Here at Sseko we deeply believe that every great journey begins with a small step. The Sseko Fellows are a tribe of women that have embarked on such a journey to create opportunity and community for women here in the states, as well as for our sisters in East Africa. One of those Fellows, Kari Pleggenkuhle, recently took a step into our Fellows community. This is her New Beginnings story!
Tell us a little bit about yourself!
Hey there! My name is Kari Pleggenkuhle. I’ve struggled with my first name being said wrong, my whole life, so I’ll just let you know it’s pronounced “Kahr-ee.” I have been married to the love of my life, Tony, for almost 16 years. We have an 8 year old son, Lucas, who is a Lego and Minecraft expert. We live in rural Northeast Iowa and keep busy with our FOUR dogs, which is crazy because I was terrified of dogs when I was younger.
I teach 4th grade at Wapsie Valley School District. I am very passionate about children’s literacy and 4th grade is when they start transitioning from learning to read, to reading to learn. I love fostering the love of reading at this age and showing them how to get lost in a book.
This season we’re focusing on trusting in the magic of new beginnings, like this new beginning you’ve started with Sseko as a Fellow! What has been your favorite part about this new adventure with Sseko?
I was introduced to Sseko through Alyssa Singh back in Spring 2016. I was excited to learn more about Sseko and while I was aware of ethical production problems worldwide with clothing, I didn’t know that there was something that I could actually do about it-except to be aware that “my athletic shoes were probably made by a child in Asia.” It’s that complacency that I had, that many people have, is what is troubling. So during this time is when I began to shift from just awareness toward action.
For me, it’s very powerful to know that Faith, for example, made my Rue Sandals and that as her Sole Sister, I am supporting her to achieve her dreams of attending university. My outlook on the fashion industry has really changed and of course, is still evolving. I know that I used to look at clothing as a way to make myself feel good about my outward appearance. Now it’s different: I think about where a piece of clothing came from-who has worked this material and I’ve begun to ask questions about that process.
I love the positive approach that the Sseko community encompasses. There is such a love and a deep sense of responsibility that the Sseko Sisterhood embodies. It’s contagious and it makes me want to be a better person. I love sharing the Sseko story with people and I love seeing the look on their faces when they realize what a special company this is.
What inspires your personal style?
As a full time teacher, I have to make sure that my style reflects professionalism and modesty, since I spend my days with 9 and 10 year olds. At the same time, I want my style to be a little fun too. I need comfort, but the mentality I get from clothing, helps me “bring my game” to the classroom–I don’t teach well in yoga pants and a t-shirt. The ribbon sandals fit into my wardrobe perfectly because they are so comfortable and are fun with a beautiful chiffon ribbon or a really unique tie.
What piece of the Brave Manifesto resonates most with you? Why?
Simply this: Be Brave.
It took me a whole year and 3 parties as a hostess to decide that I needed to become a Sseko Fellow. If you know anything about me, I don’t “jump” into very many things and I’m quite reflective, and you might get a deeper response from me about a conversation we had 1-2 days ago, because I’ve had time to process.
I’ve realized that Being Brave doesn’t have to be this huge gigantic task. It’s small steps, looking forward. It doesn’t mean that things are going to easy. Being Brave is scary, but the things worth doing, usually are hard. Do the hard things and Be Brave doing them.
What was your favorite piece in our Spring collection?
As soon as I saw the flip flops, I was in love. I live in flip flops in the summer, so to have an ethically made leather flip flop was a no-brainer! They’re timeless!