One Loom started with one Guatemalan artisan and turned into a Northwest Arkansas company that weaves together textile, opportunity and relationships.
One Loom provides versatile accessories and apparel at a moderate price point, with styles that can be worn a multitude of ways, Angela Story, founder and designer, said.
The startup began with a woman named Lesvia, a “master loomer” from Guatemala who weaves beautiful fabric on a back strap loom.
Product developer and media manager at One Loom, Melissa Gresham, heard about single mothers struggling to fill their basic needs within El Rosario, Guatemala.
It was then at a local coffee shop in NW Ark., where Gresham and Story decided on empowering these women with a company that could provide them with a sustainable work opportunity.
“I had big plans at that point, so that decision reformatted [those plans],” Story, who earned a degree in apparel studies, said.
In May 2014, Story traveled to Guatemala where Lesvia was already weaving and selling her fabrics for only a dollar at a market. Gresham and Story began buying her fabrics, sewing with them and started selling the product. The company’s website launched that November.
The global coffee shop at Mama Carmen’s, located in Fayetteville, was the very first place to which they sold. Now the company has extended to work at local events as well, raising awareness for their products.
Unlike much of the market place, One Loom works directly with their artisans. The startup makes quarterly visits with the loomers, and remains in open communication to ensure that each loomer receives discipleship and proper training.
Since Lesvia, One Loom has branched out by buying fabrics from Silvia, another nearby weaver.
“These women are stunning, they’re lovely and they all have stories of their own,” Story said.
Story emphasized what a privilege it is to have a job to go to, whereas before, the women they are working with were being mistreated because they were unable to pay for their rent, or could not “fill their basic needs” and provide for their children. They lacked hope, Story said.
Story can relate to the feeling of a mother wanting to provide for her children. She and her husband have three young boys of their own.
“I think it still awes me, it still blows me away. The strength of these women that they can conjure, wanting to do anything for their kids,” Story said.
Enactus JBU became involved with One Loom this semester, witha team of students wanting to focus on media and marketing for the already established company.
Although Enactus is typically known for its participation from business majors, the One Loom project has attracted nursing, outdoor leadership, graphic design and business majors.
Story said that she aims for their products to reach a demographic between the ages of 18 and 50. As the designer, she sees their products transcending these boundaries of fashion.
Men are a specific focus within the company now, with camera and guitar straps, and leather keychains in the product line.
Project leaders of the One Loom Enactus project, Kate Garrison, sophomore nursing major, and Jake Onnen, junior outdoor leadership major, are new to Enactus this year. Both students were “thrown in,” as Onnen said, and not entirely sure of their role or engagement with the company.
However, much like the company whose “mission is to create opportunity, sustainability and purpose for artisans by providing customers with unique hand-crafted products,” as the One Loom website states, Enactus wants to help from the consumer side.
“The combination of business and nonbusiness majors results in fresh ideas and no constraints to keep this project going… In the next few weeks we’ll be doing an Instagram takeover,” Garrison said, during which they hope to increase the number of followers.
Onnen also mentioned that they are hoping to create a video to give context to the company, their mission and their products. They are looking for help from students with the desire and talent for film and video editing.
Story described her desire for the artisan’s joy to transcend through their stories. “We’re hoping that each time a woman comes in to work with us, that we get to see change and joy…so that they feel they can hope and can dream,” Story said.
Surpassing their start with struggle, these women are excelling and they are able to dream and accomplish their goals by working 20 to 25 hour weeks at, what Story said, weaver Lesvia described as her dream job.
This Saturday, Nov. 14, One Loom will have their products, made with the fabric of women like Lesvia and Silvia, available for purchase at the Guatemala Art Expo held at Siloam Springs First Baptist Church from 11 to 2.