I started the month of July by recognizing, and celebrating the Entrepreneurial Freedom we enjoy in the United States. As the Founder of ConsciousMillionaire.com my highest priority is to challenge and inspire others with the dual message. This conscious entrepreneur model is building a profitable business that not only provides great meaning and fulfillment to our lives, it also works towards making the world a better place. In so doing both everyone involved and society win.
My last blog post recognized 5 entrepreneurs whose business, and life's work exemplify those values (read more here). The feedback and support that article received exceeded anything I would have expected. It was nothing short of overwhelming -- in a completely positive way. For this reason, I would like to dedicate the entire month of July to sharing the stories of organizations that combine a profit motive with standing up to make the world a better place.
This week, we're talking high-fashion, African sandals...
Ssekodesigns.com was founded in 2009 by Liz Forkin Bohannan; she was then a recent college graduate who traveled to Uganda on a whim. Her intention was to learn and write about the extreme effects of poverty on the women of Africa. She came home with a sandal company.
Liz says that in her head, she wanted to offer the world what she had. She admits that was just a guise, and that what she really wanted was to learn, to understand and be changed.
"So I went. And while I was there... I changed. I broke. And I began (emphasis on began) to understand."
Liz explains that on this journey she ran across an incredible community of women, mostly her own age and they fast became friends. In Uganda, there is a 9-month break between high school and university enrollment; this gap is intended to allow time for qualified students to earn the money for tuition.
In this impoverished, and male-dominated society, it was a challenge for many of the young women Liz met to raise the funds they needed. These ladies were qualified, intelligent and driven to succeed. However, most could not continue their education due solely to a lack of funds. This is why Sseko Designs was born.
Liz talks about being blown away by the fact that these young women saw the opportunity to continue their education as a very special gift. They spoke about this in hopes of learning to love well: to love each other, to reconcile their lives and to step up and become leaders and change-agents, both in their communities and in their country.
The answer, Liz says, seemed so simple. She designed what she thought to be a beautiful sandal, with colorful straps that could be wrapped and tied in a hundred different ways. She wandered the streets and scoured the local markets looking for the supplies needed to put this together.
"I didn't know what I was doing. I laughed at myself, out loud, a lot. I also had a dramatic cry in the rain in the middle of a busy market because for three 14 hour days I had been looking for a tool to punch holes in leather. Luckily, it was pouring and I wasn't wearing mascara, so I don't think anyone could tell."
This is an incredible story already, and it resonates so much with the foundation of Conscious Millionaire, teaching that: you should live in a flow with life, a flow that brings synergistic moments, which almost magically provide answers, insights, "chance meetings" and resources you need. Be willing to journey with great intent to identify and take action on opportunities that resonate deeply with your heart-passion.
Your work should inspire and challenge you personally, while at the same time feeling like it is constantly opening the door to new possibilities -- ones that benefit you, others, and the world that we all share. It's okay to feel at times like you don't know what you're doing, to laugh at yourself and to cry, as Liz shared she did. Moreover, it is by staying committed and trusting in life's perfect timing, that you allow for your authentic path to unfold before you.
Since that first sandal, Sseok Designs has grown and touched the lives of many of those women in Uganda by providing employment and scholarship opportunities to women so that they can pursue their dreams.
To date, SSeko has enabled 47 women to continue to University. The business provides employment (alongside a comprehensive social impact program) to a team of 50. It does all of this with a financially self-sustaining model.
These SSeko Design African sandals, hand-made by women in Uganda are a shining example of how ethical fashion can help end the cycle of poverty. Fair trade and socially conscious fashion can be powerful agents of social change by empowering women all over the world.
Learn more, and shop SSeko Design Sandals and Handbags here.
J V Crum III is the founder of ConsciousMillionaire.com; as a business coach and speaker, he is sought after for his unique ability to help entrepreneurs and executives integrate their strengths and passions into a well-defined strategy for creating high profits and making a big difference in the world. J V holds an MBA, JD and a MS in Psychology; his best-selling book, "Conscious Millionaire: Grow Your Business by Making a Difference" is available now.