December Company Profile: Andes Gifts

If you’re looking for fun but practical gifts this holiday season be sure to check out Andes Fair Trade Gifts.

Their handmade hats, gloves, and scarves are made from colorful, sustainable alpaca wool. Check out their “glittens,” fingerless gloves with a little mitten flap that you can fold back. The other day at the Co-op, I saw one of their knit caps which was made to look like a monster with one of its eyes dislocated—that might sound horrible but it was actually adorable. These are truly one-of-a-kind items that allow the personality of the knitter to show through.

According to the company’s website, andesgifts.com, founders Nick and John Terlecky first went to Bolivia in 1998 to play professional soccer. They were immediately impressed by the amazing knitwear that woman were selling in the street markets. They were so amazed by the quality and beauty of the garments that they felt these items deserved a larger audience. They also realized that a developed country such as the United States could vastly improve the lives of those in the developing world just by purchasing their unique wares.

So in 1999, they founded Andes Gifts and made it a priority to see that these incredible craftspeople would be paid a fair wage and be able to choose where and how much to work. This was important because they had learned that mothers often had to leave their children and cultures behind to go work in factories in urban centers. Andes Gifts provides a way for these mothers to stay with their children in their villages and earn a good living by knitting.

Now, 16 years after Andes Gifts was founded, there are over 40 knitting cooperatives and 80 family–based knitting groups throughout indigenous communities in Bolivia and Peru. With the success of the company established, Andes Gifts began providing no interest/no collateral micro-loans to individuals and groups of artists. Over the past seven years they’ve provided 150 loans to help establish or grow businesses, thereby increasing the recipients’ standard of living greatly. They have a nearly 100 percent payback rate on these loans.

So pick up some Andes Gifts for you and your loved ones this holiday season and keep your hands, heads, and hearts warm.

Andes Gifts Company Snapshot

Founded in 1999
Headquartered in Davis, California
Products produced in the highlands of Peru and Bolivia
Fair Trade certified
Privately held
www.andesgifts.com

Amy Newsome has added an Andes Gifts scarf to her Christmas wish list. She hopes her husband sees this article.