It’s been a brutal winter for most of the U.S., and for many countries around the world. Perhaps it’s time for a respite – time to dream of warm, sunny weather and complete relaxation. What better way than to ease back into a comfy string hammock. Here’s the perfect antidote, and an incredible story from one of our newest partners.In the spring of 2010, Joe Demin set out to Thailand, the “land of smiles”, to visit friends. Four flights and two boat rides later in the 9500-mile trans-global journey, Joe found himself on the island of Ko Lanta, in search of a map that would lead to the island’s most beautiful areas. The map was available at the hammock shop in the Old Town section of Ko Lanta. In the process of locating the map, Joe stumbled upon the beautiful, brightly colored string hammocks made by the Mlabri people of Thailand. His first experience in the hammocks sealed his interest. “It wrapped around like a velvet glove, like a hug from mom when you were little and had a long tiring day.” And the story of the Mlabri people intensified Joe’s resolve. A nomadic hunter-gatherer tribe with no concept of land ownership or relationship with the outside world, the Mlabri were known as the “The People of the Yellow Leaves” after their simple huts covered with interwoven banana leaves that dry and change to a bright yellow color. Their way of life was devastated as the lands around them were claimed and deforested. By 2009, their numbers had dwindled to just 300 and they were listed on the Endangered Languages list. Without the benefit of land or education, they were in dire straits. Impoverished and forced to work in slave-like conditions or faux “tourist shows” that charged visitors for a chance to view their “primitive ways”, the future appeared bleak for the Mlabri. Then, they were discovered by a missionary and a Swiss textile engineer who taught them basic business savvy and helped them adapt their natural weaving skills into specially designed hammock weaves. The beauty and comfort of the Mlabri Hammocks caught the eye of various visitors over the years, establishing a consumer following and several sales outposts in Asia. To read more about the Mlabri Tribe and their inspiring story of survival and recovery, please see the article on ShoestringVentures. When Joe heard the story of the people who created the hammocks, he knew that he wanted to go further than simply bringing a Mlabri hammock back to Boston. The story of the Mlabri people inspired his conviction to create the Yellow Leaf Hammock brand and create positive social change through sales of products that positively contributed to a sustainable lifestyle for the Mlabri Tribe. Seeing an amazing, high-quality product, created in a sustainable setting, justified his belief that a profitable company could succeed by benefiting the greater good. Yellow Leaf aims to use social entrepreneurship to help endangered ethnic groups secure a footing into the future — all from the comfort of a hammock. The Yellow Leaf Hammocks are functional works of art. Their brightly colored fibers and intricate woven patterns contribute to the beauty, strength and comfort of Yellow Leaf Hammocks. The master weavers who handcraft each hammock take great pride in their work and have engineered these to be the most comfortable hammocks on the market! Every hammock is produced in a healthy and family oriented environment and weavers are compensated fairly, earning double the average Thai wage. Joe has committed to offset the emissions created by shipping the hammocks from Thailand to his Boston warehouse, then on to his customers, by donating to Carbonfund.org and supporting our reforestation projects. “Do Good, Relax” and the Thai phrase “Sabai, Sabai” (translated roughly as No Worries!) are the key phrases that guide Yellow Leaf. And Joe anointed himself the “Chief Relaxation Officer”, to be sure that the message gets across! “Experience a vacation right outside your door” and treat yourself to the comfort, relaxation and escape of a Yellow Leaf Hammock.