Last month, eleven Sseko Fellows had the opportunity to travel to Uganda and visit Sseko’s workshop, meet women who are creating our products, and see firsthand the impact of their work as Sseko Fellows.
One of our key tenets at Sseko Designs is “Ask hard questions.”
We welcome tough conversations with open arms! One conversation that we feel is important to jump into is that around the MLM (Multi-Level Marketing a.k.a. Direct Sales) business model.
Did you know that Sseko Designs is an MLM business? We weren’t always structured this way, but over the past few years we’ve made an intentional shift to sell products through our community of Sseko Fellows. As we dove into this sustainable business, we worked hard (and continue to work hard!) to create a model that is ethical and empowering every step of the way – for every woman involved, from those who create our products to those who sell them.
“But wait… isn’t an MLM a pyramid scheme?”
It’s here! Thanks to your support of our Kickstarter last Fall, we’re able to officially introduce Design Your Dream Sandals and bring completely customizable sandals to the world! Through the help of an expert Sseko Stylist, you can design a truly one-of-a-kind sandal, perfectly suited to your lifestyle and aesthetic. You choose your size, style, materials, color and even details like hand-beaded accents and monograms!
We’re over a week into the launch of our Kickstarter campaign, and we are almost 75% funded! On top of that, we were just selected as one of Kickstarter’s “Projects We Love”! Big things are happening, but we aren’t celebrating quite yet. We’ve still got $7k to go, and our new (ambitious) goal is to reach 100% funded by this weekend!! It may seem crazy, but we believe we can do it with the support of our community!
First of all, we want to give you a huge thanks (and a hug) to all of you for supporting us through this exciting new endeavor! So many of you have backed us so far, and we are very appreciative of you. If you have not backed our Kickstarter yet, it’s not too late, and YOU can be the one to help us reach our goal and increase our impact in Uganda! With that in mind, here are some things to think about as we approach the end of this campaign:
Kickstarter will have a huge impact on our team in Uganda, and that’s our #1 priority
For every $25 k we raise, we are able to employ two more full time women in Uganda! This means that by backing the Kickstarter, you are directly changing lives by providing employment and education for women who are going to influence the future of Uganda. Sseko has sent 71 women to university so far. If we get fully funded, or surpass our goal we will be able to continue empowering more women! Our ambition is to be a company that grows and expands while remaining true to the core values that have shaped us. Now that’s a reason to celebrate!
Aggie, the managing director at Sseko Uganda, wrote a letter to the Sseko community sharing her thoughts on the Kickstarter, which shows just how much of an impact it will have with our sisters overseas. The letter can be viewed below:
My name is Agnes; my Sseko family calls me Aggie. I joined Sseko as an Intern in 2010 but now I am working as the Managing Director in Uganda. Working with Sseko from 2010 to 2016 I have witnessed the tremendous benefits society gains when it gives every woman a chance to dream big.
Six years ago, we were a bunch of women making a few sandals to get by and struggling to send off only a few girls to University. Sseko has since grown from a group of ladies in a small house, to a rented warehouse, to now owning our own workshop!
The company has grown from being run by western expatriates to a full Ugandan management team. We have witnessed our fellow ladies grow from production workers to taking on more managerial roles.
Alongside this growth, we have expanded our production capacity and product line from making one sandal style to now offering Stitched ribbon sandals, Accent sandals, Crossover slides and Rue sandals! Despite the increase in the styles of sandals made, we continued to produce them in our own company custom leather shades/colors (ie caramel, espresso brown and black).
As the Sseko community craved for the different styles, something interesting happened….. we thought.. what would it be if our customers had the chance to design their own favorite Sseko sandals by pairing it with their favorite leather shades/color?
So this year we kickstarted the Design Your Dream Sandal project, and we now call upon your support to make the project successful. We believe this project would not only see our customers wear their favorite sandals, but it will also help Sseko expand its production capacity and we can do this by employing more women and thus sending more girls to University.
By supporting the customized sandal project, you become a part of what we at Sseko strive for: bringing a new hope, life and giving birth to dreams that were too far for us to reach, not because we could not, but because society made us think we couldn’t.
The test of a great company is whether it has the ability to constantly manage to grow its operations while being true to its mission and core values. It’s a challenge that we at Sseko Designs embrace, because we recognize that there’s always a bigger picture, a longer term horizon, and a broader world in which we operate—using our handmade products to connect to the world that seemed so far from us.
A loud shout-out to all our Sseko Community ie our esteemed customers, partners and well-wishers who have supported us through the years. Here at Sseko, we love and cherish what we do and admire your zeal to stand by us.
Get those custom sandals!
Now’s the time to get yourself a pair of custom Ssekos! Why now, you ask? Well… here are a few reasons:
- Better price: By getting your customizable sandals through Kickstarter, you will save $10-$15 or more per sandal. This is a once in a lifetime deal you are going to want to take advantage of!
- For now, this is your only chance: We will only be able to offer customizable sandals to the public if we see that they are successful and in high demand through are Kickstarter. By backing for the custom sandals now, you are showing us their popularity and we will be able to offer them on our website later on! (But there is no guarantee if we’re funded that we’ll be offering them site-wide later on.)
- Greater impact in Uganda: Like we mentioned earlier, the more money we raise through Kickstarter, the more women we will be able to employ and send to University.
- Become a trendsetter: By getting your custom sandals now, you will be the first among your friends and your community to rock your customizable kicks, showing everyone else how awesome they are!
Launch party fun!
If you were at the launch party, we want to give you a huge thank you for coming and for all the support we have felt! We could not succeed without amazing Fellows, supporters and customers who have bought into the Sseko story. If you were not able to make it to the launch party, we’ll give you a little re-cap.
After we launched the Kickstarter last Monday, we threw a launch party at Sseko HQ and invited all of our Portland friends. Before the party started, we were funded to roughly $12 K, so we set a goal of $13 K for the end of the party, and we hit that goal! That means $1,000 was pledged to the Kickstarter in just under two hours!
For our party guests, we had some fun elements going on! There was a Design Your Own Sandal bar, where you could see all of the steps of building a custom sandal and different custom sandal samples. We also had a sneak-peak display of our (#spoileralert) upcoming jewelry line, a fun hand stamp for those who pledged, as well as themed snacks, such as a “Design Your Dream Sandal (Cookie)” station, and THE COOLEST custom sandal donuts from our friends at Voodoo Donuts! We really felt the love at the event, so thank you again for coming by!
If you’d like to join us in making an even GREATER impact in Uganda, back our Kickstarter—and get a friend to join you as well! If you and your friend both pledge, we’ll give you BOTH free print of our Brave Manifesto. (Just make sure to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to let us know!) So pledge to Kickstarter, get a friend to join you, and share about it with your community! We could not imagine going on this journey without you, thank you for joining us!
Here at Sseko, we’re dreaming about leading the next frontier of transparent and customizable fashion. Imagine designing a truly one of a kind sandal, perfectly suited to your lifestyle and aesthetic. Sounds pretty great, doesn’t it? Well, it can soon be a reality. We’re dreaming about leading the next frontier of transparent and customizable fashion with Design Your Dream Sandal now LIVE on Kickstarter!
Inspired by the creativity and vision of our customers, we’ve decided to take it one step further: completely customizable sandals. Whether you’re looking for sandals for your next big adventure, a new everyday favorite, a sandal that steals the show or even the perfect custom kicks for you and your bridesmaids, you’ll be able to bring that vision to life.
This year, Sseko is turning 7 and we have a lot of amazing things to celebrate! Seven years ago, Sseko began as a way to generate income for talented young women to continue on to university. To date, we employ 50 women in Uganda and have enabled 71 incredible girls to continue on to University.
There is no doubt that this year has been one of the best ones in Sseko’s history. Today, we are celebrating by looking back on 7 highlights from the past year.
At 22, Liz Bohannon left a comfortable job at a communications agency and moved halfway across the world to make a difference. The Sseko ribbon sandal was born out of her deep-rooted passion to help bright & brave young women pursue their dreams. (And admittedly, some degree of stubborn determination!) In the 6 years that have passed since Liz’s first journey, Sseko Designs has become an internationally-known ethical fashion brand that’s enabled 60 (!!) women to attend college to-date.
For Sseko, each birthday represents a pause, a moment of reflection, and a time to give thanks. (We’re still going? And people are excited about what we’re doing? And they don’t think we’re crazy for trying to change the long-established, “traditional” version of philanthropy?!). Every birthday gives us encouragement to keep going–and provides time to reflect on the lessons we’ve learned over the past year. This year, our sixth year, was a big one.