All Posts By

Liz Bohannon

How It's Made, Sseko Style, The Future is Bright

Sseko Designs x Elephant Landing

A few years ago, I was asked to speak at a photography conference in Portland. Odd, you see, because I am not a photographer (but this is another matter altogether.) But the conference was happening literally four blocks away from our office and it seemed to be a rad gathering of folks from around the country…so I obliged!

Good thing, because that’s where I first crossed-paths with Caroline and Jayden Lee of Team Woodnote.

Sseko Designs x Elephant Landing
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Uganda, Women of Sseko

Sophia Bush Introduces our Travel Collection

We couldn’t be more thrilled to partner with Sophia Bush to introduce you to our new Travel Collection! This summer, we had the opportunity to host this actress and activist at the Sseko workshop in Uganda. A long-time advocate of both educational rights for girls and conscious consumerism, we knew from the get-go that Sophia was a Sseko-spirit. With a style that is eclectic and impossibly chic, she embodies everything we envisioned when we designed this newest collection: wanderlust, class, fearlessness…and as always, a little bit of Sseko sass!

Here’s a peek behind-the-scenes at the design of our newest collection and deets on Sophia’s visit to Uganda!

Sophia Bush Introduces our Travel Collection | Sseko Designs
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Life at Sseko

Happy Mother’s Day from our Sseko Moms

This Mother’s Day we are honored to celebrate our Sseko moms. They are an inspiration to their children and serve as mentors to our younger women on the Sseko team. Where would we be without our Sseko moms?  They inspire us daily with their words and confidence and are incredible mothers and women. This Mother’s Day give your mom a gift that is giving back to moms in Uganda.

Florence is one of our incredible seamstresses, who sews the beautiful straps which adorn your Ssekos. She is mother to 7 children and serves as one of the “aunties” at Sseko. She has a motherly love that fills a room, a laughter that makes you smile just hearing it and wise words to share when times get difficult. With all of the young women working around Sseko, it’s nice to have the comfort of an auntie around for everyone to look up to.

Uganda-Sseko-Women

 

Robinah has been working with Sseko for 3 years and was the first Sseko bride in 2010. In 2011, she become a mother to a beautiful baby girl. She continuously lifts us up with her warm spirit and smile. Robinah is expecting another baby this April and is excited to grow her family and be able to support them as an independent, working women. She says, “Mothers have to be responsible about their kids. They have to take care of them, seeing that their babies are healthy and well fed.”

Uganda-Sseko-Women

We love our Sseko Moms!

 

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Choose Your Own Path :: Becki Singer

I love stories. (Duh. You get that by now.) I love asking people questions about their life. How did they get to where they are now? And the journey! What about the journey! While I delight in most stories, it always makes a little sad when I hear people talk about how life got away from them. How one thing led to another and they woke up one day and realized they were not where they wanted to be, and even worse, they were not wh0 they wanted to be. 
 
That being said, I’m always so encouraged and inspired by folks who make that recognition, and instead of staying on the path of least resistance, have the courage to change course when they realize their heart is elsewhere even if the stakes are high. 
 
Enter new Portland friend, Becki Singer (writer and marketing/brand consultant extraordinaire — you can check out some of her work over at her blog!) We’re honored to have Becki share a sneak peak into how she is choosing her own path. 
 
 1.) Tell us a little bit about how you’re choosing your own path. 

I like to refer to myself as a “recovering attorney” – after spending years and years in school and in practice, I finally realized that what I loved about law was the writing, and the chance to advise people on things that could change their lives. Now, I get to do all of those things every day, in a much prettier setting and without the billable hours.

2.) What led you to the decision to take a risk and pursue something you care about? 

While I’d been writing on the side for years, it wasn’t until I moved from San Francisco to Portland that a few things in my life converged to tell me I shouldn’t be practicing law any more. I finally listened to that “still, small voice” and, while I definitely still miss my old paycheck, I feel incredibly lucky to get to do what I do.

3.)What was the hardest/scariest part about it?

Well, the money, of course…that pay cut was a tough pill to swallow. Also, I’d always identified very strongly with being an attorney, and what that meant in terms of being respected by my peers. Being a ‘fashion writer’ doesn’t hold much weight in serious circles, so that was a hit for my ego at first. But as it turns out, I just needed different circles! 

4.) What would you say to other women you are on the verge of being bold, taking risk and choosing their own path? 

Be bold, but be smart. There’s a lot of ocean between diving in headfirst and never even getting your feet wet. Start small, see what’s possible, and trust your instincts. Oh, and ask for help! No one ever made it alone.

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Choose Your Own Path :: Anne Sage

 
I recently met the Anne Sage at a conference where we were both speakers.
 
This one. She is a force.
 
We spent an afternoon bopping around Portland (with THESE TWO) and as soon as she left town I found myself looking forward to the next time I might see her again. At the event we were attending, Anne shared about how at 30, she finds herself starting over in a way she never anticipated. She is in the midst of stepping in the unknown by leaving the company she founded and moving to LA to pursue a full-time freelance career. (You can check out her creative genius over at The City Sage.) I’m so thankful for fast friends like Anne, who are brave enough to let us into the transition, even as it is still a bit messy and wide open. 
 
(**The two paragraphs are gold. Don’t skip them!) 
 
What led you to the decision to take a risk and pursue something you care about?
For my entire life, I have been avoiding making decisions. I’ve let other people and external situations make my choices for me. I’ve been going with the flow: reacting, not acting. Again and again, I’ve found myself feeling trapped by circumstance, struggling to make inherently flawed professional and personal situations work. And I was ultimately doomed to fail not because they didn’t have the potential to work, but because I had chosen them passively and therefore felt no accountability to make them work. I knew I needed to assess my life, identify the areas in which I was unsatisfied, and START MAKING CHOICES.
 
What was the hardest/scariest part about it?
The scariest thing about starting to make my own decisions has been the very thing I’ve spent so much of my life avoiding: the fear of making the wrong choice. In my head I can’t help but ask, ‘What if I move to LA and end up broke, living out of my car?’ But I’ve reached a point where the pain of inaction has exceeded the fear of failure, and that little flame inside me that refuses to give up is speaking louder than the other (admittedly somewhat crazy) voice.    
 
What would you say to other women you are on the verge of being bold, taking risk and choosing their own path?
Get help, both of the amateur and professional persuasion. I say this partly because we cannot do everything by ourselves. From the accountant helping me get the most out of my self-employment deductions to the friends I vent to when things get tough, being able to offload concerns takes the weight off my shoulders. At the same time, the very existence of this support network gives me the internal strength to do what only I can do for myself. As Jean Baker Miller and Irene Stiver, Relational-Cultural theorists from Wellesley College, state, ‘The most terrifying and destructive feeling that a person can experience is psychological isolation…a feeling that one is locked out of the possibility of human connection and powerless to change the situation. In the extreme, psychological isolation can lead to a sense of hopelessness and desperation.” Conversely, when we do feel authentically engaged with others, we are empowered, motivated, hopeful.   

Embrace negative emotions. You’re going to feel afraid of risk and uncertainty, and you’re going to feel sad and angry when things don’t go exactly to plan. But expecting–and therefore accepting–these emotions is the first step in managing them. We all feel them when we’re taking on something that matters deeply to us; they’re signs that you are on the right path, not indicators that you should turn back.

 

 

 

 
 
Photo Cred: The genius and ridiculously fun duo, Woodnote Photography.
News, Uganda, Women of Sseko

Sseko Graduate Spotlight :: Phiona

Attending: Elgon Technical School

Studying: Electrical Engineering

With her long braids pulled back and her studious –looking spectacles, it is easy to see that Phiona is a researcher. And it is research that brought her to join team Sseko in the first place. She explains that while she was still in high school, she heard former Sseko women talking about the company and inquired to learn more.

“You have to know what you want in life. Sseko is not a place to be idle” Phiona tells us. She became an expert at wrapping and quality checking.  And explains that wrapping occurs at the end of the production stage and it is here that quality is checked for the last time. With her hands she tells me, “I can distinguish between a good or bad finished product.  I also learned about reporting production quantities.  It helps to know and understand your production goal and to be able to report that for your team.”

This precise, hardworking woman learned she can cooperate with her coworkers no matter the age difference.  She was able to take instruction from a manager near her own age and exchange work ideas with the most experienced production professionals.  Phiona had the chance to witness her advice that “A good leader does not put themselves above others but must communicate with respect.” Her brightness and inquisitive nature will surely lead her down a path of success in Electrical Engineering.

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Sseko Graduate Spotlight :: Patricia

Attending: Makarere Business School

Studying: Procurement and Logistics

Patricia is a bit of an anomaly in her village. She humbly explains that all the girls she attended school with have long been married, had children and do not have the financial means to stand on their own. Patricia has made it her life goal to become a woman of education and integrity so that the leaders of her community will respect her.

This open-minded woman admits that she did not have any experience using a sewing machine before working at Sseko. Determined to learn as much as she could, she would ask the experienced seamstresses to teach her on her lunch break. As Patricia puts it, “I opened my mind to learning new ways and now I can do much more with my hand and mind.”

Patricia moved closer to tell me that she has learned to work with her own hands and to be creative.  With well-earned pride, she tells me, “I can follow instructions but being creative is more than that.  It involves design.  I can come up with my own way of styling straps and at the end of the day people admire what I have created.” 

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Sseko Graduate Spotlight :: Beatrice

Attending:  Gulu University

Studying: Development Studies

When you are in the presence of Beatrice, you feel like you are in the room with a modern day explorer. Her sense of adventure is inspiring and it wasn’t long into our conversation, that I imagined myself accompanying Bea on a thrilling trek through the Congo looking for gorillas.

Beatrice was born in Gulu during the civil war and decided that her first visit to southern Uganda for secondary school should and would kick off with an exploration of the city and every beach in town. For her, the freedom to move on her own without the fear of war and abduction was intoxicating. She is using her newfound freedom to pursue her education in Developmental Studies.

Beatrice understands that good communication takes time and effort but the tradeoff is a unified, productive team. She learned how to handle issues among the group and be a part of team that was able to increase their production and improve on quality. The heart of this explorer values Sseko sandals for their uniqueness and worldwide sales. She explains that her time at Sseko has been invaluable, in part because it gave her the opportunity to interact with people of different color, ages and styles. She enjoyed the tasks themselves because of the unique product she was working with. She is sure that her experience with Sseko will be a great base for opening her own business someday.

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Sseko Graduate Spotlight :: Nebo

Attending: Kyambogo University

Studying: Microfinance

Nebo used to dig in the village to earn money for her tuition and every day would return covered head to toe in red dust. She is the first to tell you that one of her motivations to become an account is that it “is not a dirty job.” Although when you first meet Nebo, you might take her quiet demeanor to mean she is reserved, if you turn the music on, you’ll see a new side of her emerge.

Sseko was Nebo’s first formal job and she was certainly a bit nervous about the experience. The nerves quickly wore off and we saw Nebo, lover of people begin to develop. As a member of the sole team, she worked with older single women and married moms.  It gave Nebo great joy to know that her team looked out for one another.  On the days when she completed her work early, she was quick to look around and offer help to others.

Nebo had great determination to go onto University despite being unsure of how it would be paid for. She told us that working at Sseko has matured her assurance in making financial decisions and managing her expenses. We’re rooting for this confident business savvy young lady all the way.