Pochisilk - our humble beginnings...!
We are often asked how our company started so wanted to share our humble beginnings…….we launched in 2019 - but the current business looks a little different from our original plan; let me explain!
I’d been living in Myanmar since 2012 and wanted to start my own company. The guiding principles for our business were women’s empowerment, to support entrepreneurship, and a focus on business sustainability. Coupled with this, we had a passion for textiles, so designing and exporting hand-woven silk to the world from Myanmar seemed a perfect fit - we love how a country’s history and culture can be woven through textiles, and how the artisan’s weaving skills and stories pass from generation to generation; Burma is home to more than 130 ethnic groups so has many stories to share!
Task one was market research – and this was where we met our first major stumbling block.
Because silk was everywhere in the Burmese markets, I had assumed that it was produced locally … it wasn’t! It was mainly cheap silk imported from China and India. There was no Burmese silk to speak of!
Our original plan had been to build a Burmese silk brand. We wanted to hire and support our women weavers and help them build their own weaving businesses - to create beautiful designs using Burmese silk, connect them to global customers under our umbrella brand.
Our initial plan just didn’t have the same caché without local silk. So we made a substantial strategy adjustment - we expanded the business to include sericulture (silk production) – working with local farmers in beautiful Chin state to grow mulberry, rear silk worms and reel silk; Pochi could then buy this silk and our weavers would create weave their magic!
As a result of this change, we can say that our business and products are truly Burmese, and that our value chain is literally from farmer to fabric. We have already worked with 50+ farming families in Chin, providing them with mulberry trees for planting, and training to rear silkworms; and we also work with weavers from all over Myanmar - our weaving base is in Yangon/Rangoon (the commercial capital of the country) where we design and test products and prepare samples in our studio.
We use ethnic motifs on our products and combine that with vibrant colours. Nearly all of the elements in our products are hand-made – even the cotton linings in our masks (for example) are hand-woven, and the piping around our cushions is hand-twisted.
And that - in a nutshell - is how the business started!