What if we told you could get fashion-forward shoes while making the world a better place? Well, Laura Viveros has you covered. The Colombian-born entrepreneur has combined our two passions—footwear and charity—to create Soles for Change, a company that offers comfortable shoes made from sustainable raw materials by artisans of Santander. Every single purchase of these stunning shoes, made by senior artisans, single mothers, and young apprentices from the northern-central region of Colombia, helps improve the lives of the talented artists behind each handcrafted design.
We recently talked to Viveros about what inspired her to start the company, her advice for young entrepreneurs, and much more. Read it all in our exclusive interview below!
Can you tell us a little bit about your company, Soles for Change, and how the idea came about?
Soles for Change is a brand that started in February of 2016; it's a product of a trip we took to Colombia during Christmas of 2015. We were always trying to find a way to help Colombia, and we were just walking on the street and saw a woman who was selling the shoes that we sell today. We asked her about them, and she said that she and a few other women made and sold them and that their company was close by. We decided that if we could show their product to the world we would help these women by providing a stable income and we would be offering consumers a shoe that is comfortable, trendy, and handmade.
That's amazing! How does it feel knowing that you're giving women, especially single mothers, a way to provide for their families?
It's just fascinating because—I mean I have a mom and a dad, but I have never experienced anything even close to that and forgive my language, but I think that they're just badass. To see how they work and collect money for their kids and take care of them by themselves... I believe that it's amazing. For us, it fills our hearts with joy to be able to do that. Now, it just feels like our responsibility to keep growing, to keep our product relevant, and to show the world that we want to continue to help them, along with more people.
How would you say your Colombian roots influence the color choices and the design of your shoes?
In everything! The fabrics are all developed and made by them. It’s technique, first of all, that has been passed down from generation to generation, and we don’t want to lose that at all. What they do is use fique and weave it with cotton to make the fabric softer. The roots are still there, and that’s part of our project, which is to give lessons to the younger generations of artisans, so they know what to do. The younger generation now, they want to go to the cities and don’t want to continue with the family business, and we feel it is important to keep the roots relevant.
What advice would you give Latinas who want to start their own business?
My first advice is to persevere. There are a lot of bumps in the road. I'm a banker, so I didn’t know anything about exporting, sales, or starting a company. We had no idea about anything! My advice is to ask around, there's always a little angel who knows how to do something, and they'll help you out. And if it's meant to be done, you'll find that person who will help you. I'll get home at 6 o'clock, and I don’t want to do anything, and I have a pile of emails, and I still answer them because I think about who we are helping and I'm like 'No, I have to do this.' My advice doesn't stop—it's all worth it. People always say they don’t have time. However, I feel like you'll always have a chance to do what you want to do. That's not even an excuse! Also, read a lot and YouTube a lot.
Are there any exciting projects that you're working on that you'd like to share with our readers?
Yeah, we're doing a Kickstarter that will probably start by the end of July. The whole purpose of it is to buy new machines to make the process faster, more productive so that [the artisans] can spend time with their families and start on other products besides shoes. Another thing that we want to do is take them all to see the ocean for the first time. We just want to help, by contributing to fulfill their dreams, by making their jobs more efficient and by supporting them.