On Weaving And Building Creative Bonds Across The World: Roni Sivan of Krama Wheel

this fall, our theme is: flourish.

flourish (n.): to grow or develop in a healthy or vigorous way, especially as the result of a particularly favorable environment.

When we make work under our best conditions, we do more than survive—we thrive.

And what grow toward (or say no) to has a lot do with it. Whether you’re a small business owner, independent artist or side hustling creative, your career pathway will take resilience and strategic decision-making. Where do you choose to go? What makes something a yes? Which environments are best for your growth?

Those answers are nuanced, and for the most part they vary. So, as we prepare for craftHER Market Fall ‘19, we’re interviewing some of this market’s featured makers to learn more about their businesses and the ways they create favorable environments for their work. Read on for a peek into their process.

Photo of: Roni Sivan with Cambodian Seamstresses

Photo of: Roni Sivan with Cambodian Seamstresses

about today’s featured maker: roni sivan of krama wheel.

“I'm a unicorn native Austinite, but I've had a life-long case of wanderlust and have always had the itch to venture to and learn about far off places. I've spent a decade working in the travel industry, but 8 years ago during a break between jobs, I backpacked through Southeast Asia, which ultimately inspired me to start krama wheel. krama wheel is my side hustle, my passion project, and my outlet for letting my entrepreneurial side flourish!”

How would you describe who you are and what you do?

On my first visit to Cambodia in 2010, I fell in love with the local style of weaving I saw in all the markets and thought the colorful designs and lightweight style of the scarves would be perfect for Austin’s similarly lightweight winters. That experience - along with the time I spent volunteering with a local NGO - inspired me to start krama wheel. Through krama wheel, I design scarves that are in turn handwoven by a co-op of women in Cambodia. For every scarf sold, I donate a school uniform to a child in Cambodia (through a local partner NGO), which is a necessity to attend school that many rural families can’t afford. My goal is to give children access to education while also empowering as many women in the process: the weavers, the seamstresses who make the uniforms, and my production manager in Cambodia are all badass women who hustle every day to make a living in a part of the world where they have very few opportunities.

Our theme for this Fall’s craftHER is flourish. How are you looking to grow your business at the moment? 

I would love to expand krama wheel's brand to more of a national level. While Austin has so lovingly embraced it, I see so much potential out there to flourish on a larger scale, especially in parts of the country where scarves can actually be worn for more than a couple months a year!

What are some of the biggest growth moments you’ve experienced as a creative and/or business owner over the last year? What can others learn from your experience?

As mentioned below, finding a community of other ethically minded global business owners over the past couple of years has been a game changer for me and helped me grow. Surrounding yourself with people with a common goal and common struggles can help you feel really supported and accountable and motivated and inspired. Also this past year, I decided to invest more in professional work, rather than bootstrapping everything myself. For example, I had always recruited friends and done my own photography for the website and social media, but this year I invested in a professional photographer to handle that for me. I decided to invest in this not only because a professional can deliver infinitely better photos than me, but also because if gives me a sense of valuing my time and motivates me to put it to better use on things I excel at.

How do you handle criticism and feedback?

I see criticism and feedback as a learning opportunity. I think it's important to listen as impartially as possible, because it may shed light on an opportunity to my clarify messaging, improve a product, strengthen a relationship, or simply have a dialogue with a fellow human or customer.

What is your approach to working with others and/or working in community?

I felt really alone in my venture for a really long time, but that all changed when I learned about a small group of fellow ethical business owners that met up to discuss resources, problems, and other ways to support each other in our common pursuits. This was a game changer for me at a time when I felt rather isolated and unmotivated to continue in my work, because finding this community helped me feel re-inspired and also reassured that I wasn't the only one facing certain obstacles on this business-owning journey.

Sustaining a creative business is tough. What are some money mindsets you’ve had to learn as an artist / entrepreneur?

When I first launched krama wheel I had a big vision that it would take off and I'd make it my full time work. For the first couple of years, I felt like a failure because it wasn't gaining traction in the way I had hoped, but in the process I also realized that the thought of pursuing it full time was actually not something I envisioned making me happy. Once I came to terms with the fact that success didn't necessarily mean I had to be able to support myself off the business, the work felt lighter and like less of a burden, and I began to enjoy it more for the reasons I started it in the first place. I became comfortable with the idea that having a day job is OK (especially when I love and get fulfillment from my day job!) and that sustaining a small-scale healthy business is still a success as long as I continue to find joy and inspiration and a healthy dose of challenge through the work.

How do you hold yourself accountable to the goals you set? How do you bounce back when something doesn’t go as planned?

I find it very helpful to announce to a few key people what my goals are so that they can hold me accountable. I also am very task-driven, so I break down large goals into small tangible steps which makes them so much easier to tackle in a way that feels possible (rather than being overwhelmed by the magnitude of a big goal). If something doesn't go as planned, I try to be gentle with myself and try to remember to practice some self care/love, then once the initial emotional impact of the defeat passes, put my logical brain back into gear to assess what went wrong and what I could do differently next time.

Would you like to meet Roni in-person? Come out to craftHER Market Fall ‘19 on October 12 and 13, 2019 at Fair Market and stop by her booth. Click here to learn more.

Jane Claire HerveyComment