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October 30 2018

Collique Cuffs – Words of Hope

Can you tell us a little about yourself?

I’m a 47 year old mom and homemaker with a degree in Philosophy who absolutely had no plan of becoming an entrepreneur! By all accounts and on all fronts, I am ill prepared for this pursuit. What I do have, however, is complete faith that doing good work to benefit the people around me is always, always worth the effort.

What exactly is Collique Cuffs?

Collique Cuffs is a bracelet project that offers fair pay to 5 women who live in an impoverished community called Collique outside of Lima, Peru. Beyond paying those 5 women, we use our profits to support other women in their community by offering a domestic violence prevention program, supporting a women’s entrepreneurship class, providing micro loans for their home-based businesses and paying for vocational training. We operate through a permanent mission there called Operacion San Andres.

What inspired you to start Collique Cuffs?

I was already making these leather cuffs that began as a $5 mission project at my church and the demand for them was overwhelming. They were made from worn belts bearing metal stamped words of encouragement, and after two years of doing it myself, a friend offered me the opportunity to go to Collique and teach some women there. I was searching for more purpose and it seemed like the most natural and positive thing I could do with my time. At the same time, being able to offer them work re-ignited my passion for offering good words to the world. It’s just impossible to see this community and not be inspired to support them!

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How did you come up with the name?

We wanted to find a way to tell our clients about this part of the world that is heavily burdened because of the poverty they experience. It just made sense to make the business all about that. Collique is home to over 100,000 people who do not have the access to healthcare, nourishing food, work, education that so many of us have.

You use words of hope and encouragement on your cuffs, can you tell us
about that?

It was critical from the beginning in my mind that I use my hands to put good words into the world. I believe that words have tremendous power, especially the ones that we see repeatedly. I’ve had clients ask us to put phrases that use profanity or more trendy, sarcastic things on them, but there’s enough of that already in the world. We are focused on the deep assurance of hope and kindness that we can offer. The by product is that the person hammering those words of hope eventually comes to feel their power as well.

Is there a favorite product?

Oh my goodness, that’s a tough one. I wear the first HOPE one we made together in Collique most days (all of our pieces are signed by their maker, but this one was signed by all of us).
Occasionally, when I’m feeling insecure I’ll pull out a tired looking “fear not” one or the first one I ever made that bears the numbers 25:40 which is a reference to the Bible verse, Matthew 25:40, Jesus’ reminder “For whatever you have done unto the least these, my brethren, you have done unto me.” Each of those has special meaning to me.

What is your favorite part about running Collique Cuffs?

My favorite part about running Collique Cuffs has been watching the unintended effects of
the project. It’s a great joy to me to see these 5 women laugh together as they work and be accepted into their community as a friend. Watching us all grow in confidence and support each other is a great gift. Traditionally, women in their community do not have much value. Their rate of domestic violence is unthinkable (Peru at large is at 70%, but Collique is vastly
higher), so to watch their daughters’ pride in their work, to witness the esteem that they are earning for themselves as they enroll in a learning opportunity, is thrilling.

What is your least favorite part about running Collique Cuffs?

I’d have to say that I struggle with seeing around the next corner. It’s very important to
me that we continue our work, which requires thinking of the what next part and I have to balance that because I’m usually just trying to stay focused on right now!

How do you spread the word about your company?

One of the best, easiest parts of this project is that we are proof that good work sells itself. While I try to engage in social media and marketing, probably we receive the most attention when I go tell our story. When I speak to groups, churches, schools, clubs, these bracelets sell themselves and people become interested in traveling to Collique with us as a medical or construction team. I want people to see the beauty in this community, the resilience and
hope that they experience so I feel compelled to tell their story!

Do you have any advice for fellow entrepreneurs?

If I had any advice to fellow entrepreneurs it would be to constantly evaluate your intention. Are you doing good work that supports the people around you? My firm belief is that, if you are, the joy of the work and the relationships it builds, will usually outweigh the money you can make. Also, if this is your passion, there really is no one better than you to build this business. You can acquire any skill you do not have if you are driven by that.

Do you have a favorite quote or go to saying? ☺

WORDS MATTER. I have a little sign with that on it. It usually causes me to be a little
quieter and get out my hammer! And also DO GOOD WORK. Seems simple, but everything is easier if you just do good work. I’m referring to both quality and intention there!

Is there anything else you would like to share with us?

I think this is a particular trait of women my age that at first that I had moments where I
wanted someone to come and take over, to rescue me from the things I did not know how to do, because I had literally no skills but I had a good idea and good intentions. I would get stuck and wish I could just hire someone, but the most valuable part of that process was realizing that help was not on the way. I know that sounds cruel, but it was liberating and empowering. If I wanted a website, I had to build it. If I wanted to get a business license, I had to do the research and make it happen. If I wanted people to know about our project, I had to get over my fear of speaking and go tell the story. There is no part of this project that is not rooted in that sentiment. We must do this ourselves because help is not on the way and really, who better than us to do it?

About Zara Puskuldjian

Hi, I’m Zara Puskuldjian! I am from Long Island, New York but I currently reside in Boca Raton, FL. Recent graduate from Lynn University with my Bachelor of Arts degree in Advertising and Public Relations with a minor in Photography. I love traveling, my friends, family, photography, warm weather and my 3 lbs. min pin, Nova. Oh and how could I forget my undying love for… chipotle. I am a firm believer in the wise words of Coco Chanel “Beauty begins the moment you decided to be yourself.” (:

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