Hey friends! Today I have a guest post from my friend Liz Bohannon, the co-founder of Sseko Designs (one of my faaaaavorite ethical fashion brands – I know you guys are QUITE familiar!) I connected with Liz via the internets a few years ago and then I had her on my podcast at the beginning of this year and she and I hit it off right away. I seriously love this girl. She has such a vibrant spirit, a generous heart, she’s driven, passionate, and she’s an incredible entrepreneur. She is making a lasting impact on this world in so many amazing ways! One of the things I love so much about Sseko is their Sseko Designs Fellows program. I wanted her to share with you guys today a little bit of her heart and what it looks like to become impact entrepreneurs through the Sseko Fellow program.
Definitely read her post and give Liz some love!! (And while you’re at it, take a listen to our podcast episode where I interview her and she shares more of her INCREDIBLE story!
When I was 22, I moved to Uganda to be a journalist and write about issues facing women living in extreme poverty. While there, I met an incredible group of young women who were testing into university but couldn’t afford to go. All of a sudden my general (and at times very overwhelming) interest in this massive social justice issue of global extreme poverty and gender inequality became a narrow-focused mission to help a few of Uganda’s brightest young women go to college and become leaders in their communities.
I designed a pair of strappy sandals and hired three young women: Mary, Mercy and Rebecca. I taught them how to make the sandals and I made them a promise: “If you make these sandals for next 9 months, I promise you’ll go to university in the Fall.” Luckily, they said YES. They started making the sandals and I moved back home to the U.S. and started selling sandals out of the back of my car.
And it worked! Today, we’re the largest manufacturer of footwear in Uganda and we’ve enabled 100 women to continue on to college and pursue their dreams. All by making and selling beautiful sandals, leather handbags and jewelry. (Seriously, take a look! Our products are on point! From Vogue Magazine to Good Morning America, people love our style as much as our mission!)
We’ve spent the last several years dreaming about “hijacking” the traditional overseas manufacturing model (which typically treats workers as a disposable commodity) to create community and opportunity for women in East Africa.
And now, we want to do the same thing here in the U.S. We want to hijack the traditional retail model to create community and financial opportunity for women right here at home. We want to redefine the old school direct sales model and use direct sales to “democratize” fashion and galvanize impact entrepreneurship through The Sseko Fellows Program.
What if, to become impact entrepreneurs, you didn’t have to have to invent a product or take out a second mortgage to fund your business?
What if you could start, grow, and scale your own impact enterprise and do it alongside of a sisterhood of likeminded women who will support you along the way?
There is an African proverb that says: To go fast, go alone. To go far, go together.
On our own, it is so daunting to think about making an impact in the lives of our sisters across the globe. But together, we can move mountains.
When a Fellow joins Sseko, she is paired with a Sole Sister in Uganda. All of the Fellow’s sales contribute directly towards a bonus scholarship for that woman that she can use towards university. All while the Fellow earns an income to fuel her own dreams.
Last year, the Sseko Fellows enabled us to TRIPLE the scholarship amount provided to our Sole Sisters. (This spring, I was able to take TEN Sseko Fellows on an all expenses paid trip to meet their Ugandan sisters!) Together, we’ve discovered a spark and we’re fanning the flame.
Our commitment to creating opportunity and community for women globally is something that fuels everything that we do here at Sseko.
If you are looking for your tribe–a global community of women who believe that by taking small steps of bravery we can be a part of making the world a little brighter– I want to invite you to join our sisterhood.
We can’t wait to take brave steps forward, together.