Meet Brianna!

We have been conducting staff interviews for the past few weeks to give you a better idea of the faces behind Awamaki! Take a few minutes today to learn about our Marketing and Communications Coordinator, Brianna.

Tell me a bit about yourself.

Bonjour! Je m’appelle Brianna, and my middle name is Kristi (as you can tell, Bri is currently learning French). I’m from outside of Detroit, Michigan. Novi, it’s halfway between Detroit and Ann Arbor. I went to Ohio University, in Athens. I went there because they had a very strong program for photojournalism; I was in the school of Visual Communications. I have a Bachelor of Science in Visual Communications with a concentration in Photojournalism. I didn’t want to stop taking Spanish, so I added a Spanish major and then my last year of college I added an Anthropology major as well, earning me a Bachelor of Arts degree as well.

After college, I started working for a study abroad company and I worked on their university relations team. I travelled across the Southern United States to meet with study abroad advisors, attend study abroad fairs and advise students about their opportunities to study abroad with the programs that we offered. I did a lot of academic advising, making sure that their study abroad was productive to their degree.

How did you find out about Awamaki?

I was coaching figure skating in college and one of my students was Peruvian. I was studying that last semester to pass my oral proficiency exam for my Spanish major and I had talked to my student’s family about practicing my Spanish and always wanting to visit South America. When my contract with my previous job was up, I was looking to go abroad but also trying to touch back to more Anthropology related fields. I was looking at anywhere I could work or intern to get experience. I was coming to Peru to stay with the family in Lima and join a field school in Ayacucho Peru, with the Peruvian Forensic Anthropology Team, focused on the internal armed conflict in Peru. I wanted to find something more long term for after I finished my field school, so I applied anywhere and everywhere that I could find relevant work in Peru. My friends in Lima actually found the job through a connection in the textile industry. Awamaki looked perfect and I found out I got the job four days before my flight left for Lima and packed up my entire life.

How long have you been with Awamaki?:

Since July 4th, 2017.

What do you do at Awamaki?:

I’m the Marketing and Communications Coordinator. I oversee all communications that we put out as a non-profit. I’m working on everything that we publish through different lenses and platforms. Whether it’s marketing for our sustainable tourism program, or our wholesale collection. I organize model photoshoots for our wholesale and go up the communities to take picture of the artisans during workshops or any of our tours. I also conduct interviews with the artisans and with the team to help tell the story to people outside the organization. I work a lot with donor communications, social media management and all the ways we can grow as a non-profit through marketing and social enterprise work. We want to try and work with the artisans and help them in the most sustainable way.

What is your favorite Peruvian food?

I’m going to go with papas a la huancaína or pachamanca, with tarí, exclusively.

What is your favorite thing about living in Ollantaytambo?

It’s easy to say things like “the view” and “the nature” and I appreciate those things but I think for me the hardest part about leaving is going to be leaving the people. They have made the most profound impact on my experience living here. I had never been to South America before moving here. Plopping yourself in a place that is steeped in a lot of rich culture and traditions is daunting but the people here are the most accommodating at helping you learn and figure things out. I feel like I have a family here. I lived with a host family my first month and having them and the people in general as a resource has been vital to me wanting to live here.

It’s the same guy that sells me eggs every time I go to the market. I went yesterday and he asked “where have you been?” People look out for you. I attended a baptism a couple months ago, and was invited to one of the artisan’s weddings.

I think [the best part of living in Ollanta is] the people, the pace of life and the culture. Not just being a tourist.

Do you have a story or event that stand out about living here?

Habitual flea problems. I attract the bugs, they love me.

We also used to have a monkey hang out in the office! Ramón, he wore a diaper and would sit at the sewing machine.  

What do you think the most important thing for empowering women is?

I’m a firm believer that “empowered women empower women,” so I would say that I think the most important thing for empowering women is the presence of strong women. Having women in leadership roles, and in general confident, strong, brave, daring women as role models I think is incredibly important part of women’s empowerment. Sometimes I think it is just about hearing each other’s voices and stories, supporting each other, woman to woman. When we stand together we come to know how strong we are, but the patriarchy does everything it can to not let us feel that on our own. What I’m saying is we need women. Women need women. I’ve been empowered as a woman just by being a part of this team and being constantly surrounded by incredibly capable, empowered, and inspirational women. That is something I never expected to gain from my position here, but probably one of my biggest takeaways from working with Awamaki.

What is the most interesting thing on your desk?

I’d probably go with my copious amounts of alpaca/llama paraphernalia: erasers, paper clips, note pads, etc…  

Do you have a fun fact?

I grew up figure skating competitively. I started when I was three-years-old and then started coaching at 16 up until I was 22. I have dreams here about being on the ice.

Have you read anything recently that you’ve really enjoyed?

Yesterday I finished The Jaguars Children, by John Vaillant. I also just finished Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari and Becoming by Michelle Obama and I was a huge fan of both of those as well.

What would your autobiography be called?

An Inside Look At Brianna Griesinger by Brianna Griesinger  

(Soon after this generic response she exclaimed: Outlander fan club followed me on Instagram today!)

What’s your favorite product from the Kay Pacha line?

Inti Tote in Lemon. I love the history of the textile and adore the color of it!

And your favorite quote?

“Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next, delicious ambiguity.” -Gilda Radner

Finally, what’s your spirit animal?