Sapia, formerly Piel Acida, was originally conceived in 1995 by Ana Piedrahita, an entrepreneur in Colombia's capital city of Bogota. Piedrahita had seen a box from Uruguay that was produced from dried orange peel, and recognized the potential for producing a wide array of unique and intriguing items from this material. She decided to pursue a business specializing in the design and production of the products. As the business grew, Piedrahita brought in business partner Javier Cardenas to provide additional professional management skills and to help in expanding the market for their products. The organization was formally registered in 2000.
Sapia employs 32 artisans directly, with another 50-plus artisans working independently. They also support an additional group of people through their purchase of orange peels, the raw material for their products. Colombia is among the highest per capita in orange juice consumption, which has spawned a strong demand for fresh-squeezed juice. These vendors would normally have to pay to discard the used peels, but now can actually earn additional income from selling them to Sapia.
Sapia has incorporated fair trade principles in their operation, as they seek to develop the artisan-based handicraft sector in Colombia. While Colombia has recently achieved a relatively good macroeconomic climate, people in the lower income brackets continue to face serious challenges. Colombia ranks low in income equality, and also possesses one of the highest number of internally displaced persons of any country in the world. They have used their sales growth as an opportunity to reach out to other artisan groups in rural areas of the country, and have worked diligently to move beyond their original orange peel products and create new lines based on tagua, corn husk, cotton thread and recycled materials.
In 2010, the organization changed its name from Piel Acida Cascaras de Naranja to Sapia. The name change reflects the depth and variety of products it offers, and a merger with Salvarte, a Bogota-based retail operation. The new name combines portions of the names of the two formerly separate organizations.
Ten Thousand Villages purchases orange peel and cornhusk ornaments and tagua nut jewelry from Sapia.
- Artisan Products