SM chats to…Laura Viveros at Soles for Change

image: Miami Herald
image: Miami Herald

Need an excuse to buy a cute pair of espadrilles? No, us neither – but buy shoes from Soles for Change and you’ll be helping artisans and mothers in Columbia.

Laura Viveros told us what her footwear company stands for…

SM: How did Soles for Change come about? Was there a lightbulb moment’? 

Laura Viveros: Soles for Change came about after a family trip I made with my husband and our families in December 2015 to Santander, Colombia. Our lightbulb moment came after we stopped to buy a pair of espadrilles from one of the typical miscellaneous stores along a small town called Barichara. We decided to dig a bit deeper into our idea, ended up finding the hands behind the product and then the lightbulb moment became our Soles for Change brand, cause and passion. We always want to give back. Coming from Colombia, a country in development we have always known how fortunate we are; but this time we wanted to find a way to make it more sustainable not just a one-time giving thing. And Soles For Change was born!

SM: Which are your best selling items? 

Laura Viveros: This one is a difficult one because people likes are unique and different. Among our customers from Miami and LA for example, our colourful models, like the Ethnic Summer, Guane Orange and Ticuna Pink are among the most popular ones. Our customers from NY love the Wayuu Multicolor White, Baru Brown/Blue and Muisca White/Blue models and our customers from Australia and Europe absolutely love the colorful Wayuu Blue, Fuchsia and Green models. However, if we go by our young sales statistics, the Kogi Beish are among the favorite of all!

SM: What’s so special about fique? 

Laura Viveros: This one is really interesting, because we ended up doing some further research about it after our brand was created. To our grateful surprise, fique as a natural fibre coming from a tree has plenty of benefits. Among them are its ability to improve blood circulation by activating the nervous systems of the body (through the sole of the foot of course), it helps to relieve, minimizes foot swelling and prevents foot tingling, among others. So, you could say, a true anti-stress therapy just by simply wearing our beautiful and colourful espadrilles! Also since it is natural fibre is eco-friendly!!

SM: The colourways are beautiful, where does the design inspiration come from? 

Laura Viveros: They are indeed really beautiful huh?!?. Well, the initial inspiration came from our skilful artisans. In fact, it was one of the many attributes that captured us and drove us to create our business. New models are now a combination of ideas between them and us, experience that so far has been really rewarding for us!

SM: How does a purchase benefit artisans and mothers? 

Laura Viveros: Just by purchasing them, we are automatically helping them by providing more jobs to their small community. The cooperative employees more people/artisans than the actual municipality. It’s impressive! But not only that, we wanted to push ourselves and give back more by helping them fulfil their dreams while being active part of not only a project, but a family, the Soles for Change family. In fact, we just came back from our very first event. “One pair many wishes” For this one, we asked them which place they’d like to travel to. The result, a trip to some charming a beautiful colonial towns in Boyaca, Colombia. They absolutely loved it! And for us, just simply without words. An experience that has continued to fuel our passion and willingness to continue nurturing our Soles for Change family.

SM: What have been your biggest challenges, running the business? 

Laura Viveros: Oh wow, this one is taught… Every single step in the process is a challenge itself, but as entrepreneurs with a cause and passion, every single challenge is enjoyed and we learned from it. If I’d have to list a couple, I’d say the logistics around the delivery from Colombia to the US and having to learn all the rules and regulations to run a business from Miami and NY.  My husband and I have full-time jobs, so finding time to make this work has been the biggest challenge of all. In the end we have learnt that you can always find time for what you truly want to do.

SM:  And your proudest moment…? 

Laura Viveros: So far, I must say two. The first one, when an interview made by a Univison TV show called “Despierta America” was broadcasted. The interview took a good 5 hours to shoot for a 3 min segment! That was because I kept crying with every question! Crying out of joy that is, I could not believe I was actually doing this I was actually helping and giving these mothers and Colombian artisans a voice outside Colombia. I keep telling myself, I am so blessed. And the second one, sharing moments like a family and seeing the happy faces of the artisans that came to our first give-back trip. That is priceless.

SM: The shoes pretty much look great with everything, how do you style yours…? 

Laura Viveros: I must say that you are right here. I style mine with jeans, shorts or even an informal dress! So many options to choose from, we just have to leave our fashionista spirit run free! All the pics in Soles For Change Instagram are my own! Meaning my own feet and my own clothes! I have attached some pics!

Oh and I also style them with work clothes. Hehehe, now everyone in my office has a pair under their desk! Love it!

SM: What’s next for the business? 

Laura Viveros: We are a very young business, so there’s plenty of things to do ahead of us. But right now, we are working on Autumn/Winter collection, focusing efforts to create awareness of our brand and our cause and of course, we have already started thinking about our next give-back event for the amazing artisans behind our beautiful espadrilles! 

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