Weaving the Next Warby Parker?
- by Matthew Brodsky
When I spoke with Sasibai Kimis, W’00, she was only two months into what could become her life’s work, the eco-friendly, ethically minded Earth Heir, an enterprise that sells rare silk and cashmere scarves. Then again, she is 34 years into a life that has taken her in many directions already.
The Malaysia native has found herself (not necessarily in chronological order) in Hawaii learning the ins-and-outs of natural farming and at Lehman Brothers after graduating from Penn. She worked toward a master’s in environmental development at Cambridge and was part of the UN elections monitoring team in Ghana, where she also devoted time to the nonprofit OIC Ghana. She tried her hand in private equity in London and in sovereign wealth at the Malaysian fund called Khazanah Nasional.
As a Wharton student, Kimis says, she tried her hand in many things too.
“Even at Penn, each year I joined a different society because I wanted to experience it,” she explains.
Now with her own company, Earth Heir, she feels that she is merging the two main threads of her diverse experience: her work in the worlds of charity and capitalism. She credits meeting Scott Harrison, founder of Charity: Water, and hearing stories about Warby Parker, the eyeglass retailer founded by Neil Blumenthal, WG’10; David Gilboa, WG’10, GEN’10; Andrew Hunt, WG’10; and Jeffrey Raider, WG’10, for showing her a potential path.
“This is what I want to do,” they made her think.
The concept behind Earth Heir is simple: Kimis tries to work directly with the weavers themselves in places like Cambodia and Malaysia, or if she has to work with middlemen, she does with those who pay fair wages for textiles. And 50 percent of Earth Weir’s profits will go back to the weavers to help them build sustainable livelihoods and to charities that, for instance, protect the environment or run shelters for abused and exploited women and children.
Kimis is still in early stages with Earth Heir and does all of the travel herself to find and buy her scarves, and she is looking to build supply channels in India and Indonesia as well. From producing a catalog that she distributed to friends and family—and to friendly magazine editors—Kimis has progressed to a fully functional website at EarthHeir.com. Hopefully, we’ll be able to follow up with Kimis in the future as she keeps this endeavor moving in one direction: up.