I am a native of South Dakota, but left for warm and sunny Southern California after finishing college, where I worked for an investment banking firm for many years. About 2005, I saw that Russia's economy was growing quickly and I wanted to take part. I lived in Moscow several times, but I spent about 9 years in southern Russia, a region I believed had great potential due to its weather, tourism, agriculture and resources. It was there on a bus in 2010, in the regional capital city of Krasnodar, where I met my beautiful, amazing, smart and talented Russian wife (Yes, I am objective!). Lena was born in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskiy (a mouthful and also more than 6,000 miles east of Moscow), but moved to Stavropol, about 180 miles from Krasnodar several years earlier.
Before this bus trip, I spent quite a bit of time bouncing around on other buses, as well as trains and taxis in order to explore and learn more about Russia's Black Sea region. About 6 years ago, in the coastal city of Tuapse, I saw these amazing socks that were comfortable, warm and nearly indestructible. I bought several pair off a very nice older couple from the Republic of Kabardino-Balkaria. They spent their winters in the Caucasus Mountains making the socks and other knits and their summers on the Russian Black Sea selling them to visiting tourists. Later, I gave the socks to family and friends in South Dakota and California. The feedback on the socks was tremendous. People loved the durability and natural comfort of the socks and distinctive colors and patterns of the dzhurabi.
In 2015, after we moved to the U.S., Lena and I talked quite a bit about the clothing produced in Kabardino-Balkaria. We recognized an opportunity to provide a unique and useful product at a reasonable price. Kabardino-Balkaria is remote, wild and spectacularly beautiful, but there is not much industry and, as you can see from the videos, the region is quite poor and underdeveloped. So, we like supporting the farms and small family operations that make the clothing we sell. Buyers can be sure that the animals are raised naturally and treated humanely and that the wool is pure and of high quality.
In addition to discovering socks from the Caucasus Mountains, I did quite a few other things in Russia, including buying and selling property and providing services to companies that were in Sochi for the 2 year period before the 2014 Winter Games. Lena, a lawyer, worked very closely with me on this project and was indispensable in our success. I also spent nearly 2 years in the nearby, and de facto, independent Republic of Abkhazia. In my time in Russia, I learned to speak passable Russian and also something about this fascinating, but often confusing and perplexing country. Finally, I made a lot of new friends and have a lifetime's worth of stories and experiences.