Spotlights on current Echols Scholars doing cool things!

 

Kris Cody, 3rd year Neuroscience Major

1. What is Paka? How did this idea come about?

PAKA is an alpaca wool apparel company working to empower Peruvian women weavers. 

Before attending UVA, I took a gap year to work and travel through South America. I came across this alpaca wool sweater in the Andes Mountains and had never felt anything like it. The material was so soft and fit my active surf/ski lifestyle. Then, during my first year at UVA, people would always come to me when I'd wear the sweater and ask where it came from - where they could get one. Last summer, I flew down to Cusco, Peru on a one-way ticket to begin this journey. I created a team of women weavers and launched the website last fall. The response was overwhelming, and Chance the Rapper and the Chainsmokers even started repping the sweaters. 

The idea has been to bridge a gap and bring a novel material to the US while empowering the communities it comes from. 

2. What has the process of making this idea come to life been like for you?

Like I'm jumping off a cliff. It's taught me to be comfortable with the unknown and to trust my intuition, even if no one believes in it at first. 

This summer was about refining the product and filming a video to fully launch PAKA. I had the head videographer from Chef's Table come down and shoot the video. We just launched the new sweater on a Kickstarter this past Tuesday and it raised 45k in 24 hours. 

3. How has the Echols Program influenced you?

The Echols program has given me the freedom to explore my interests. I'm very thankful to be a part of this community and have some awesome relationships because of it. 

4. What advice do you have for your fellow scholars with similar entrepreneurial dreams?

Don't be afraid of putting yourself out there! You're going to have to do it at some point anyways :)