Categorized | Social Entrepreneur

GreenSoul Shoes – shoe underprivileged children around the world.

I have co-founded a company called GreenSoul Shoes, which is a social enterprise where our mission is to shoe underprivileged children around the world in a sustainable fashion. We do this by working with local artisans from developing nations to produce a 100% up-cycled sandal (that is a sandal that is entirely made out of rubber tires and inner tubes with no staples, pins or glues). For each one that we sell, we give one away to an underprivileged child in need in that same community. Our goal is to shoe 1 million children in five years. You can find out more about us at: www.greensoulshoes.org.

We currently sell our recycled sandals for $45 and we will be introducing many other recycled products in the coming weeks. This has become a hot item because it is as ecological as it is charitable – and all for under $50 bucks! You can buy our initial line of sandals here: http://bit.ly/buy_recycled_stuff

MY STORY:

I am a serial entrepreneur, having successfully created, financed and launched two online technology companies, bCorner.com, PinoyDolyar.com, and a real estate company, Ong8, LLC. bCorner.com creates marketplaces for other websites including BusinessWeekOnline.com and GoldsGym.com. PinoyDolyar.com is a Filipino-based technology venture that assists overseas Filipinos sending money back to the Philippines. Before starting these ventures, I was an attorney specializing in structured finance at Brown & Wood, LLP and a litigation associate at Wilson, Elser, Moskowitz, Edelman and Dicker. I hold a J.D. degree from Fordham University, School of Law and a B.A. degree from Trinity College at the University of Toronto.

“About five years ago I visited a place in Manila, Philippines. At one point, I went to a place called ‘Smokey Mountain,’ a shantytown built on a garbage dump. One of the first things that struck me was the huge columns of rubber tires stacked up, one against another, in the different corners of the dumpsite.

As I continued walking amongst the dumpsite, I saw dozens of shoeless kids kicking around an old soccer ball with bare feet. One of the kids stepped on a rusty circuit board and cut his foot. A little horrified, I had my cousin drive me to a local department store, where I bought out the entire line of kids shoes and headed back to Smokey Mountain

Throughout my travels through the rest of SouthEast Asia, I became keenly aware of what locals wore as footwear., I noticed a number of people wearing sandals made out of rubber tires. It dawned on me that local shoemakers were reclaiming refuse tires to create footwear–the same ones I had seen stacked at the dumpsite. The opportunity to clean up the world, shoe shoeless children, and connect two stakeholders in the same community was one I could not resist.”

After I returned back to New York City, I enrolled myself in a footwear manufacturing class with Emily Putterman (who later became a board advisor to GreenSoul Shoes). She teaches footwear manufacturing at Parsons School of Design, Pratt Institute and the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT). If you want to learn about making footwear in NYC, she’s pretty much the only game in town. Although we made a pairs of women’s stilettos, the process was important, as was learning about the vocabulary about footwear manufacturing.

HOW WE GOT FUNDED:

We received our seed capital by writing our business plan. Wait, hold on a second, did you say that you received capital for doing something that any business owner should do? The answer is yes. After writing our business plan, we simply submitted and entering business plan competitions – it didn’t matter which ones, any business plan competition that we could get our hands on we applied to. To date, we have gotten the following results:

SO HOW MUCH DID YOU EARN?

First place Fordham Business Plan Competition: $10,000
Second Place Queens Business Plan Competition: $6,000
First Place Brooklyn Business Plan Competition: $3,000
Finalist Green Business Competition

Top 20 – Forbes Boost Your Business Plan Competition

So for entering in these four business plan competitions, we have earned almost $30,000 in seed capital, which isn’t a lot, but much more than we need. Best of all, this money comes with no strings attached – meaning if I wanted to, I could go out and buy that Porsche 911 that I’ve had my eyes on.

We opted to fund the company to continue our social and ecological mission. In the last year, we have cleaned up our supply chain to be able to meet retailer’s orders, and are not seeking to go nationwide with our recycled sandals.

OUR FIRST SHOE DROP:

We did our first donation of our first batch of shoes to school children from the Philippines Christian Foundation in Navotas City, Philippines. The children were really excited and the school had them perform a thank you dance for us. Overwhelmingly, the people are excited to have us join them in their community and we are excited to work with them. The location was set in a community of 500 to 1.000 folks who lived in a local cemetery which was kind of macabre as there were open graves which were waiting to be reused. There was also a section of housing built on stilts that extended into the water–the living conditions were still extremely rough and many sections of the bamboo floors were coming apart–making it important to look where you placed your foot. By the time we left, however, we had over a hundred smiling faces and a community that had something new to celebrate. It has been a great week for our team over at GreenSoul Shoes and we are pretty excited about next steps!

I understand the phrase “global citizenship” much more deeply today than I did a few years ago. My teammates and I have traveled different paths in a diverse global environment and we have come to better understand our commonalities. A large part of the reason why we are doing GreenSoul Shoes is to share with others our journey to better understand the phrase, “global citizenship.” I suppose one way of defining it is to take a macro view of the world and the planet that we live in.

If you or anyone you know is a legitimate shoe rep or have contacts in the retail shoe industry, contact us! Furthermore, you can help by merely hitting our website, joining our mailing list, and if you like what you see, support what we’re doing by buying something.

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