Two years ago Rob Hamm and Tracey Krause along with their two children relocated from Winnipeg to Cotacachi, Ecuador. Their goal as a family was to experience a new culture, travel, and learn a new language—which they’ve successfully done. But, there was a catch. Rob and Tracey are only in their 40s and still needed to earn an income to support their family.
In preparing for their change in lifestyle, Rob took his interest in photography to the point where his photos could provide income. Several months before coming to Ecuador he began submitting photos to a few stock agencies with the intention of building his portfolio with shots of his new country.
Tracey didn’t know exactly what she would be doing for income but she did know that she wanted to be involved in helping women develop their businesses. “At first I thought I could be involved with microfinance in Ecuador. But once I got here, I found the need was more in marketing, especially in helping women to find markets outside of Ecuador,” Tracey says. With this in mind, Tracey’s business, ArtisansintheAndes.com was born. Through her online store Tracey is now able to offer fair trade jewelry and other products from local indigenous artisans to the North American market.
Moving to Ecuador has allowed Rob and Tracey to turn their passions into businesses, but it hasn’t come without a bit of effort. Rob always has his camera at the ready and since his arrival in this mountain village he has snapped photos of everything from local people…to abstract images and colors…to insects and animals. He now has 21,000 photos submitted to more than 30 stock agencies.
Tracey built her business from the ground up while learning how to create and maintain a website. She also quickly became adept at marketing her products and she found a fulfillment center to store and ship her inventory.
It took a good three months for the business to get up and running to the point where Tracey was starting to make sales, but now it is a reliable source of income and still growing. In fact, there has been enough demand for her handmade goods that she has opened a second online store, MyWholesaleBoutique.com, to fill the niche created by other businesses looking to place large orders.
You would think that three businesses would be more than enough to keep the family busy, but the couple’s teenage son Nik has gotten in on the action as well. He has his own online store which sells hand-woven bracelets from Ecuador. The money he earns goes towards funding his work and travels with a social justice charity.
But the real rewards received by the couple don’t come in the form of money. “I’ve been able to see incredible scenery that’s not available in the flat prairies at home in Manitoba and I enjoy speaking with the farmers and the people on the street,” says Rob.
According to Tracey, “The best part of my business is finding artisans. I enjoy getting to know them, learning about their craft and helping them to build their business. We thought we were coming here with something to give and instead we have received a great blessing.”
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