Photo by Joshua Hishey
By Raan & Shea Parton
Over ten years ago we met Joshua Hishey, better known as JoJo, in Washington, DC. It has been astounding to learn all that has transpired since we first crossed paths with JoJo. Now he and his wife Richa have established a social enterprise to empower native artisans in northern India. Their focus has been bamboo and metal furniture in their region but they are now expanding into other products such as copperware, paintings and hand loomed textiles. Earlier this week over a call JoJo shared their profoundly simple mission,“In our work with rural craft artisans, we believe that providing business development services is imperative to improving market access of the poor.”
JoJo studied at an international boarding school in the Himalayans and then moved to the US for a few years to study at a top industrial design school, Kendall College of Art and Design. Shortly thereafter, JoJo earned ‘Design Entrepreneur of the Year’ from the British Council of India. His wife also studied industrial design through the University of Sussex in the UK and then later at the National Institute of Design in India, co-founded by the famous Eames family and the Indian government.
JoJo humbly reiterated how their current progress is far beyond their dreams and goals. Starting with just a handful of men under a Lychee tree, training them to build bamboo furniture, to now leading a cooperative of 150 artisans. Their creativity and vision has made them leaders in the community of Uttarkhand, India. Where they continue to help build the design infrastructure and business literacy for all levels of artisans.
We work each day to ensure that our mission of “advocacy through industry” shapes each decision that we make at Apolis and we are humbled when we are so clearly reminded of why we do the work that we do. After several years of this work we have come to know that supporting the opportunities that communities create to sustain themselves, using their skills and their craft, is the most effective thing we can do. We are constantly inspired by the work ethic and leadership in rural communities, who start with limited resources, and often just a wing & a prayer. Their commitment and determination keeps us striving each day to find new ways to ensure that we maintain our half of the partnership: a strong market for their industry and an audience for their story. We hope you are inspired by the photos below as much as we are.