She was looking for an escape, but instead she found inspiration in the Andes Mountains
It was during the summer of 2018—winter in Ecuador—when Boca Raton resident Jamie Raitan and her husband, Ron, were wandering the streets of Cuenca. Escaping from the cold, the two found refuge in a shop where a family of weavers were creating alpaca blankets.
“We wrapped up in the blanket,” she remembers. “We just thought, you know what, this is peace. This place—and these blankets—symbolize peace on Earth.”
With those words, Pearth, a fair-trade alpaca blanket company, was born.
Since last summer, the flicker of an idea to sell the handmade blankets on Etsy has grown into a full-fledged business, celebrating its first year on the market in October. Pearth blankets have been sold around the world, from the United States to China.
Customers have told Raitan stories of how the blankets have kept them warm while drinking their morning coffee, or serving as a bright companion in stark hospital rooms during chemotherapy.
“I feel so good about every blanket that I pack. I know that it’s going to make a difference in somebody’s life,” Raitan says.
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Although the two love to travel, the Raitans visited Ecuador to see if they would want to take the next step of moving there full-time. The couple was tired of the rat race—putting in long hours at work, missing valuable time with their young children. While in Cuenca, they not only discovered their new home, which they moved to in May, but also a passion for sharing the handiwork passed down from one generation of alpaca weavers to the next.
Raitan works with up to 20 weavers at a time—her Venezuelan husband speaks Spanish—and over multiple trips they have formed a rapport with the workers. They work on their schedule, which is a slower pace with little sense of urgency. This calm is what Raitan hopes to incorporate into her own life and to her customers.
“[The artisans are] more concerned about the fact that it’s sharing the tradition with the world, not about the income that it’s going to provide them,” she says. “It’s important to us that we know that the workers making these products are being treated fairly.”
Meanwhile, Raitan was busy managing the Etsy shop, creating a website, taking stylized photos of the blankets around town and with her children—Pax, 7, and Saylor, 4. The two love to help stuff the blankets into canvas bags, accompanied with a hand-written note from Raitan with a picture of an alpaca.
When she arrived in Cuena, she discovered that millions of Venezuelan refugees had come to Ecuador with nothing—Pearth is donating one blanket to the refugees for every blanket sold.
“These blankets to me just symbolize the feelings that we had while we were there, which is the peace and simplicity and slowing down and just enjoying the moments,” Raitan says.
This story is from our September/October 2019 issue of Boca magazine. For more content like this, subscribe to the magazine.