Soles4Souls is a not for profit global social enterprise committed to fighting poverty through the collection and distribution of shoes and clothing.
It’s estimated that 1.2 billion people around the globe live on less than $1.90 per day. 400 million of them are children. Everyday millions go without a way to generate a sustainable income to provide for themselves and their families, and everyday millions go without one of life’s most basic necessities: a good pair of shoes.
Since 2006, Soles4Souls has distributed over 26 million pairs of shoes in 127 countries and all 50 states in the U.S. The organization repurposes unwanted shoes that are otherwise destined for landfills and instead turns them into opportunity. New and repurposed shoes can provide short-term relief and long-term solutions to global poverty. Soles4Souls collects new shoes from retailers and manufacturers to provide relief to those in need who live without adequate footwear. Used shoes, donated by volunteers a few pairs at a time or through shoe drives, are sold to micro-entrepreneurs in developing nations to help start and sustain small shoe businesses (a micro-enterprise) to generate income to provide for themselves and their families.
As the saying goes, “one person’s trash is another’s treasure.” Soles4Souls has the unique ability to divert gently used shoes from landfills and instead create real economic change through its micro-enterprise program, giving entrepreneurs in developing nations the ability to sell gently used shoes to generate income.
One of Soles4Souls’ biggest success stories is in Haiti, through its work with the Haitian American Caucus (HAC); an organization providing education to youth and adults as well as micro-lending and resources for entrepreneurs. The shoes sold to HAC are subsequently sold to entrepreneurs to provide them with quality consistent product to start and sustain small micro-businesses. Marie Ange Espera is a client of HAC. Just a few years ago, she was living in a small shack with her daughter. She didn’t have a way to bring in reliable, steady income and was facing eviction.
Marie Ange soon found the HAC and financed her first micro loan to buy her first allotment of shoes. Today, Marie Ange is a proud business woman and a successful micro-entrepreneur. With the help of the Haitian American Caucus and Soles4Souls, she now has a thriving business selling used shoes and clothing. Because of her newfound success, Marie Ange has been able to build a home for her family, send her children to school and continues to grow her business every day.
Americans throw away more than 68 pounds of textiles per person per year. The EPA estimates only 15% is donated or recycled. Soles4Souls keeps shoes and clothing out of landfills and instead provides opportunity to thousands of entrepreneurs, helping the environment and building small businesses. This model creates real economic change in places where sustainable employment doesn’t exist. As a result, the Soles4Souls micro-enterprise model funds its operations to be able to provide short term relief through free shoe and clothing distributions to those in need around the world. These short and long term solutions work to wear out poverty and create opportunity around the globe.
Soles4Souls mission, vision and values are right in line with those of the Social Enterprise Alliance, using the market to foster micro-enterprise and sustainability. The organization’s CEO, Buddy Teaster, was recently elected to the national Social Enterprise Alliance Board of Directors. Moving forward, Soles4Souls looks forward to promoting and advancing the broader social enterprise movement.