Travis Hartanov’s vocational journey began in high school, when he and two friends, Kohl Crecelius and Stewart Ramsey, were taught to crochet hats by Crecelius’ older brother, who had returned to Spokane from college and shared the new hobby he had learned. “It took us an entire Saturday to complete our first hats, but from that moment on we were hooked,” Hartanov, ’08, says.
The friends, avid snow-sports enthusiasts, began making hats to wear on the slopes. When their creations caught the attention of classmates, the trio began taking custom orders. A local newspaper caught wind of the young men’s exploits and dubbed them the Krochet Kids.
In 2007, the guys headed off to Uganda with yarn and hooks in hand. Upon arrival, they gathered their first group of students in a small cement room. “The climax of my vocational journey rests in the memory of that day,” Hartanov says. “It was on that day that a group of 10 ladies picked up crochet hooks and yarn for the first time; it was on that day that they realized there was hope for their futures; and it was on that day that I realized that my life would never be the same.
“I felt a very strong calling to start a nonprofit organization, Krochet Kids International,” Hartanov says. “And God taught me that through Christ, all things are possible, even if the journey is not easy.” Today, Krochet Kids employs more than 150 women in Uganda and Peru who work, pursue an education, and are mentored in business while they create crocheted products and give back to their communities through sustainable employment and empowerment. In 2012, KKI won the Chase Giving Award, which provided the organization with $500,000 to invest in new projects.