When brothers Chris and Doug Akin started out, they both had similar career paths. The two twin brothers loved conversions, and working together. Though the two have always been hard workers, they never imagined creating a company that would make as big of an impact as The Base Project has.
What is it?
The Base Project is a company founded by the Akin brothers about two and a half years ago. While visiting the S.H.E. Summit last week, our team spotted The Base Project’s rustic-looking booth from across the room, and had to find out more. The Base Project is a company that offers fair trade, handmade/hand carved jewelry, and hand-sewn wax print bags. Sounds pretty neat, right? Well, it’s about to get a whole lot neater.
Not only are the bracelets sold through The Base Project ecofriendly, but also they are handmade and hand carved in Africa from recycled water pipes. Artisans for the company include community members from Southern and Western Africa. The artisans collect recycled water pipes from the local communities where they find it in garbage cans, the side of the road, and even still buried underground.
How did the company get started?
When the Akin brothers decided to go into the bracelet making industry, Chris chose to wear armfuls of bracelets to get his friends and families opinions. But the show and tell took a different turn. When family and friends saw Chris’s bracelets, they all showed a great admiration for the only one that their company didn’t make. This bracelet, in particular, was a gift from a friend who traveled to Africa years ago and bought it as a souvenir for Chris.
Through an immense amount of calls and emails to friends and acquaintances, the Akin brothers came into contact with several people who referred them to the local bracelet makers. It turns out that the bracelets were being made by two Kunene based tribes, Herero and Himba.
Making a Difference
The brothers decided that working with the tribes, and selling these handmade bracelets for a fair trade profit would not only be a great business venture, but a chance to make a difference.
“We thought it would be a creative way to: one, clean up the environment, and two, contribute to fair trade wage,” said Chris.
The Akin brothers both grew up in New York, moved around a bit, and then moved back to New York to start The Base Project. The brothers now commute back and forth from New York to Africa throughout the year. According to Chris, the brothers both have significant, personal relationships with each and every one of the bracelet makers.
The Base Project also started the Twitter hashtag, “#wearyourimpact” in order to promote the company and spread the word about fair-trading, eco-friendly products, and community impact.
“This project provides profit for families and children,” said Chris. “We’ve always thought that being able to wear the message was much more powerful.”
The Base Project sells bracelets online, through social platforms and fair trade web sites, and often show up at events like the S.H.E. Summit, presented by Claudia Chan, that they appeared at this past Thursday and Friday.
According to Chris, The Base Project hopes to become more involved with a variety of recycled materials, and to soon produce necklaces and charms as well.
“Our obvious goal is to turn this company from two countries to 100 countries,” said Chris. “No matter what we do, if we scale up it’s going to be a win, win.”