The ultimate aim in business, according to the number one hit on Google, is to become rich.
For the co-founder of Krama & Co, Rebecca Parnham, becoming rich from her business will never happen, and that’s exactly how she wants it.
On a trip to Cambodia in 2010, Rebecca wept as she stood by what is known as the ‘killing tree’. In the 1970s it was at this tree that thousands of innocent people mercilessly lost their lives at the hands of the Khmer Rouge.
“I was overwhelmed that despite such a devastating history and while still facing profound poverty, the Cambodian people still showed incredible resilience and compassion,” Rebecca says.
As a social worker Rebecca is fine-tuned to notice the good in a not so good situation. So through all the poverty and corruption she soon found a strength and that was the Krama.
Krama (meaning scarf in Khmer) is a traditional Cambodian garment and a national symbol.
After the civil war, when the Khmer Rouge stripped the people in Cambodia of all their belongings, it was the Krama that kept them alive. “They would literally boil water in the ground and boil their rice in the Krama,” Rebecca says.
Nowadays the Krama still has a million different uses. Rebecca describes it as the “Swiss-army knife of parenting”.
It’s a blanket, it’s a changing mat, it dries away tears, it gives the best hugs and it was when Rebecca saw it being used on the handle bars of a bike in Cambodia to carry a child, that she had her lightbulb moment.
“For me, in that moment, within the Krama I saw a strength and a skill, and an opportunity to help those people while celebrating such an amazing thing.
“The women in the rural villages know how to weave these garments, but it’s a dying art because everything is so much cheaperin China.”
After having children of her own the thought of not being able to put food in their bellies was gut-wrenching and solidified her passion for helping those in Cambodia who are in need.
In 2016, alongside co-founder Somanita Pennell (Nita), who is based in Phnom Penh, they began the social enterprise, Krama & Co.
Currently working up to 60 hours a week without making a cent for herself, she has got Krama & Co off the ground with a loan from her mother. “I guess you could say we are running off the smell of an oily Krama.”
Krama & Co intern Ruby Arrowfield says, “Rebecca gets so excited about, not only her vision and her purpose behind the Krama, but she absolutely loves the product.”
“I couldn’t sell a product and make money off it knowing the talented women who make them are making a pittance,” Rebecca says. “When we first went in and said to the women ‘we would like to buy your Krama’ they told us the price and we said ‘no way that’s not enough,’ so we pay them more than they would normally get.”
Nita personally visits the women in their homes to buy the Krama so these women don’t have to leave their children alone while they work and they can stay to support their families. “As a mother that’s a huge thing for me,” Rebecca says.
Krama are 100 percent cotton and take eight hours to weave. For every Krama bought, Krama & Co puts one US dollar back into a village fund.
“We are in the process of getting a doctor into the village once a month and another thing the woman want to have is water in their homes. So not only are they getting paid more for their product, but they can also feel proud in the fact that they are helping their community as well.”
Krama is now available nationwide after the website www.krama.nz was launched on April 22.
Rebecca gets no bigger buzz than Krama’s uses as a parent. Every mother in her eyes needs at least three Krama. “Wearing one, one in your nappy bag and one on the washing line.”
Purchasing a Krama is not only a wage for the women in Cambodia, it’s enhancing their way of life. It’s enabling them to be there for their children so their children don’t have to raise themselves, it’s allowing a village access to the bare necessities that we take for granted.
Having a business to become rich, though may be the dream for most, is not a wish on Rebecca’s list.
Helping the families in Cambodia to live a richer life is her only dream.
By Natalia Rietveld