SoleRebels piece on the World Vision Report

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Some folks believe that the apparel industry somehow is part of the problem when it comes to global poverty. To me giving someone a job and dignity is one of the best ways to fight poverty. I’ve yet to come across a better example of this than the shoe company SoleRebels in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

SoleRebels’ employees are paid about 300% more than other such workers in Ethiopia. All of the products that go into making a SoleRebels shoe are within a 60 mile radius of the city. As Bethlehem, the founder of SoleRebels, says, “We are green by heritage.”

The piece airs on loads of radio stations across the country this week. It’s my first full length audio feature. Boy was it a lot of work. So, the least you could do is…

Give it a listen. Check out the slideshow. Go buy a pair of SoleRebels.

 
10 comments
Kristi Scott says:

Awesome job, Kelsey. Such an encouraging story. We often forget that those within a community, with the right resources, can transform their own community.

Catherine says:

I agree with the sentiments raised here. Then I clicked on the SoleRebels link. It is probably a matter of taste but I’m not sure the style of those shoes really transcends international boundaries. That is fine, but I think a commodity is a more complicated object than merely something you put on for social justice. People don’t wear TOMS because of the one for one, that makes them feel extra ‘good’, but they wear them because they are trendy right now and they fill a very particular niche in the shoe market. I think the arguments here are great, but they are also simplifying the problem by implying that a SoleRebel pair of shoes and a pair of TOMS are commensurate to the initial buyer. How would you parse these business models in relation to the knowledge of what will sell?

Catherine,

Very good point. TOMS huge success has been because of more than just their BOGO model. I’m not a fashion expert so I hesitate to comment on style and trends, but I will comment on comfort. Have you worn a pair of TOMS? I know they have many more styles now, but I have a pair of their original style and they’re not comfortable. They’re footwear equivalent of wearing cardboard on your feet.

I’ve had the pleasure of hearing Blake (the founder of TOMS) talk about the origin of the company. The BOGO model is essential to the company’s success. It got them immediate press and won the attention that led to the company featured in a nationwide AmEx commercial. It also doesn’t hurt that Blake was able to leverage his reality star fame (he won The Amazing Race).

Maybe style had something to do with TOMS huge success, but so did their BOGO model and a whole host of other factors.

SoleRebels continues to grow, but will likely never reach the popularity of TOMS. They might sell less shoes, but I believe they are changing more lives.

Aria says:

On the TOMS site under the FAQ, and again under Product and Sizing, it talks about where TOMS are made (Ethiopia & Argentina where only giving shoes are produced, and China). It also says that TOMS adheres to the human rights standards and have people go check up on the factories. What are the human rights standards exactly? I’m betting all companies have to say that they do all these things in order to have their products made there, but how do we make sure they are actually following through? How do consumers know, with any company, that they are actually inspecting their factories properly? I do not dislike TOMS, in fact I think that what they are doing is good. However, it’s kind of a “good, better, and best” situation. By the looks of SoleRebels, what they are doing is best. They advertise the fact that they are provide excellent jobs for Ethiopians.

Aria says:

On the TOMS site under the FAQ, and again under Product and Sizing, it talks about where TOMS are made (Ethiopia & Argentina where only giving shoes are produced, and China). It also says that TOMS adheres to the human rights standards and have people go check up on the factories. What are the human rights standards exactly? I’m betting all companies have to say that they do all these things in order to have their products made there, but how do we make sure they are actually following through? How do consumers know, with any company, that they are actually inspecting their factories properly? I do not dislike TOMS, in fact I think that what they are doing is good. However, it’s kind of a “good, better, and best” situation. By the looks of SoleRebels, what they are doing is best. They advertise the fact that they are provide excellent jobs for Ethiopians. I wholeheartedly agree with your last statement in your message to Catherine. I wish you and SoleRebels success in your endeavors to inform and improve the world.

Andi says:

I have known about TOMS (and Bobs) for a while, but have never done much reading on it. I agree that in reality a much more sustainable model, and one that is more likely to generate long term economic growth is a more localized one like that of SoleRebels. As TOMS has been such a huge success (as a shoe seller), I’m surprised that they put more emphasis on the manufacturing process other than just adhering to human rights and living wage standards. That being said, I have to agree with Catherine. If SoleRebels hopes to expand in the international market, they need different designers who can target broader demographics. I want to support SoleRebels, but I’m also a young professional American woman with an eye for current, yes superficial, trends, and I just don’t care for the look of SoleRebels shoes. There is certainly a specific demographic who does prefer the look of SoleRebels, and that’s great, we are all entitled to our preferences. But if I were to draw some quick associations with the shoes I would say, “youth pastor, rasta, skater, or earthy computer programer.” If SoleRebels does want to expand, they should try to market a more feminine design, or, if they have not already, send a pair to Emma Stone or another up and coming Hollywood Sweetheart. There is a fine line between telling consumers what to buy, and “genuine” consumer preferences.

Tess says:

Consumers are always told what to buy. Like you said andi, if they send a pair to emma stone or someone similar and they wore them, solerebels would become all the rage and you would buy them whether you like the style or not. Maybe you should be starting a trend… It could do a lot of good.

Miss Mama says:

I just went to Amazon, and those sandals are really cute… and right now they’re really cheap! I was looking to buy a pair of TOMS but had been having a conversation with another mum about how quickly the damned things fall apart… we were saying, “What’s the point of handing these out to kids anywhere else? They don’t last two months in the U.S.A. on a perfectly modified play yard… how in hell do they hold up on ACTUAL SOIL?????”

Yes. That’s EXACTLY what we said.

Showing that we missed the whole point of, “give a kid a pair of shoes, he wears shoes for a day” vs. “a job with decent wages means you can buy your own shoes and possibly pick a pair that will get you through most of the year.”

Toms are comfy, but I wear Old Navy flip flops (I don’t want to know who made them, but I do, but I don’t) so when I say something is comfortable, understand that my feet are used to the sidewalk with a sliver of foam overlay.

This is why I LOVE the Internet… now I have something to really think about. Thank you so much!

Sarit says:

People, why criticize TOMS? They are doing something good! I don’t see Nike or puma doing something like this (if they do, I’m taking my words back)
Yes, SoleRebeles alo came up with a fantastic and some will say even better idea, but let’s celebrate both. Any good is good.

I know this website gives quality based posts and other material,
is there any other website which presents this data?

Let your voice be heard!