A few nights ago before bed I had ESPN on in the background. I wasn’t paying much attention until I heard a familiar voice telling a familiar story. I looked up to see Kohl Crecelius (younger brother of my very close friend Landon) talking about his organization, Krochet Kids International (KKi), on a nationally televised commercial for Bing. I sat up in my chair and put down what I was reading or eating.
Several years ago, Landon told me about his little brother and their high school friends who thought it would be funny and awesome to start crocheting winter hats like it was their job, or like they were elderly women. They mostly did it to come up with extra-fresh steeze for the terrain park at Schweitzer Mountain, but they got good enough and fast enough to start selling their surplus hats to friends. They made enough cash to buy a hot air balloon ride for their prom dates. I have an early model buried somewhere in my closet.
As these kids grew up, Landon kept me up on their zany adventures. In college and the years that followed, they developed the idea of transforming their crocheting business into a sustainable organization to empower women in Uganda, offering a way to rise out of poverty, provide for their families, and learn business skills. This idea has worked. A lot. But only because Kohl and his posse have also worked. A lot.
Let me tell you something about the Crecelius fellas, and this may seem irrelevant. They are really, really, ridiculously good looking. I’m not talking regular good-looking. I’m talking about dreamy. For a generation of north-Spokane males, growing up around these golden boys was not easy, because the rest of us looked Gareth-esque in comparison whenever they came around. With their ectomorphic physiques and their dazzling smiles, and so on. I’m not exaggerating or making anything up when I say that Lady Gaga literally gained a crush on Landon after simply seeing a picture of him. True and long and recent story.
But the thing I’ve loved about every update I hear on KKi is that their accomplishments have not come from having good hair and a good idea, but from years of gritty, detail-heavy work. This has not been what you would expect from well-meaning, fashionable surfer/skier types whose interest in their product started almost ironically. This is not a flash-in-the-pan project. It seems they counted the cost and are just plain-old doing what it takes to create and run a legitimate NGO. Over time, they asked people who know what they are doing to come alongside them, and then they took the time to just start knowing what they are doing themselves.
About a year ago, I interviewed Kohl about his experiences, because I’d love to someday tell KKi’s story as part of the Beyond the Bracelet book. What struck me most was his passion and insight for how to integrate the stories of individual Ugandan women into the ways consumers enjoy KKi’s products. He was on the verge of having his tiny dream hit the shelves at Nordstrom’s and enter into partnerships with major companies like Volcom. But he wasn’t talking about that. He was talking about how to continually innovate and create new alternatives to the faceless injustice that is woven into a lot of the apparel we wear every day. And it’s not only to make a statement. “Buy a hat, change a life” is actually that simple, and Kohl’s voice echoed the fact that he knows some of those lives personally.
I want to keep hearing about and learning from the guys and gals at KKi, because I think they are doing good things right. And their story keeps adding chapters—they just announced that the first hats from their new facility in Peru will be available soon.