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February 3, 2010

How it all began...

Once upon a time, a Southern girl with big dreams founded a small beauty company inspired by global beauty traditions.

With hard work and dedication the venture blossomed into Bella Luccè. The company transformed founder Lela Barker into quite the little globe-trotter. She chased big contracts, new development opportunities and indigenous beauty ingredients around the world. Lela often found herself captivated by the traditions and people of the places she visited from Mumbai to Athens.

However, Lela was completely enchanted when an impromptu visit landed her in the gorgeous, sea side village of Essaouira, Morocco. After a week of exploring the beaches, scouring the souks and making many wonderful friends Lela reluctantly returned home to the United States. She promised herself to return soon.

Unable to quell her Moroccan wanderlust, Lela returned just a few months later. She hired one of her Moroccan friends, Hassan, as a private driver and translator and set off on an adventure to discover the beauty riches of the region. Criss-crossing nearly all of Morocco, Lela explored Rhassoul clay mines in the Atlas Mountains, watched argan nuts ground into oil near Marrakech and learned about botanical essential oil distillation near Khemisset.

During the same visit, Lela spent a day with local school children in a remote village in the Moroccan countryside. The two room school house had no library, no computers, no overhead projectors, no smart boards. The school had neither heat nor air conditioning. There were no crayons, no jump ropes, no playground equipment, no hot meals. The students, those that can afford the $50 per year tuition, walk or ride the family donkey between two and four kilometers one-way to reach the school.

The teachers leave their homes and families during the week and travel to the rural area to aid in the development of these children. The women share the most basic living quarters. On less than $400 per month, the teachers must provide for their transportation to and from the school, their food while at the school, and all of their family expenses at home. The “teacher house” has no heat, no air conditioning, no refrigerator, no computer, no running water, no stove, no cabinetry.

The tenacity and commitment to learning of the 156 students and their dedicated teachers left an indelible impression on the American. Lela planned for her company, Bella Luccè, to adopt the Moroccan school. However, she soon realized there was more work to be done than her small beauty company could tackle alone.

Lela returned home to her family and business determined to stay somehow connected to the country and its people. She brought as much of Morocco as she could carry in her luggage home to share with friends and family—gorgeous Berber blankets, hammered silver earrings and embossed leather poufs.

Amidst the “ooh’s” and “aah’s”, a flood of people slipped in “bring-me-back” requests for her next trip. Always a people pleaser, Lela attempted to fill the requests immediately. Yet the online prices for the Moroccan goodies she’d just purchased so reasonably left her gobsmacked.

Yet, with the sticker shock, came inspiration:

What if Lela could employ Hassan to shop for the most exquisite Moroccan luxuries, pay the artisans well for their work, ship the goods stateside and sell it at reasonable prices? Most importantly, what if all the profits could be returned to the Moroccan people to help them with the basics so many take for granted such as clean water, education and health care?

Lela immediately phoned Hassan, her plans tumbling out with wild enthusiasm. Hassan simply and humbly replied “Alhamdulillah” (thanks be to God).

And so it began…

From Morocco With Love: our way to share the rich culture and remarkable beauty of Morocco with the rest of the world, to the direct benefit of the Moroccan people.

All products offered on this website are handcrafted by true artisans in Morocco who are paid fair wages for their work. Lela and Hassan hand select each item, wrap them beautifully and then send them off to you, accompanied by a storycard detailing the history of the piece and its place in Moroccan culture. All profits are returned to the indigenous people, in the form of school supplies, scholarships, working animals, dental exams and new construction designed to provide them with the same opportunities we often take for granted each day.

From Morocco With Love, holds nonprofit status within the state of South Carolina. We minimize overhead expenses by utilizing a warehouse and fulfillment staff already in place at Bella Luccè. All profits are returned three times per annum to various villages in Morocco and we document the entire process for you via this website. Our sincere hope is that you, too, will begin a torrid love affair with Morocco and be inspired to make choices each and every day that serve the greater good of all people. Our deepest thanks for being a part of our dream…

lela_signature_scan_mod.jpg Hassan_Signature.jpg
Lela Rain Barker & Hassan Akhiyad

"We must be the change we wish to see in the world..." -Mahatma Gandhi

Posted by Lela at February 3, 2010 10:05 AM

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Lela, I followed your time in Morocco and am so excited about this new venture. In reading this writeup, it brought tears to my eyes. I am stressed all the time about falling short in paying my bills and to hear that it only takes $50 a year to educate a child humbles me. I will no longer complain for my child and I have so much. I look forward to seeing the new site, following your journey and I will also make a committment via my site to sponser a child from Morocco.


Posted by: Melissa at February 3, 2010 3:42 PM

Congratulations Lela! Just got your email. I'm over the moon for you and can't wait to buy something! Still interested in featuring you at my blog, so let me know what to do next. Go!!

Posted by: Donna Maria Coles Johnson at February 5, 2010 10:56 AM

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