Eco-Shoes (www.ecoshoesgh.com) is a Ghana based social enterprise that reinvests in the environment by upcycling waste such as truck tires, fabric scraps and other sustainably sourced raw materials into something of greater use and value. In 2016 Eco Shoes was named amongst the 2016 SEED INITIATIVE Award winners in part due to its commitment to poverty alleviation. In fact Eco shoes empowers and transfers the skills of shoe making to people with disabilities thus providing employment to people who otherwise would be out of a job or below the poverty threshold.
Today we have the opportunity to email interview Mabel Suglo, its co-founder who though her venture was a 2015 Anzisha Prize Fellow and was selected and invited to attend the 2016 Global Entrepreneurship Summit hosted by Barack Obama at Stanford University in San Francisco. She was also recognized by the Ghana Tertiary Women’s Network under the auspices of Echos of Leadership as the Ghana Tertiary Woman Social Entrepreneur.
- Tell about yourself and your business.
I’m a student social entrepreneur and a final year student from the University for Development Studies, Tamale where I currently pursue a Bachelor of Education in Health Science.
I’m an ardent and result oriented development professional with a passion for connecting communities with resources to affect change and create opportunities for people with disabilities from deprived communities in Ghana.
That’s why I co-founded of Eco-Shoes www.ecoshoesgh.com , a social enterprise based in Ghana that manufactures and sells durable and versatile footwear made from up-cycled tires and fabric waste which creates jobs for people with disabilities and the communities in which they live. This social venture also inspires people to get creative about re-using materials by extending their life cycle and at the same time contributes to waste reduction. I spend much of my free time mentoring and counseling young women through schools.
- How much did you need to start your business and how you were able to raise that capital?
Actually getting into Eco-shoes was kind of accidental. Even though I wanted to go into business someday, I did not know which industry to venture into. As a result I could not enquire and know the exact amount I needed. I ended up starting Eco-Shoes with $100 which I raised from friends and family.
- What are some of the challenges you face in your business and how do you overcome those challenges?
The challenges I face are: being a female entrepreneur, a student and not knowing much about entrepreneurship which therefore doesn’t equip me with enough skills in raising funds for the business and lastly challenges that are from within. Like any other challenges that come in our daily lives, I learn to live with some while I develop working strategies to work through it.
- Where do you see your business in the next five years from now and what steps are you taking today to reach that objective?
Our business will have a fully powered E-commerce site, a proper inventory well built, acquire a warehouse and export our shoes to the international market. We have put together a very strong management team committed to this vision who are working towards achieving these goals.
- What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs looking to start a business or invest in Africa?
I will tell upcoming entrepreneurs that, they should first of all believe in themselves and their God for they have unlimited potentials and can’t be stopped by anyone except by themselves.
They should also have a teachable spirit and learn to adapt to change as they progress on their entrepreneurial journey and lastly they should see entrepreneurship as a calling and one must have it as a DNA in them: not just as easy job to be done anyhow. For it indeed have its challenges and one must learn to overcome them as at when they come.
- How is your business participating to the development of Africa ?
The business is spearheading the concept of using waste materials like car tires clothing cut offs to make shoes, bags and other accessories. We are also promoting increased employment for people with disabilities. Most people with disabilities in Ghana are unemployed and depend on the government, charities of people and the goodwill of philanthropic organizations for their existence. This dependence often leads to discrimination and alienation from the mainstream society. We believe the first step towards society, which considers people with disabilities as equal and contributing members’ starts with their economic independence.
Eco-Shoes is transforming the notion that people have about people living with disabilities are a burden on the society and their families. We want to transform them through our invention into contributing members of the society as we urge society to change their perceptions about their abilities.