It all began when Hector Alvarez visited friend Paty Lucero in Bolivia, bought some handmade beanies and wore them back home in Lausanne, Switzerland. When people asked where he got the colorful hats, the friends had an inspiration.
They thought: Why not start a company to help the hat makers and the many children they saw trying to earn money in the streets?
In 2014, beyondBeanie (bB) was born. Its motto: “Rock a bB. Change a life.”
The Swiss-based company works with Bolivian artisans to sell their hand-crafted hats, bags and ponchos globally online and in stores in Switzerland, South Africa and the United Kingdom. Not only does the company provide sustainable work for artisans, it supports impoverished Bolivian children.
Every beanie sold buys five school meals. Every poncho buys a school uniform, and every bag buys a set of school supplies. Their most recent addition, bracelets, help provide dental care. The company ships worldwide and is now working on expanding to the United States, Canada and Australia.
“I’d love for bB to keep growing as a social fashion brand that continues to empower artisans and help children in need,” says Alvarez, who worked for a Swiss tech startup before starting the company. “As we continue to grow, I’d love for bB to help in other areas such as maternal health and construction of clean water projects, and not just in Bolivia, but in other parts of the world too.”
While traveling in La Paz, he and Lucero had been moved by the hardship of artisans, many of whom are indigenous women who move to the city to sell wool crafts to support their children. Often, when the mothers are working, the kids also work, roaming the streets to sell candy, shine shoes and ask tourists for money.
Lucero, who put her architecture career on hold, oversees production in Bolivia, where she designs prototypes and makes sure the artisans hand-sign their items to help connect crafters and consumers. She’s also in touch with a children’s center in Cochabamba, where beyondBeanie supports 38 orphans with funding for meals and school supplies.
To run their global enterprise, she and Alvarez use Microsoft Office to stay organized and Skype to connect across countries, teams and time zones. “Skype is such an amazing Microsoft technology,” he says. “Paty and I use it every day.”
The hard work is worth it, he says, because it empowers others to live better lives.
“My dream for bB is to continue to develop our social brand, keep establishing partnerships with similar-minded organizations and keep promoting social good, all while educating consumers and impacting lives,” Alvarez told social network Horyou.
To learn more about Alvarez, Lucero and beyondBeanie, go to Microsoft’s Instagram page, a celebration of people who break boundaries, achieve their goals and #DoMore every day.
Microsoft News Center Staff