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People who see something that they want done and do are the people who create impactful change in their community. They leave a legacy by acting rather than sitting around and talking about it. I admire people who step out of their comfort zones and into the uncomfortable and unfamiliar to make things happen. My guest today is the epitome of a “doer.” She saw an opportunity to partner with others and brought that opportunity to fruition to make real, lasting change. Emily Connell Umanzor is the founder of Solo Hope. Solo Hope began in 2012 after Emily heard women in rural Honduras describe the challenges they face every day to overcome poverty. Solo Hope works with more than 10 women and two co-ops to create designs for the home and body. It was so exciting that Emily was able to join me in-person for this interview the day she returned to the States. It was a joy to connect in person, and I know you’re going to love hearing our chat! Join me to find out how Solo Hope empowers women and fosters opportunities for a safe and successful future.
Emily is from the southern United States but found herself in love with the country of Honduras. The seed was planted on Emily’s 10th birthday. She woke up with a feeling that the Lord was telling her to go to China. At 16, she had an opportunity to go to Honduras. When she arrived, she immediately felt right at home.
After learning about the culture and women in Honduras who were trying to raise their children with very little support and no job opportunities, her dream for Solo Hope came alive.
Because she witnessed a lot of men who were absent from their children’s lives, Emily never thought she’d marry a Honduran man. In 2016, she hit it off with a driver she contracted with to transport her teams. They’d met before but during one particular trip, they couldn’t stop looking at each other.
Emilee knew God gave her the word “Home” for 2016. While she kept saying it meant finding a home in God, she knew God also meant a home in marriage. Emilee and Ever were married in Honduras within that same year!
Emilee’s husband Ever doesn’t speak English, and it has given her children an opportunity to learn another language and culture at an early age. It’s such a beautiful picture of God’s creation.
God pulled on Emilee’s heart and showed her that women in Honduras needed jobs. She witnessed Honduran women receiving some aid, but once it was gone, they were right back in a vulnerable position again.
Emilee met with a Honduran woman named Dilcia in 2012 and created rough sketches of bracelet ideas. Dilcia had the skills to make the designs, but she didn’t have a market. Dilcia took Emilee’s designs and brought them to life.
Dilcia asked her best friend Maribel if she wanted to help make bracelets, and that’s how Solo Hope began. Emilee’s biggest privilege is being able to work with the women face-to-face and get to know them as friends too.
In 2013, Emilee quit her full-time job and moved to Honduras for four months to help work on a product line that could also be offered in the United States.
There were three artisans in 2013, and Solo Hope continued to add to the group as need or interest arose. They’re currently working with 10 artisans now and the women have really taken ownership of their work. When they need help, they look for other women in their community who need a job.
Solo Hope is more than just a business with a purpose. It’s a family too, and taking care of each other goes both ways. Emilee can confide in the women and the women can confide in Emilee. They pray for each other and regularly experience life together.
The weaving, hand-looming, and leather crafting is all traditional to the area of La Esperanza, Honduras. The artisan partnerships are all relationship based so that traditional skills are recognized and connected to a viable market.
Solo Hope products tell a story and the women work hard to create pieces that will last a long time, a timeless work of art that customers can enjoy for many years.
Products are mainly sold here in the US. Solo Hope is working hard to continue growing sales stateside to ensure that supporting women in Honduras stays strong.
Life in Honduras is a bit like stepping back in time in some ways. The roads are rough, the water sometimes gets shut off, but the best difference between living in Honduras and the United States is that people slow down to visit with each other for hours without feeling like any time is being wasted.
Social connections are much more about relationship and taking a lot of time to be with each other in person, no matter what work needs to be done.Neighbors do not feel inconvenienced with helping or stopping life to bring someone in like a family member.
Solo Hope wants to grow while balancing how they measure success. When things have been hard, it’s easy to wonder how the work can continue. God specifically called Emilee and Solo Hope women to lead their communities, and successful metrics are not only about sales goals.
When Emilee has felt like things are failing, God shows her that the community and women have experienced so much growth, despite any struggles with the business.
Almost all Solo Hope artisans have been impacted by alcoholism in some way. One woman shared with Emilee that her husband can be violent when he drinks, but now she is strong enough to stand up to her husband and for herself.
Solo Hope focuses on the fact that this means they’ve already succeeded. Emilee is also ready to tackle sales goals! Big things are in store for 2020, so be sure to check out Solo Hope and the work of their talented artisans!
Emilee shares what her “walk up” song would be, her strangest pet peeve, her favorite Honduran meal, and another important topic that Emilee is very passionate about. Stay tuned to hear Emilee’s poignant answer to what it means to her to run a business with purpose.
Emilee Connell-Umanzor started SoloHope in 2012 after listening to women in rural Honduras describe the challenges they face every day to overcome poverty. Today SoloHope works with 10+ women as well as 2 additional co-ops to create designs for home + body starting conversations that matter. Emilee and her family live full time in Honduras. It’s a somewhat unconventional life that feels normal, most of the time. Emilee is a South Georgia girl who loves a good baleada in Honduras but definitely misses Chick-fil-A too!