Green Jute LLC is a Saint Louis based company. Green Jute started in 2010 to promote handmade and eco-friendly items around the world. Here is our story
I visited India in 2011 on vacation. Though it was not the first time visiting after I moved to United States in 1991, this trip gave me a unique experience. The city where I grew up showed significant improvement in terms of infrastructure and living standards. We found the city buzzing with energy of the new development. High rises and foreign cars were everywhere. Sadly all this came at a great price to the artisans of our region.
We found great craftsmen and artisans doing construction labor in the city as they were not able to make ends meet in their small towns. I was surprised to see that as I was always under the impression that they made good money. I was curious and started digging a bit deeper into the reasons why they left their craft and their villages.
The first and obvious reason is their lack of education. They work very hard but do not know how to market their products.
Second reason is that their products are often not at a quality level that is acceptable by western nations. Not because they lack skills and workmanship, but due to lack of quality standards. It was frustrating to see that their product is only few minutes away from a world class standard.
The third reason is innovation. They were making the same items passed on from their fathers and grandfathers.
Soon we met and talked to few craftsmen from the workshop around our neighborhood. None of them were looking for charity. They wanted training to produce world class products and a chance to market their handicrafts worldwide and make a decent living. After doing market research, we realized the market for handmade and sustainable products in fashion accessories industry.
After coming back from our trip, we went to work immediately. We started GreenJute. Initially we started marketing the samples to local shops in Saint Louis. We secured a kiosk in our local mall for the holiday season and started selling these products. It was not easy for us in the beginning as both of us were new to the industry. My Husband was working as a technology consultant and I was a HR professional. During the first year, we learnt about different fabrics, weaves, and sewing. We were able to create a market for our products
We moved to India in 2012 as we were not able to manage our Indian operations from Saint Louis. It was a very tough decision as our oldest daughter was in 11th grade. Nothing in our life prepared us for this adventure. We were enjoying a comfortable middle class life in chesterfield, MO. with two daughters in middle and high school. Our parents and siblings lived nearby and our daughters sang in a local church every Sunday.
Our first task was to identify the fabrics we wanted to work with. We were already working with Jute, an eco friendly fabric, but we wanted a colorful companion fabric to our core jute fabric. We identified and partnered with a village that makes kalamkari cotton fabric. Kalamkari is an ancient art of block printing passed from one generation to another. They use natural dyes extracted from vegetables and spices. The fabrics are washed in the local river after the dying process. We use kalamkari fabrics in all our products including handbags.
We started developing standard processes and implementing world class quality standards. There were several challenges, but every challenge was an opportunity to learn and grow. The main challenge was to change the mindset of the crafters and to introduce them to global quality and manufacturing standards and best practices. We introduced new colors and designs that challenged their old ways.
In 2016, we expanded our product line to other handmade items such as carved wood animal figurines. We will continue to travel and identify other handmade and unique items around the world. We will continue to not only create better economic opportunities to the artisans, but also to produce world class, unique, socially responsible, and quality products that our customers love and cherish!.