Can a Hammock make a Social Impact?

Yellow Leaf Hammocks co-founder Joe Demin attends first SVN conference

November 28, 2012 -- Camille Jensen

Two years ago in rural Thailand, Joe Demin discovered the impact a hammock could have on people and the planet, motivating him to start a social enterprise.

Colorful, hand-woven hammocks made by the Mlabri tribe have been a trademark in Thailand for years offering the Mlabri people economic independence and freedom from slavery. But as Demin discovered, hammocks sales slowed in the off-season leaving the Mlabri people and other rural Thais to resort to the only other economic opportunity in the region: slash and burn agriculture.

Falling in love with the hammocks and the people, 26-year old Demin and several friends started Yellow Leaf Hammocks, which is taking the Mlabri hammocks global through an online sales site and supplying stores in the United States.

The business is built on four pillars of sustainability, with principles that allow workers to choose when they work, and how much work they take on, as well as a commitment to environmental stewardship.

“Every time we hire a weaver, we remove a family from clearing forest land,” Demin tells Sustainable Solutions.

“For the first time ever, those individuals are able to preserve their cultures, customs, and have financial resources.”

8215356560 867ab1c68f K 2Demin was recently nominated to attend Social Venture Network’s fall conference by SVN member Back to the Roots. Demin says as a new entrepreneur, the event was an incredible opportunity to meet key players in the social innovation space.

Demin adds it was reaffirming to meet people he admired, who gave positive feedback on Yellow Leaf Hammocks while offering to continue the conversations post conference.

“When you’re launching a company, it’s difficult, and it’s important to get that positive reinforcement,” he says, adding SVN is a unique business network.

“It feels like everyone is equally invested in each other, and making sure they’re doing what they can to help others succeed in creating positive change. I’ve definitely built some relationships.”

Demin was one of 20 next-generation entrepreneurs, entrepreneurs of color, and women entrepreneurs sponsored to attend the SVN Hall of Fame and fall conference Nov. 14-17, as part of SVN’s Bridge Project.

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