Celebrating Three Years

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Today marks three years since our first collection went live online. The original launch date was actually June 8 but we were behind because of the inevitable website hiccups, which I could do nothing about other than wait while my nerves bounced around my stomach. June 12 and I sat in my in-laws’ pool house (turned my office) in Dallas as the Shop came online. An idea became a reality in the global marketplace.

It had been a year since we had moved back from Uganda, since we took our backpacking trip around Central America, since we decided to stay Stateside and move to Austin for my husband’s grad program, since a bunch of artisans decided to take a chance on me before I even had a company. To say I was feeling confident and prepared as Ara Collective (now Marra) launched would be an overstatement. But there we were, newlyweds starting on a new path together to be a part of creating a world we believed in, with what we had to offer, whatever that looked like.

 
 
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Every single person connected to and touching this business is working from their heart and soul. I’m not saying that to glorify our little social business. I guess I’m typing this because I usually don’t think about it but, here I am on June 12, three years after we released our first collection — amazed, humbled, grateful.

 
 

This brand is not a big, overnight success. We’re a small business with people who have supported us, shopped from us, told our story, and collaborate with us in ways that surprise and humble me daily. We don’t have investors or loans or a big brick-and-mortar store. We work from home offices from Austin to San Cristóbal de Las Casas to Panajachel.

We are made up of weavers, tailors, independent web developers, and hard-working mamas. We put everything we make into reorders with our artisans, supporting their locally-led community development efforts, or low-cost marketing channels (like our website). I struggle daily to juggle raising a tiny, wonderful boy in the world while my dreamer-doer husband launches his glamping business (Walden Retreats), and Marra functions as a multi-national company in places with broken infrastructure and natural disasters and really incredible humans. Busy days chasing dreams, playing with textiles, navigating the latest shipping regulations, cleaning up scrambled eggs off the floor.

 
 
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Teddy Roosevelt said

It is not the critic who counts;
not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles,
or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.
The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena,
whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood;
who strives valiantly;
who errs,
who comes short again and again,
because there is no effort without error and shortcoming;
but who does actually strive to do the deeds;
who knows great enthusiasms,
the great devotions;
who spends himself in a worthy cause;
who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement,
and who at the worst, if he fails,
at least fails while daring greatly,
so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls
who neither know victory nor defeat.

 
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I’m in that arena, the artisans who work with us are in the arena, those who have told our story and purchased our goods and work alongside us are in the arena. Striving and seeking out how to buy better, to support real people rather than corporations, to create opportunity for families to thrive despite the circumstances they born into.

Ara Collective (now Marra) started as a way to support economic development in places with remarkable, high-quality, culturally-rich artistry with little access to the global marketplace. Where hard-working, talented people were working to support their families, carry on their ancestral skills and knowledge, and improve their communities. Where people were willing to share their culture and their heritage with others in far off places.

And that’s what we do every day. We will continue to be shaped by that ethos, whatever and wherever it take us. Thank you for being a part of it.

 
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Vintage Collection

To celebrate Ara’s 3rd birthday, we have released a small collection gathered from our favorite local markets during our travels.

 
 
Vintage Ikat No. 14
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Vintage Ikat No. 22
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