to have included your hand embroidered llama ornaments in our Holiday Gift Box. Who are the artisans that make them and how do they benefit from each purchase?
We love that llama so MUCH! And all of the ornament friends.
These ornaments are made by female victims of domestic and sexual violence organized together as a group of artisans by three Peruvian female entrepreneurs. These artisans come from communities of extreme poverty. The purchase of these ornaments generates local employment for these vulnerable humans living in marginal urban areas of Peru.
The female makers of these ornaments collaborate with Poko on designing each ornament, and then once a prototype is finalized, the women start the production of hand-making each and every piece. These makers carefully cut a synthetic felt base into shape, and then hand-embroider each ornament’s design with an alpaca blended yarn. Their artisanal work gives each of these women sustainable income sources for them and their families.
We also believe in a world where makers, consumers and our environment are all connected. Can you tell us about your environmental commitment through your new carbon neutral (and any other) program?
Yes! We hope every business is able to make these imperfect steps forward with us! Recognizing the impact the home decor & fashion industry has on the planet – we feel we’re trying our best to continually help off-set our impact! There are definitely areas of our business that are more of a logistical challenge to find a solution to, but we are able to identify and prioritize which areas we’ll keep refining – be it through your purchase power, our design, our materials, our packaging, and now compostable gift wrapping.
Every time you buy from Pokoloko, we plant 2 trees in the Pokoloko forest to offset CO2 emissions accumulated in the process of sourcing material, creating our goods and shipping them to you.
We are now a carbon neutral workplace. This means we offset the carbon footprint of every employee’s lives, as well as offsetting any business travel. This means we offset their entire carbon footprint, including emissions from their home, personal travel, holidays, food, hobbies and more. We are on our way to being 100% climate positive. Read our blog and learn about other initiatives we support, where you can meet our Forest!
Now, more than ever, we recognize the importance of supporting the small local businesses that shape our community. How can our readers be part of the shop local movement this holiday season and beyond?
Start early – sometimes it takes a bit more of a logistical effort with shipping or local pick ups – but it’s so worth it and it becomes that much more of a meaningful gift!
Make it a ‘you’ day affair! A lot of small businesses are within walking distance of each other – suit up, ditch the car, breathe some fresh air, smile through your mask, get some community care and see what’s possible!
Subscribe to their newsletters -> they often give exclusive promotions or savings to this list – so you can be spend-thrift and supportive and 100% in the know.
Buy less – consider gift exchanges to minimize the gift craze, the $$$ pressure and so you can focus on something that will last because you’re focusing on quality not quantity!
Like their posts – follow hashtags – shop early to avoid disappointment of that thing you added to your wishlist selling out!
Gift certificates are great options too! But also – so is a like of their post, or spreading the good word.
Do you have any exciting new products or collaborations coming up you can share with our readers ?
We just launched our first ever Canadian-made product which is a beautiful story of circular fashion.
Here’s how it happened -> our kimonos in the summer we couldn’t keep on the shelves (they’re beautiful!). We got an order from our maker of kimonos which were not made to the proper size guide (an example of small biz risks in action here: we invest in the maker, they invest in their business and hire new folk, and sometimes there are wins and losses in this process). So we had boxes of these stunning kimonos which we simply couldn’t sell.
What were we going to do with these gorgeous fabrics which we couldn’t sell? Well… we are in a pandemic, afterall.
So. Jocelyn – our warehouse wizardess took on the task of working with a Canadian maker to repurpose this fabric into masks.
We’re very excited about this collaboration! We are so thrilled to have found a way to not waste the time, money and stunning fabric – circular fashion in action! Reuse and repurpose!
This month, we helped to raise funds for a school in Pinan, Ecuador with 5% of any profits during the December 5th – 8th time period to be donated to our friends in Pinan – close to Pucara where our Ecuadorian line is made!
Instagram and newsletter are the best ways to stay in the loop.