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Shopping (one of my favorite things to do)! I’ve always loved finding the perfect accessories but as I grow older, my shopping style has evolved. Before, the most important factor was PRICE. Don’t get me wrong, I still adore a good sale, but lately I find myself caring more about quality. Not just in terms of the product itself but the company that I’m buying from as well.
Rather than going directly for the price tag, I wonder about the company I am buying from. How do they treat their employees? Where do they source their materials from? Do they give back to the community in any way?
So when I heard about this incredible company called Sseko Designs, I had to learn more. It was easy to see at the first glance that this is a company dedicated to ethics and empowerment.
What Is Sseko Designs
Sseko is an ethical fashion brand that hires women in Uganda to make sandals, handbags and accessories. This opportunity enables them to earn money through dignified employment that will go directly towards their college education. The products are offered online or through in home parties via Fellows, or consultants. The company was founded in an effort to generate income for young woman living in Uganda with the specific goal of helping them earn scholarship money for college. While also providing a business opportunity for women here in the United States.
The company provides an opportunity for women in Uganda to earn money to pay for an education at a University. 50% of their monthly salary goes into a savings account that they will be able to access when tuition is due. At the end of their 9 month working term with Sseko, the company will match 100% of the savings with a scholarship. How incredible is that? I personally would have been over the moon to have had something like that offered when I began my higher education.
Sseko is creating a way to not only educate these women but to create employment opportunities that are rare in the area. Read some of their inspirational stories here.
In The U.S…
Sseko is also providing financial freedom and opportunities for women here in the U.S. These consultants, referred to as Fellows, are taking big leaps toward growing their own business in support of themselves AND their families. As a stay at home mom, this is something that I can appreciate. It creates a way for mothers to add to their own identity. They go from being Mom all day to being their very own boss!
To deepen the connection and meaning in their business, each fellow even gets paired with a young woman in Uganda. This means that a part of her sales will contribute directly to the scholarship fund of that young woman.
I’ve partnered with a good friend of mine, Lacy Dear, to spread the word about Sseko Designs. The company has inspired her to become a Sseko fellow. See her interview below!
1. In your opinion, what really sets Sseko apart from other clothing/accessory businesses?
I believe the heart and mission of this company, as well as the impact it is having on women in East Africa, truly sets it apart from other businesses I have seen. This is what attracted me to Sseko in the first place. I was looking for a way to help end poverty and the oppression of women globally. I was desperate to find a way to get involved and to give back, but as a stay at home mom I was unsure of how I could actually do this. Then I reconnected with a childhood friend through Facebook. We began discussing the unethical practices in the fashion industry and she mentioned that she had become a Fellow for a company called Sseko. I began doing some research into this company and fell completely in love with what I found. I spent the next month thinking and praying about it. I had tried other MLM companies before and had sworn them off all together. I really wasn’t wanting to start another work-from-home business and my husband was very hesitant about the idea as well. But I simply couldn’t get the mission of this company and the impact it is having on the women in Uganda off my mind. I knew I had to get involved.
Sseko Designs is a “not-just-for-profit” ethical fashion brand based in Uganda. They employ women in Uganda to create handcrafted leather shoes, hand bags and accessories to help them earn money to attend University. Sseko also offers the women competitive wages, healthcare, safe transportation to and from work, and provide them with one meal a day. They put 50% of the women’s paycheck into a savings account (they can put back more if they wish) and at the end of their employment period Sseko matches their savings 100% to create a college scholarship! All of this is unheard of in Uganda, but it is especially unheard of for WOMEN in Uganda. On average, only 2% of women in Uganda will attend college. Since it’s beginning in 2011 Sseko Designs has sent 87 girls to college and currently employs 50 women in a country where women are not generally allowed to work. This is why the mission and impact of Sskeo Designs spoke to my heart and I knew I had to become involved in their story.
2. What inspired you to make the leap and become a Fellow?
I chose to become a Fellow because I want to make a direct impact on the lives of women around the world. I want to EMPOWER women. I want to help them create a better life for themselves and their families. These dreams can all seem rather unattainable for a mom and a military spouse! I have a toddler who requires my constant attention and our military life makes it tough to put down roots or get too involved in a career or organization. I will always see myself as a mom first, but Sseko gives me the opportunity to help empower women globally while staying home and caring for my family. I can do that through the Sseko’s Fellowship Program.
As a Fellow, I am paired one-on-one with a girl in the Sseko Scholarship. This girl is called my Sole Sister and currently my Sole Sister is a young girl named Joan. Orders placed through me as a Fellow help earn Joan badges. Once we earn her a certain level of badges her scholarship is doubled, when we reach the next level of badges her scholarship is TRIPLED! This is truly incredible! I absolutely love knowing that I am helping my Sole Sister Joan achieve her dream of earning an education and lifting herself out of poverty.
I also chose to become a Fellow because I want to help raise awareness of unfair trade practices in the fashion industry and do my part to help end those practices. Sseko is a shining example that fashion can be both stylish AND ethically made! Since its beginning in 2011, Sseko has become the largest footwear exporter in Uganda. Sseko Designs is showing the world that fashion can be sustainable, successful, earth friendly, and people friendly! I am so happy to be a part of this!
3. What do you believe makes your business stand out?
When I was younger I had this idea that I wanted to change the world. I now know that I can change the world for at least one person – my Sole Sister Joan – and that is a very powerful thing, and I am thankful to be a part of it!
To me, being a Fellow is about helping to create a more just and better world. When people buy a Sseko handbag or a pair of sandals through me, they can feel good wearing them knowing that they are helping send a young girl to college and that they are supporting an ethical, sustainable company.
4. What’s your all time favorite Sseko product?
This is a tough question to answer because I love all our products! I do particularly love the Eden Backpack. I told my husband it is at the top of my Christmas list! Being a mom, I am constantly juggling multiple things on the go all while trying to keep ahold of my toddler’s hand so he doesn’t run off. With the Eden Backpack, I could carry all his “stuff” plus my own and keep my hands free for him. It will also make a perfect diaper bag down the road when we have another little one.
I am also in love with our new men’s shop, #heforshe! This is a limited edition line released for the holidays! Sseko has never released a men’s line before and I feel it is very powerful to allow men a chance to be a part of Sseko’s effort to empower women. We need men to be a part of this story and I love that Sseko is giving them the opportunity to use their voice by supporting our women in Uganda. This is the perfect way for us to recognize the men in our lives who help encourage and support us everyday by giving them a gift that will give back!
To learn more about my Sole Sister Joan and to view our amazing products visit www.ssekodesigns.com/lacy_dear, or email email@example.com to discover ways you can get involved in our Sseko story!
From travel bags to the sandals that started it all, each product that Sseko has to offer is just stunning. As Lacy mentioned, the products are Earth and people-friendly! The goods are crafted by African artisans in an effort to help grow the local economies. You can even see EXACTLY where each product comes from when you are shopping. For me, this gives each product character that can’t be found in a chain store.
Why I Choose to Shop Sseko
When I first spoke to Lacy about featuring her Sseko business on the blog, my first thought was to approach this as a review. But after learning more about the company I realized it was more important to write something that would enlighten my readers and open their eyes to Sseko Designs and companies like it.
The more I learn about this company, the more inspired I become. Spreading the word about a company that is impacting so many lives felt important. A company that throws around words like “Dignity, Honor, and Dedication” is one to be admired.
In a world where people often become self involved, it’s important to me that I make decisions that will make a positive impact on some else’s life. Even if it’s something as simple as buying my sandals through a Sseko Fellow instead of the store in town. Don’t get me wrong, I’m no Saint. You’ll still catch me buying from my favorite chain stores this Christmas. But like Lacy said, even if you can’t change the whole world, you can still change it for one person. Buying from companies like Sseko (even if it’s just one pair of shoes) or recommending it to a friend can impact the life of someone in need.
As a mother it is even more important that I set an example for my children. Supporting ethical businesses like Sseko will teach them to do the same in the future. Being a mother has also taught me how lucky we are to live in a world of equal opportunity. If I have a daughter one day, I will rest easy knowing that she will be able to go to college one day and move on to a stable and successful career.
Girls in Uganda have not been so lucky. They are often forced with difficult life decisions and that is something that breaks my heart. With Sseko they have more options. I can’t imagine what the mothers of the girls in this program must feel to know that their daughters will have incredible opportunities that they never did.
This is enough to make me want to support the company as a customer. And it is enough for me to sincerely sit here and encourage you to check it out for yourself!
And if that’s not enough to convince you, then just take a look at this catalog! My wishlist grows by the second!
What are some ethical companies that have convinced you to make the switch? What inspires you to support companies like Sseko Designs?
All photography was done by Amber Williams Photography. To book a session with her today visit: www.facebook.com/williamsamberphotography
** Photos done by Amber Williams Photography excluding giveaway graphic