an interview with Emilee, founder
Let's start from the beginning and tell people about SoloHope! What does the name mean?
SoloHope is Spanglish for “Only Hope” and that’s really what we’re all about—hope! I started SoloHope after visiting Honduras on multiple short-term and extended trips and learning about the struggles and challenges the women were facing and their need for dignified jobs. So that’s been the goal—partnering with women overcoming poverty in rural Honduras to create handcrafted products from their available resources that we would then market to a Western market.
In 2012, I had a random idea to create bracelets out of pine needles and thread, using a traditional skill from rural Honduras. I met with Dilcia, our first artisan and showed her rough sketches and together we created our first products. Since then, we’ve grown to include a line of jewelry and home goods. Most of our products are still primarily made of pine needles and thread but we’ve also grown to include products crafted from clay and obsidian. But really it’s about so much more than products, it’s really about the meaning found in our name—only hope.
And what area of the world do you focus on?
Our partnerships and work is primarily based in the department of Intibuca in Honduras. It’s located in the mountains of Honduras and every time I go, I feel like I’m going home when I see those mountains. Currently we are working towards starting a new project that is located outside of Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras. We’re excited about the new possibilities!
The coasters featured in the June Monthly box are from your most recent collection, Oasis. Tell us about some of the inspiration behind their super cool vibe!
We wanted to create something so fun and “summery.” What better way to do that than with pops of color? I’m most inspired by nature and especially nature in Honduras. There’s so many vibrant colored flowers and plants and the sky is the most beautiful blue you can imagine. It’s like an Oasis…thus the name. ;)
What other items might people discover in the Oasis collection?
Oh we have so many fun items in this collection! From our new Boho Bag (seriously a must-have for the beach) to our new bar necklace, Morning Dew, to our classic cuffs and baskets, this collection really has something for everybody.
Let's talk about the artisans. Can you share about who they are, where they work out of, paint the picture of what happens behind the scenes?
Currently we work with nine artisans and partner with two additional women’s co-ops to create our products. Dilcia and Maribel were our first two artisans and they really take on such a leadership role now with the group. It’s amazing to see how they’ve grown and learned how to manage their business. Our artisans currently work from home which has worked well as they can still do necessary things around their homes for their families such as cooking meals.
But recently Dilcia and Maribel gave us a big surprise and told us they had purchased a piece of land to build a SoloHope HQ. It was such a full-circle moment to see these women who have struggled so in the past be able to purchase this piece of land! Wow!! A beautiful moment. Having a workspace will enable the ladies to have a place to work all together and for storage and potentially even a storefront in Honduras. We’re still dreaming together as to what exactly that will look like but this accomplishment is so exciting.
What is pine straw? How/why did you decide to work with it?
Pine straw, pine needles, it’s what you see in pine trees. Once it falls off the tree, the ladies collect it and store it for future projects. It’s a really incredible process to watch them take something that really no longer has purpose and shape it into something with new purpose. I think there’s a lesson in that.
Okay, summer hostessing tip?
Summer is always that time when friends and family come over to hang out, catch up, and just relax. Of course with hot summer months, you’re always going to have something cold in your hands to drink. If you’re in the South, like I am, that’s probably sweet tea but no one wants water circles all over their furniture so these coasters are a perfect solution for that. They’re practical, beautiful, and even have a story of hope that comes with them. Best coasters ever!!
What's ahead for SoloHope? Any special products you want to tackle producing?
I just got back from Honduras last week and we were busy, busy working on our product lineup for the rest of the year. I’m so excited about the new products and designs that we have coming out for the rest of the year. Also I love how much Dilcia (our first artisan and lead designer) is a part of the design process. She has created a necklace design that will be out later this year that is simply dreamy!!
What are some obstacles to producing goods in the Honduras?
Overall, we’ve haven’t run into too many problems. The main problem we face is running out of certain thread we need and having problems locating it in-country. As we grow, we see where we’ll likely have to make changes to some of our processes but it’s working for now.
Any last thoughts for the bonJOY audience?
We just want to say thank you for including SoloHope among the amazing brands featured by bonJOY! It’s really an honor. And to all of your subscribers, THANK YOU!! Your purchase of the bonJOY box and thus of products like SoloHope is impacting and changing the world. Thank you for being a part of this journey!!