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Leigh Morlock, Creative Director and Co-Founder of Push Pull Cambodia (INTERVIEW)

— August 24, 2011 — Social Good
Leigh Morlock is the Creative Director and Co-Founder of one of SocialBusiness.org’s most recent heavy-hitters in terms of views this week, Push Pull Cambodia, a social enterprise that sells hand-dyed fashion accessories and home textiles. By empowering Khmer artisans with a market to produce Ikat designs, Leigh Morlock and her team at Push Pull are able tackle issues of poverty by creating long-term employment opportunities.

We interviewed Leigh Morlock on how she the business model for Push Pull Cambodia came to fruition and how she stays in tune with her spiritual side by practicing yoga, listening to Adele and taking raw cooking lessons in her downtime.

Four Questions with Leigh Morlock

1. How did the idea for this business model come about?

The idea was sparked from a friendship between the owner of Push Pull Cambodia, Dan Flickinger, and our Field and Operations Manager, Kongkea Chhay.

Dan was on a holiday in Siem Reap when he met Kongkea, an eager and smart tuk-tuk driver. This initial meeting blossomed into a mentorship that encouraged Kongkea to pursue his educational goals.

In a later visit to Cambodia, Dan met Kongkea’s family in Takeo District, the historical hub of Ikat weaving in Cambodia. Dan was at once impressed with the high level of skill on display and saddened by the poverty of the region.

This visit, and a gift of silk Ikat from Kongkea’s mother to Dan, became the catalyst for Push Pull Cambodia. Weaving is a way of life in Takeo; there is at least one wooden handloom in each home.

We want to celebrate and foster the skill that already exists in Takeo. We founded Push Pull Cambodia to link skilled Khmer artisans to Western markets.

Our goal is to stimulate a renaissance of Cambodian Ikat. This will provide long-term employment and result in improved quality of life for our artisans and their families.

2. How did you decide to join this sector?

I joined this sector when I moved to Cambodia in 2009 to help a local NGO explore the viability of a weaving project. The NGO served as an incubator and after six months, we decided to launch Push Pull Cambodia as a social enterprise in order to harness the strengths of business (flexibility, adaptability, market reliance) to affect development.

3. How do you get your inspiration?

I’m a bit of a creative dumpster diver. I endlessly and relentlessly search for cool, new, dynamic, heartwarming, and soul-stirring ideas, art and design.

A few of my current favorite places to gather inspiration: Bangkok, Pinterest, Trend Union, Seth Godin’s blog, Stylesight Blog, HonestlyWTF and TrendLand.

I’m also very inspired by Cambodia -– the countryside, the architecture, the grills and gates that surround most houses, and the spirit of openness and warmth that radiates from the people who live here.

Our patterns and products are inspired from a mix of East and West. We like to blend the best bits from Cambodia and abroad.

4. How do you reset yourself to be creative? Do you have any rituals?

I do! I am obsessed with a new retreat center that opened just outside of Siem Reap, Hariharalaya. Every other Saturday they offer a day retreat that consists of morning yoga, a raw or vegan cooking class, and time in the afternoon to relax. I love having this time to unplug.

On a more regular basis, I usually choose one or two nights each week to reset and regroup. I put lemongrass and lavender in an oil burner, turn the lights down low, and journal while listening to soothing music (hello, Adele!) or watch a television show that requires low mental energy. This is my time to turn off and tune out.
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