Can you preserve a culture with a laptop sleeve? That is exactly what entrepreneur and RM Andy Thunnel is doing with his startup, WeaveSleeve.
Founded by Thunnel in 2014, WeaveSleeve is an organization that buys handwoven material from local artisans in Guatemala and makes them into stylish laptop sleeves and wallets. Thunnel’s mission with WeaveSleeve, he says, is to create a demand for weaves by creating trendy and useful products with them. By doing so, he also hopes to share and continue a beautiful cultural tradition.
“WeaveSleeve isn’t just about a unique product, it goes much deeper than that,” Thunnel said. “This is about helping preserve a dying culture, the art of weaving by hand, and providing a means for families to supplement their income which in turn alleviates some of the financial burdens they are faced with. When a mother of five comes up to you with tears in her eyes and thanks you for making an effort to ease their burdens, that is powerful beyond measure.”
Thunnel’s inspiration for the project came when he visited his mission area in Guatemala. He visited some friends who were schooled by their parents in traditional weaving, but he noticed that they didn’t bother to pass down the tradition to their own children. They considered it a lost art and felt there was no future for their kids in becoming weavers. Thunnel was heartbroken by the prospect that such a beautiful artform would be lost to the next generation. The entrepreneur in him quickly deduced that the problem was a simple lack of demand, knowing that these weaves would be very popular back home if made to fit the lifestyles of those who would appreciate the artisanal fabrics.
Thus, WeaveSleeve was born.
Inspiration for the products themselves has roots in Thunnel’s mission. Thunnel carried a small coin purse he bought in Guatemala years after his mission. He loved the simple, slim design, the artisanal weave, as well as a reminder of his mission he could carry around wherever he goes.
WeaveSleeve’s flagship wallet was designed with missionaries in mind. With over 80 flags to choose from, missionaries, RMs and future missionaries alike can carry a little reminder of their mission with them wherever they go.
Thunnel participated in a construction job helping with the Quetzaltenango Guatemala temple, and in his travels between the states and Guatemala, he worked with women and families to procure weaves. All of the families he has worked with, Thunnel says, are non-members, and the experience of working with them has provided him with a unique missionary opportunity in the country he once served in.
Of his motivations, Thunnel said, “It was always a desire I had to get back to Guatemala and figure out a way that I could make an impact in a country that I owe so much to.” WeaveSleeve is doing just that.
WeaveSleeve just launched a Kickstarter campaign to share their story and help create a demand for this fading art.
To learn more about WeaveSleeve and help donate to the cause, visit their Kickstarter Page