When Joe Demin took some time off to backpack through Thailand, he expected an adventure. He did not expect that the trip would change his life and certainly never dreamed that he could change the lives of many others.
It was on one of Thailand’s 1400 islands that Joe spied hammocks for sale, and Joe is a hammock kind of guy. These hammocks were extraordinary, like none he had ever seen. He sought out the people who made them, the Mlabri tribe in the hills of northern Thailand. “Mlabri” means “people of the forest,” but they are known by other tribes as the Phi Tong Luang, “spirits of the yellow leaves.” They were originally hunters and gatherers who roofed their huts with banana leaves. When the leaves turned yellow, they moved on. They lived peaceful, reclusive lives until the 20th century, when they forced into slavery, afflicted with malaria, malnourished, and displaced as their forests shrank due to slash-and-burn farming and the lucrative demand for teak.
In the late 1970s, aid workers moved to the region to improve living conditions for the Mlabri. A priority was to find a way to earn income without trampling on their cultural values. Weaving! They could use their traditional weaving skills to make hammocks. An engineer taught the villagers how to adjust tension and develop new weaves until the hammock had a cocoon-like level of comfort. The hammocks sold well to tourists, and that income alone raised the standard of living. But what about when tourist season was over? A problem until Joe came along.
Joe wanted to (1) cut out the middle man so that the proceeds went directly to the weavers and (2) introduce the hammocks to the global community for year-round sales. He headed home to Boston with as many hammocks as his backpack could hold, and he and his now-wife Rachel founded Yellow Leaf Hammocks with Joe as Chief Relaxation Officer and Rachel as Chief Enthusiasm Officer. Their first sales were from the back of Rachel’s Volkswagen convertible, and now the hammocks are sold by the likes of Bloomingdale’s and Urban Outfitters.
The incredibly snuggly hammock, signed by the weaver, is completely handwoven with more than 3.5 miles of yarn and 150,000 interwoven loops. It provides weightless comfort, weighing less than 2 pounds but holding 400 pounds, and contours to every curve of your body. The material is solution-dyed acrylic: durable, weatherproof and fade proof. Hang the hammock from trees, porches, balconies, indoors. The design is anti-flip and anti-wobble.
The Signature hammock comes in double and king. When you want to sit, there is the Hanging Chair hammock. Change your mind? Then just stretch out in it. You can design your own Signature or Hanging Chair with a design guide and personalized service from the Yellow Leaf Hammocks design team.
Joe and Rachel’s purpose was to transform one small tribal community, the Mlabri. Within two years, their mission expanded to include neighboring villages, and it continues to spread throughout the region.
Yellow Leaf Hammocks are an “eco-luxury” brand, and the company has brought about economic health, environmental stewardship (slowing down the deforestation), and social equity among ethnic groups.
Yellow Leaf has been named a “Best for the World” B Corporation. B Corporations are a new-ish business model that balances purpose and profit. It is a global movement of people using business as a force for good, creating value for their employees, the local community, customers, suppliers and the environment.