Hello and good day!
The cute young man in the photo above is my five-year-old son Daniel.
He is wearing one of the Peruvian chullos that we sell both in our shops and online.
Chullos (pronounced choo-yose) are traditional Andean hats that folks in the mountains in Peru have been making and wearing for thousands of years.
On our last trip to Peru, my wife brought back a bunch of artisanal items including chullos, paintings, several types of embroidered bags, and llama key chains.
I haven't thought too much about the chullos as of late because they aren't one of our top sellers.
Previously we had adult sizes and kids' sizes, but all we have left now are the children's chullos.
I thought about chullos for the first time in a while because we received the following wonderful review yesterday:
Super soft and comfy!
I bought this hat for my nine-year-old nephew, who has lost all of his hair after starting chemo to treat cancer. My number one concern? Would it be soft enough? YES! This hat is beautifully soft, well made, and perfectly warm.
My favorite part? Declan loves it!
This review is representative of a very rewarding part of our work since we made the shift three years ago from being strictly a wholesale business to being a direct to customer business.
We get to hear from our customers and sometimes we learn that our products are helping people cope with difficult times in their lives.
I know of many cases in which our chocolate has helped families mourn the loss of loved ones.
There have been several dozen cancer patients and their families who have eaten our chocolate throughout treatment. Thankfully, many of those cancer patients have survived, although not all of them have.
I can tell you in all honesty that a review like the one above about Declan means more to us than just about anything else.
Money and possessions don't really compare.
We've always looked at money and profits as an important responsibility so that our business will remain sustainable.
500 cacao farm families in northern Peru and many employees both in Peru and the United States depend on us for their livelihoods.
We owe it to them to be good stewards of resources.
Beyond supporting our team and partners and providing modest stipends for the owners of the company to live on, money has never been our primary motivator.
Our primary goal has always been to take care of as many people as we can.
We do that through creating jobs and paying very high prices to our cacao farm partners.
And we also do it through our products.
We take care of a customer's desire to taste something truly delicious.
It is a rare thing to find a product that somebody has really poured their heart and soul into.
When you come across one, it is uniquely satisfying.
It kind of sets things right in the world, at least for a moment, to know that somebody out there cares enough to give it their all and will try their best to produce something exceptional.
Going back to artisanal products, I wanted to share with you how one goes about buying artisanal products in Peru.
To start, it helps if you are married to a Peruvian.
It would also be helpful if your Peruvian spouse is from the city of Celendin, Peru which is known all over the country for being home to Peru's shrewdest merchants. My wife is from Celendin, so I lucked out on that front.
We spent two entire days walking all over the cities of Cajamarca and Lima, going into a million little shops and speaking with proprietors.
Our goal wasn't to buy retail, rather we wanted to work our way back to either the manufacturers or to a distributor who bought artisanal items from a local co-op of producers.
Your first rule in these investigations is to leave the tall gringo, me, outside.
If anybody sees that a gringo is involved in the negotiations, the price will automatically go up.
In Cajamarca, the proceedings were more pleasurable, because we happened to be there with a lot of family.
My lovely wife went off to scour the city and I had some company to go around with and see the sites. She found the chullos in Cajamarca.
In Lima, things were not as fun.
We looked and looked in the neighborhood around our hotel, but we were staying in a nicer part of the city, and everything was too expensive.
There weren't any good deals.
Eventually, we ended up near Lima's Plaza de Armas, which is where the country's capital building is located. The capital building is a big old Spanish style colonial building behind a tall metal gate with soldiers standing guard out front.
It is touristy over there but not very high end. If you wander out of the Plaza de Armas.
My wife and my father in law's new wife went in with the kids. My father-in-law and I had to stay outside so as to not ruin the negotiations.
It was a hot and cloudy day and we were surrounded by tall, white, multi-storied, colonial style buildings, with gothic trim and gargoyles and balconies sticking out from the upper floors.
We sat on one of the metal benches and across from us there was an older woman in a black skirt, black shoes, and a black shawl throwing bread pieces to a sizeable gathering of pigeons.
A young lady came by with a pushcart selling popsicles. We bought two.
After we ate the popsicles, my father-in-law said he wanted to take a nap. He leaned down on the bench, stuck his legs out and crossed one foot over the other. He pulled his cap down over his eyes and quickly drifted off.
I sat alone in the muggy heat, waiting. I wanted to sleep too, but one of us had to stay awake and keep watch over the other.
So, I watched the pigeons. Eventually Joaquin woke up and then I took a nap on the bench.
When I woke up, the women and kids were still inside.
After another very long stretch, during which Joaquin and I looked at the pigeons and shared our observations about the birds, the group finally came out and announced happily that the deal was done.
They found a woman who worked directly with a co-op and who would arrange everything for a fee.
Coming into the United States, we declared the items at customs and brought them home with us.
And now they are online and in our stores.
My wife is a good businesswoman, no question about that.
If you'd like to take a look at some of our artisanal items, simply click the link below.
Thank you so much for your time today.
I hope that you have a truly blessed day!
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