Spreading Empowerment, Intention + Sustainability with Indigenous Women throughout the World
Get to KNOW Laura Grier
Laura Grier known as the “Indiana Jones of Adventure Travel Photography” was named on Discovery Channel UK’s “20 Richest People in the World List”; people who are rich in life experiences. Living overseas and working for the CIA by age 18, began what would become a lifelong wanderlust for Laura. As a photojournalist for the past 19 years, she has photographed weddings and travel on all 7 continents making a career out of exploring and documenting the world.
Laura’s most notable work has been shooting for Novica, National Geographic’s catalog that represents global artisans practicing “Vanishing Arts”. Passionate about mentoring, women’s education and empowerment, photography and travel, Laura leads workshops, expeditions, and has recently launched Andeana Hats her passion project with National Geographic. The mission behind Andeana is to empower women and help global artisans continue their cultural traditions; enabling them to support themselves and lead their communities out of poverty.
If you’re inspired by Laura and her partner’s journey and them being the FIRST women entrepreneurs to start a hat company with indigenous women in the Sacred Valley of Peru to create an artisan product that is being sold online AND in National Geographic’s artisan catalog, head over to her Andeana Hats page to learn more about their mission and hat wear.
KNOW Book + Tribe: How did you earn your title?
Laura: I guess our “self-given title” is being the first women to partner with indigenous Quechua women to start a company that makes handmade hats for a global audience. We are featured in National Geographic’s artisan catalog and are the first women’s hats to ever be sold in the catalog!
I have been called the Indiana Jones of Adventure Travel Photography and i was a recent addition to the Discovery Channel UK’s “20 Richest People in the World List”, people who are rich in life experiences that is. Living abroad from a young age, it is no surprise that I turned my life of travel, adventure, and exploration into a profession. As a photojournalist for the past 20 years, I have photographed on all 7 continents and have made a life out of exploring the world, capturing, and writing about my experiences.
The most satisfying work that I have done in my career has been through my work with Novica, in Association with National Geographic, a global catalog that represents artisans from the around the world who are practicing “Vanishing Arts”. Through my work with Novica over the past 11 years, I have traveled numerous times to Peru and have quickly fallen in love with the culture and people. Passionate about mentoring, women’s education, photography and travel, I lead travel workshops, expeditions, and I am an ambassador for sustainable travel brands like Lokal, Impact Travel Alliance, and Travel with Meaning.
Currently my business partner Pats and I have joined forces and fused all of our passions of travel, photography, fashion, Peru, and empowering women into one passion project; Andeana Hats.
What made you come up with that idea? (If applicable)
The concept for “Andeana Hats” was born because of the shared affinity for the Sacred Valley, Peru, its land, culture, energy and people by both founders, Laura Grier and Pats Krysiak. While trekking together on the infamous Ausangate trek across the Rainbow Mountains, Pats and Laura came across many amazing Andean women and were captivated with their unique hats and weavings. Determined to share the energy of the Sacred Valley with the world and to help bring awareness to these female artisans and their cultural practices, Laura and Pats came up with the concept of combining their personal hat styles with their traditional weavings to create apparel that captures the energy and culture of the Andean people and infuses it into the everyday life of those who wear them.
Andeana Hats has partnered with Awamaki, a non-profit organization based in Ollantaytambo in the Sacred Valley, who work closely together with multiple indigenous communities in the remote mountains of Peru. Awamaki invests in women’s skills, connects them to global marketplaces and supports their leadership so they can increase their income and transform their communities. The passion of founders Laura and Pats and the mission behind the creation of Andeana Hats is to empower women and help support global artisans to continue their vanishing crafts and enabling them to support themselves and lead their communities out of poverty.
What have you learned along the way?
For the past 20 years I have been a travel photographer, writer, explorer, and a person who wants to make a positive impact on this world. The most satisfying work I have done has been for Novica, National Geographic’s artisan catalog which represents artisans from the around the world who are practicing “Vanishing Arts”. Novica’s mission is to bring awareness and provide a platform for these global artisan that allows them to make money creating their art forms while preserving their culture and way of life. Through my work with Nat Geo I wanted to highlight the beauty and cultures that still exist out there and I have been blessed to photograph the oldest living Mayan descendant, one of the last ancient flute makers of their kind in Bali, and even lived with Quechua Indians on a floating grass island in Lake Titicaca, Peru to name a few. Most people do not realize that their tourist dollars can help provide income opportunities in communities around the world or donate back to disaster relief or help eradicate poverty. When I realized that my photography, travels, and workshops could also be giving back to local communities I felt compelled to do more. I realized that there are ways to travel and have fun at the same time while positively impacting conservation efforts and transforming lives.
How has this contributed to your career and success?
I am always inspired to create and to travel and to find ways to make money doing what I love to do. I think traveling “resets me” from getting wrapped up in my own personal bubble and it keeps me humble. I have learned that we make our own lives as complicated as they are and when I meet those who have far less than me, it doesn’t mean that they are not “rich”. The pursuit of wealth and status will only take you so far in life. The path to a happier, healthier and more balanced life is one that takes in a depth of life experiences and not just the accumulation of material wealth.
I was recently honored by the Discovery Channel UK to be named as one of the “richest people on Earth” amongst 19 other amazing global entreprenuers who have made a difference to their local communities, artists who have made their work their life, and offbeat outliers who have defied convention. This may be the best and most important accolade I have ever received in my career as a photojournalist.
Success is such an extensive term, how do you define it for yourself?
Success” to me is not based on getting the most money, status, or celebrity jobs, but based on if you are doing what you love everyday and creating an impact in the world. Success is collecting experiences, impacting and inspiring others, and being able to live the lifestyle that you want and have the freedom of time and creative freedom to make your own choices. I would choose this over a billion dollars any day…although I could help a LOT of people with a billion dollars!:)
What’s one piece of advice you’d share to females trying to do the uncommon and become firsts in their field through awards, entrepreneurial journeys, etc.?
I believe for all of us, not just me, that our fear and lack of confidence is usually the only thing that holds us back from the dreams we aspire to achieve in life. I wish I could go back in time and tell myself that I had more control over the types of jobs I wanted and to go brand myself as an adventure travel photographer from the beginning. Also, I would have explained that “success” is not based on getting the most money, status, or celebrity jobs, but based on if you are doing what you love everyday and creating an impact in the world. I would have said to be less hard on myself, to not compare yourself to others, and be ok with being unique and turn those feelings of envy and comparison into inspiration and motivation instead. If you want to be a pioneer, a “first” a trailblazer or outlier, that means that you don’t have footsteps or a path to follow and you have to blaze your own. So you have to get comfortable with being uncomfortable and know that at times it will be hard, but always rewarding. You basically just have to get out there and DO IT and make mistakes along the way. The good news is that there are many trailblazers out there that you can connect with to share ideas and mistakes with and to get advice. Finding a like-minded community and support group along the way is really important to do for your own sanity at times and to not feel as alone at times in your entrepreneurial journey.
What does honoring women mean to you and how can we continue to strive towards acknowledging more women and the work they are doing?
All issues in the world including poverty, climate change, violence, overpopulation and environmental issues all stem back to one common issue; girls’ education. If more women were lifted up out of poverty through education and being given opportunities to grow, teach others, and protect themselves and be honored then the world would be a much better place. I have always been passionate about volunteering with women, empowering and mentoring, and also through teaching by example. I consider myself a fearless female entrepreneur and traveler and explorer and I hope I inspire others to not fear getting out there in the world even when it can be uncomfortable as a women sometimes.
One of the ways that my business partner and I hope to continue to help the women we work with through Andeana Hats is by launching trips and homestay experiences that can be booked through our website. So not only can you order one of our hats, but you can book a trip to Peru to go meet the actual women who are making them and experience the Sacred Valley and a slice what their lives are like. We wanted to help create other sustainable ways these indigenous women can make money through their craft and I don’t know of any other fashion company who offers trips to check out the origin of their products. I think if people are more intentional and educated about how their clothing is made and where it comes from, that would help with changing our choices on where we buy our fashion; which is one of the most wasteful and polluting industries in the world. We also want to travel and source other amazing female artisans around the world who can make woven bands to adorn our hats, so we can be helping multiple communities around the world through Andeana. I am very excited to see where all of this will go!
Last but not least, how do you Lift + Rise?
I guess by picking myself back up again and again when I fall and never taking “no” for an answer. I always believe there is a way to get anything you want to get done. Sometimes it takes a harder and more creative solution to do things, but it can always be done. I hope to live by example and to always think about what service I can do that is for a purpose greater than myself. When you start thinking about things in the way of “how can I help YOU” and not, “what can you do for me” you will see that a shift will happen, more people will want to be around you and support you, and you will feel more fulfilled in what you are doing.
Watch Laura and Pat’s story of spreading empowerment, intention and sustainability here.