The Base Project – Where intention meets global-mindedness, meets action
By Sarah Hodges
Dreams often have a magical way of tucking themselves into our hearts and lifting us onto a new path, and with luck, lifting many others along the way. The Base Project, a company started by twin brothers Doug and Chris Akin, was born out of the brothers’ intent to have a meaningful impact while doing what they loved.
Having both spent many years working in advertising, the brothers felt disenchanted with the corporate structure. While Chris worked for AdWalls in Hawaii, Doug decided to take a year off from his position at MrYouth and pursue his passion for travel. During his travels, Doug witnessed the impact that seemingly small purchases had on artisans in the countries he visited. In some places, his purchase with $100 US dollars meant a month of food for the artist’s entire family. The brothers saw potential for a business that was exciting and gave back to people in a significant way, and could tell a story about what they were passionate about; travel, storytelling, connection, indigenous cultures, and sustainability to name a few. An idea arose.
The Akin brothers began seeking in under-developed countries for goods that inspired them and that could be shared with a larger market to extend the impact. During their search, Chris had been wearing a bracelet that kept getting attention. It had been gifted to him by a friend who bought it in Africa while serving in the Peace Corps. The brothers realized their first product was right under their noses, and it was just a matter of now finding the makers of this bracelet.
The search led them to Namibia, a country on the southwestern coast of Africa. Chris met Doug there, in hopes of tracking down the origins of this unique, up-cycled bracelet. They traveled across the country to some of the most remote villages and eventually found the artisans in Northern Namibia. Working together with the craftspeople, they brought to life The Base Project, where artisans with their bracelets could connect to the US fashion market, and gain a greater means for income.
Before traveling, Doug worked at a prominent marketing agency in New York City. His interest in doing something with a social mission grew into an intention to help empower others. It was no small decision to leave his career, and with that a significant income and partnership role in the successful youth marketing agency, to step out into the unknown. His secret: trusting that the net would appear! And with dedication and commitment to their vision, it did.
A lot of the artisans were very excited to work together. Crafting the up-cycled bracelets for The Base Project allowed them a more sizable, year-round income, which allowed them to send their children to school and repair structural issues in their homes. The Akin brothers remained true to their mission and created a platform that could extend the artisans’ business to a broader market, and potentially offer a more consistent livelihood.
With some of the profit, the brothers have been able to reinvest it back into the community. They traveled to Namibia to discuss with villagers the ways they could put the earnings back into the community. Though met with many differing opinions for what was most needed, they were able to come to a consensus and support the community infrastructure in ways such as fixing water reservoirs and assisting with healthcare.
As Americans, how much of our money goes directly into communities rather than large corporations? With the rise of Amazon and other large corporate structures, the amount can be surprisingly low. Doug talked about rethinking his global impact and how this brought him a big sense of purpose in helping others out. He shared, “The energy exchange felt really good. When I was traveling and would see something that I appreciated, being able to bring it home to someone who also found value in it and in its story brought me a lot of joy. There’s huge worth in having a deeper connection with what we buy, rather than just buying fast fashion.” A handcrafted piece has the power to evoke a sense of travel, culture, and curiosity.
In speaking with Doug, his passion for living a life of purpose and inspiration is palpable. Here’s his message to readers:
“Find something you’re passionate about and allow that to take hold and find its place in the world. Explore ways you can use your passion to help others. Look at how you can weave and bring happiness to others. Sometimes in this (Western) culture we can get stuck in trying to figure all the pieces out before we even start. Don’t get caught up in the details. You don’t know who is going to show up, or how people will respond, until you begin. And if you don’t do it you’ll never find out. By the action, by doing and giving, let the magic come as a result. Have a good intention and start with that.”
Imagine what impact you can have with a dream that sits quietly (or loudly), tucked in your heart, what intention you can choose that will give your dream wings and bring a light in someone else’s life along the way.
I’m wearing one of their bracelets myself, and it looks as if its made of hand-carved ivory. Unbelievably, one of their village craftspeople made it with a piece of aged PVC pipe that was no longer being used!!! How cool to be able to create treasures out of what would have otherwise been trash. Save the elephants and sustain the people!
Keep an eye out for new sourced-from-nature goods from the Base Project, as well as crowdfunding coming up in the next couple weeks to assist artisans effected by the current global pandemic. The mission – to keep empowering artisans and share a socially-conscious lifestyle.