It was a pleasure to have recently spoken with Cinthya Flores, founder of Utz Threads, a Bay Area based business with partners in Guatemala. I first discovered Utz Threads on an online listicle offered by California.Com. From there, I became immersed in Flores’s company site, where readers can find a lovely array of hand-woven accessories, bags, and more. Flores gave me extensive insight into how these products are made, and the missions and values of Utz Threads.
For starters, Flores talked a bit about the Bay Area side of the business, and why she chose to set up Utz Threads here. “The Bay Area has a lot of opportunities for products like Utz Threads. There’s [an] appreciation for diversity and cultures, and I’ve been able to share that with folks.”
Flores also explained what it takes to be the founder and to run Utz Threads. One of the foundational steps was beginning to work in 2017 with the Women’s Weaving Cooperative in Chichicastenango, Guatemala – Ut’z Bat’z. Chichicastenango is, “a small town in the highlands of Guatemala.” The word, Ut’z, “means good in Maya Quiché” and inspired Flores’s naming of her own company. For context, the Maya Quiché are a group of indigenous peoples who have a very prominent presence in Guatemala in particular, and weaving is an integral part of Maya Quiché culture as a timeless, generational tradition.
Flores discussed how Ut’z Bat’z has existed as a weaving cooperative for over 15 years now. They worked in collaboration with other partners before Flores moved to Chichicastenango for a year and established Utz Threads. One of the reasons that Flores decided to start Utz Threads was to foster revenue and support for the weaving cooperative in Chichicastenango. Selling their handmade products in the States was the primary strategy for accomplishing this.
“What I enjoy about business is the opportunity for people to create their own opportunities. Especially in a market like Guatemala where Indigenous communities have been exploited in the textile market for so long, Utz Threads creates space for women to build their own job opportunities while receiving fair pay and having full autonomy in their work.”
The products offered by Utz Threads and woven by Ut’z Bat’z are Maya Quiché. As such, these products are “deeply related to who” the women in the weaving cooperative are, as well as, “to their culture.”
“They get to implement traditional cultural practices while also making a living for themselves and their children. It just felt like a win-win all around, and to be able to support that was really fulfilling for me.” The win-win for Flores is a relationship fostered in which businesswomen from different parts of the world can support each other while sharing knowledge and spreading awareness about Maya culture, specifically Maya Quiché culture.
As stated above, one of the driving missions of Utz Threads is to intentionally, “focus the content that we share and the information that we share on how everything is connected to the Maya culture. The weaving practice. Even the style of weaving is very specific, not just to Maya culture, but to Quiché culture.” Utz Threads highlights this specific Quiché weaving style with the hopes of showing people that Maya culture is not just one uniform, singular entity.
For a visual example of part of the weaving process that goes into creating the handmade products available at Utz Threads, check out the following video:
Flores describes Utz Threads as a three-way support system in which the company is the connecting bridge between consumers and Ut’z Bat’z, the buyer “is offering financial support,” and the weaving cooperative is “offering their ancestral knowledge.”
I encourage readers to explore Utz Threads and the handwoven products offered that are created by Ut’z Bat’z. There is a plethora of beautiful, unique items perfect for “everyday use,” like the ring bag collection or laptop cases. Each product contributes to the fulfillment of the three-way support system, women empowerment, and “economic empowerment” at the center of the missions and values guiding Utz Threads.
Utz Threads: https://utzthreads.com/
Utz Threads: https://utzthreads.com/pages/about-us
Utz Threads: https://utzthreads.com/collections/ring-bag-collection
Utz Threads: https://utzthreads.com/collections/laptop-cases