Kohl Crecelius : Known Supply
Kohl Crecelius is the CEO and co-founder of Krochet Kids intl. and KNOWN SUPPLY- two lifestyle brands that are humanizing the face of the fashion industry. What began as a grassroots effort among friends to provide sustainable employment to women in Northern Uganda over a decade ago- through the act of crocheting- has now turned into two separate social enterprises that provide dignified employment and lasting empowerment to communities in Peru, Uganda and India.
How did you come up with idea to start Krochet Kids intl.?
There were many factors that played into the founding of our work, but ultimately it came down to one simple learning: people living in the developing world were incredibly capable, but too often international aid only focused on meeting short-term needs -- commonly known as "handouts". My co-founders and I had witnessed this first hand from our own experiences volunteering abroad and we didn't want to contribute to this often negative cycle. We heard people say over and over again that they wanted to work, so that's what we decided to do. We trained women in Northern Uganda how to crochet and officially started our company Krochet Kids intl. in 2007.
Here's a little backstory on where the name came from.
I feel like Krochet Kids intl. coined the term, "people over profit"- why is people over profit so important to you?
I'm not sure we coined the term, but we definitely embodied the concept in the very early stages of the modern wave of social entrepreneurship. Or as I like to call it "Third Wave Social Entrepreneurship”. The world is full of really big problems that seem insurmountable to us as individuals, but it was always important to us to find simple, yet tangible ways for people to engage in social issues in positive and mutually beneficial ways. Selling products helped us to employ people in dire circumstances, equip shoppers with meaningful ways to make impacts with their personal fashion, and do it all in a more sustainable way than being fully reliant upon donations.
Who are some of the people behind-the-scenes who were instrumental in the success and impact of Krochet Kids intl.?
Your readers don't have time to read through the list of every behind-the-scenes person who made Krochet Kids intl. what it is today. The reality is that our success is much more reliant upon the masses than it is on the few. Hundreds of interns, incredible staff and mentors internationally, and passionate customers who believed in our mission are all responsible for what we've been able to accomplish.
What have been some of the challenges you've faced in building a social enterprise?
As with any endeavor, the challenges have been many and frequent, however, the unique thing we are faced with as a part of the social enterprise landscape is helping consumers define what this movement is all about. Nearly 12 years ago when we started, there wasn't even a vocabulary for this type of work that we now know as social enterprise. Even still, as it seems more prevalent, many consumers are just coming around to understand the importance of it and learning ways to engage with it positively. That is why a core component of our work (meaning all of us operating in this space) is educating shoppers on the power of their purchases.
For those who aren't familiar with KNOWN SUPPLY, can you explain why you've started this new entity, how it differs from KKi and how you came up with the concept?
As we were approaching the 10 year anniversary of our work with Krochet Kids intl. in 2017, we started to reflect on the personal journey for the brand, as well as the ways the social enterprise space had developed over that time. We had two main insights: 1) the idea that consumers could connect directly with the person who made their product wasn't spreading fast enough, and 2) it was becoming increasingly imperative for every brand to have an authentic social impact message through their products. We wanted to be a part of creating larger scale solutions to these challenges.
KNOWN SUPPLY was our response. We took what was most special about Krochet Kids intl. -- the concept of know exactly WHO made your product -- and we embedded that into a partner-driven apparel brand. KNOWN SUPPLY sells it's own products, but we also partner with other brands, events, and organizations to equip them with apparel that aligns with their values. We produce t-shirt blanks for men and women, and we collaborate on larger scale custom products. And everything we make is a direct connection back to the person who made it -- http://makers.knownsupply.com
How would you love see the fashion industry evolve?
I would love to see the fashion industry become more human-centric. If we begin with recognizing and valuing the people who are involved in producing the clothes we wear, I believe it will have ripple affects to positively impact the environmental and societal impacts of our apparel as well. I see it as the core issue that needs to change.
You're an ethical fashion activist, social entrepreneur, recent TEDx speaker, as well as a husband and father. Is there anything you CAN'T do?!
I do a lot of things. My wife will tell you that I am a serial hobbyist. However, it doesn't mean I do all those things well. Haha. But I guess I'll answer your question with a question...
Is there really anything we CAN'T do, or are there things we've yet to attempt? I can't speak Japanese now, but I also haven't tried to learn it.