Webster Thomas grad is making the world a better place — one hammock at a time

24 Jul

I went to a hammock party the other day.

Never heard of a hammock party? Don’t worry. I hadn’t either, and when I received the invitation I had no idea what to expect. Was it going to be like a Tupperware party? Would there be a bunch of middle-aged ladies sitting around in hammocks, sipping wine and discussing the relative tensile strength of hemp versus kite string?

Fortunately, it was nothing like that. Instead, when I arrived at the party house and walked around to the back yard, I was struck by an amazing sight: Dozens of intricate, hand-woven hammocks hanging all around the yard, bursting with colors as though a rainbow had exploded and doused the entire scene in crimson, blue, green and yellow.

The party’s host was Colin Johnson, a 2011 graduate of Webster Thomas High School who now attends the University of Dayton, majoring in entrepreneurship. Colin is a man with some big ideas who wants to make the world a better place.  And he plans to do it with hammocks.

The party was a grand kick-off event for Colin’s new business, Hammocks That Help. The idea grew from his two-fold desire to start his own business, while at the same time giving back to people in need.

Colin spent much of his first year at school figuring out exactly how to accomplish both those goals.  He really wanted to delve into some kind of service project, but finding the right one proved difficult.  Finally, after months of research, hundreds of emails, and a trip to Latin America, he landed on the perfect solution. It was an idea, he said, that would have a “larger and longer impact, would benefit a local Nicaraguan business, and give me the entrepreneurial experience I was looking for.”

That idea was Hammocks That Help.

The hammocks themselves come from a very talented craftsman in Masaya, Nicaragua, whom Colin met with personally to arrange the deal. Colin plans to import 100 hammocks at a time for resale here in the States. And this is where the “giving back” part comes into play (and it’s really cool).

Through his research, Colin learned that Nicaragua is the second-poorest country in the Western Hemisphere after Haiti, and the lack of safe housing there is a huge problem.  He witnessed the deplorable living conditions himself during his travels through the country last spring. “Pretty much their houses are four posts, with plastic wrap wound around them,” he said, “and their roofs are anything they could get their hands on.”

Felix, Margarita and their daughter Seylin will benefit from the first house built with funds from Hammocks That Help.

So Colin has partnered with a non-profit organization called the 4 Walls Project, which is dedicated to helping change the lives of families in the rural town of El Sauce, Nicaragua, by building homes. The group has already constructed 14 or 15 simple homes, but their funding has run dry. Colin has pledged to get that funding stream going again by donating half of his proceeds from the hammock sales.

For every 100 hammocks sold, one complete new home will be built. The first one will be for a young couple, Felix and Margarita, and their one-year old daughter Seyling.  So when you buy one of those first 100 hammocks, it’s like you’re making a little investment in that family’s future.  That’s pretty sweet.

The hammocks come in medium, large and family sizes, and start at $70. Find out more at hammocksthathelp.com, and if you’re interested in purchasing one, you can email Colin at csjohnson5@yahoo.com.

Entrepreneur Colin Johnson relaxing in one of his hammocks.

A look inside of Felix and Margarita’s current home.

 

Each new hammock owner gets a unique laminated card explaining which tells the “Hammocks That Help” story.

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