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Exploring Life & Business with Rebecca Haskins of Noma Collective

Today we’d like to introduce you to Rebecca Haskins.

Hi Rebecca, thanks for joining us today. We’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
My story began in the UK where I was born and raised. Working as an interior designer in London, I developed a passion for unique and one-of-a kind pieces and would go out of my way to seek these out for my clients. After six years in the design industry in London, I packed up my bags and took my design business to Orange County, California, where I began to work with & design projects for SoCal homeowners. My passion for unique goods continued to expand in this new landscape and I grew increasingly tired of the cookie cutter mass produced goods that were on the market. I had always been an avid traveler and it was during a trip to Guatemala that I encountered a small artisan weaving community in a village on the shores of Lake Atitlan. It was founded by a woman named Rosa and we talked for hours as she shared her story of how she started her cooperative. She had faced great adversity to be able to open her weaving cooperative; the men of her town and her husband tried to stop her because historically only men were allowed to weave. She said she always knew in her heart that she was meant to help and support others, so she set up her weaving cooperative to improve the lives of the women in her village. At first, they had to weave in secret and hide it from their husbands.

Slowly, however, their husbands started to lose their jobs on the farms and began to help their wives with their weaving work. Eventually many of the women became the primary earner in their household. During my visit, Rosa showed me the cooperative’s beautiful weaving work and explained that it was getting hard to sell their traditional mayan designs. I realized there and then that by utilizing my knowledge of the modern home goods market, I could act as a bridge for these women, working with them to design modern products that people desired for their homes. By doing so, I would be able to provide economic opportunities for these women while simultaneously introducing much needed meaningful, handmade, and unique goods to the homeware market. I returned to the US with a clear vision for starting my homeware line – a collection of homegoods with a keen focus on sustainability. In addition to Rosa’s cooperative in Lake Atitlan, which utilizes sustainable materials & natural, plant-based dyes, we look for similar sustainable sensibilities with our other artisan partners, now located around the globe in countries such as Mexico, India & Africa. My goal is to continue to grow NOMA Collective as a bridge between conscious consumers and traditional artisans who practice ancient crafts, creating platforms to keep these crafts alive.

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey has been a fairly smooth road?
One of the biggest challenges is showing people the value in handmade goods because they do come with a higher price tag. The amount of time, skill and knowledge that goes into create a single piece is significant and is reflected in the cost. For example, one of NOMA’s small accent rugs may take a weaver up to a week to make. Our prices will always be higher than mass-market stores, however our pieces have soul – they are made of the highest quality materials, are meaningful, and are handmade with pride. Our artisan partners weave their life stories into every thread and they are investment pieces that can be kept forever. Our costs also account for the artisans’ wage – a fair wage that they set for themselves. Another challenge, as I’m sure any business owner can relate to, has been the pandemic. When COVID hit, the Guatemalan Government restricted movement between villages and it was difficult to transport our products across Lake Atitlan in Guatemala to the town where they are shipped from. While wanting to provide much needed income and business for the artisans we needed to work around the restrictions and of course keep everyone safe. Eventually, DHL agreed to allow one person to take a boat to collect the products, transporting them to the other side so they could be shipped.

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your business?
We partner with artisans from around the world, blending today’s modern style with their time-tested techniques. Our decor items (including pillows, rugs, blankets, napkins and more) are consciously designed, ethically sourced, travel-inspired, stylish yet simple. Each piece celebrates the story behind the product – the people, the culture and the community. We are proud to create trade and commercial opportunities for global artisans. In today’s world of mass produced goods, we are striving to bring a sense of origin and purpose to the items in people’s homes. Our collections are ethically made and incorporate sustainably sourced, and in some cases recycled, materials and all of our products are dyed with natural, non-toxic dyes.

Our name “NOMA Collective” (combining ‘Nomad’ and ‘Collective’) reflects the artisans, designers and dreamers who rally together from across cultures and continents to craft our collections.

How can people work with you, collaborate with you or support you?
One of the things I love most about my work is the connections I have made. Both with the artisans I get to work in partnership with, but also with other creatives and business owners. I love to work with other women and am constantly collaborating on ideas with my fellow female entrepreneur friends. There is a huge support and resource network out there for female business owners, and I am so grateful for the one I’ve developed for myself.

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Image Credits:

Please credit: Charlotte Lea Photography @charlotteleaphotography

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