Orange County - CEO of Krochet Kids Intl.
When it comes to being confronted with a challenge, instinctually, some of us see a mountain and some of us see a hill. After interviewing Kohl, it’s unclear whether or not he’s ever seen anything remotely close to mountain. If he has, he vaulted over it without ever looking back. It makes sense. Leading an international nonprofit committed to empowering women with the skills and resources necessary rise above poverty demands a healthy amount of agility, tenacity and audacity. But staying the course isn’t easy. Kohl’s belief in possible and dedication to working hard and doing all that he can for others has helped him continue to rise to the occasion. While we're all on our unique road to Somewhere, Kohl's interview shows us that every climb up a mountain starts out the same, at the bottom. The climb may not ever get easier, but that may be the point. Every climb represents an opportunity to grow in our character, strength and wisdom. So, climb on!
- Let's get there.
TSP: Can you please share a little bit about your past? Where you’ve been? What you’ve done?
KC: I grew up in the Northwest, and as a result my lifestyle and interests were tied to my surroundings. My family participated in any and every action sport we learned about. My dad had us on skis shortly after we could walk – He was building jumps in the powder to teach us flips just after elementary school. I was always, always pushing myself to keep up with my two older brothers. This drive to rise to the occasion, bruises and all, helped me see and learn how to excel beyond my limits.
Looking back, I’ve always enjoyed the unique challenges and discomforts associated with learning how to do something new. The rush or possibility can be both rattling as well as absolutely righteous. Maybe that’s why I’m so attracted to entrepreneurialism. The first time I really flexed an entrepreneurial muscle was in high school when my best friends and I started a custom beanie making business called Krochet Kids. We didn’t know it at the time, but the craft would be a key building block for starting a global movement that would combine our passions for travel, business, adventure, and loving others well.
TSP: You were crocheting beanies in high school?
KC: Yep. You found us out. It started due with equal parts “love of creating” and “needing a beanie for skiing”, but we continued because we were able to drum up some business selling our custom creations. Even at that stage we took a lot of pride in creating (what we thought to be) a really cool brand.
TSP: What are you up to now?
KC: I am leading a non-profit organization called Krochet Kids intl. We work in Uganda and Peru empowering women through a program that incorporates jobs, education, and mentorship to equip them holistically with the tools they need to break the cycle of poverty. The apparel, headwear, and accessories we make are sold here in the U.S. And in order to bridge the geographical gap and more deeply connect our customers with the women making their product, we introduce our customers to the woman who made their item through a hand-signed tag and comprehensive online profile.
TSP: So you guys clearly didn’t stop crocheting at high school?
KC: Ha! No, definitely not. We may not be crocheting as much as we were in high school, but we’re all still working to advance our cause. Even further now, through Krochet Kids intl., we are trying to re-imagine the non-profit sector, apparel production, and society’s view on charity in one fell swoop. Woo!
TSP: ‘Woo!’ Is right. What’s a practical example of how Krochet Kids intl. is re-imagining charity?
KC: One of the biggest things we are trying to do is shift the cultural perspective on what it means to help others living in poverty. True, there will always be a need for aid programs and emergency response; however, our thinking has to evolve beyond this sole focus. Too often our society tries to help by donating items (clothing, food, money, etc.) but the long-term effects of that can actually be very damaging. We want to see more people thinking about long-term solutions to poverty alleviation. We hope our work gives an example of what this can look like.
TSP: Where do you hope to go next?
KC: I’d really like for Krochet Kids intl. to become more active in leading the conversation on “business as social good”. We have a different approach to how we create impact and we believe it’s one that people need to be talking about. We focus on holistically caring for individuals, as opposed to creating broad-stroke strategies or campaigns that meet temporary needs.
This will involve me writing and speaking more on business and philanthropy, which is very exciting and rather scary at the same time. There’s a fine line to walk when standing firmly by your work, and calling out inauthentic approaches of others in a loving way.
TSP: Is there anyone you look to for example or inspiration as it relates to leading the conversation on business as social good?
KC: Street artists (the graffiti kind), Musicians and Entrepreneurs. Honestly, the people who inspire me the most are the ones who are stepping out and taking risk. Those who are in such a pure pursuit of their Passion that people are drawn to them, because it’s not about the art they are creating but why they are pursuing it and what they are saying through it. I want people to resonate with my work on a heart level. I want it to challenge the way they think about things.
TSP: How do you plan to step towards those goals?
KC: Write. Constantly meet new people. Communicate why I believe Krochet Kids intl. is an authority on poverty alleviation. Listen. Love others well. Don’t forget to surf.
TSP: Never forget to surf!
KC: Exactly. We all need a little respite from time to time.
TSP: How can we, the TSP community, help you get to where you want to go?
KC: First, keep pursuing your passions. I am motivated, endlessly, when I see people chasing after their dreams and hustling to make them a reality. Keep it up. From there, I’d love it if you would check out all our new products we are making and let me know which ones you like. And lastly, I would challenge any interested person to think about how we can help our customers make an even stronger connection between their product and the person who made it.