Entrepreneurship’s role in social change

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A new pair of shoes can make all the difference to those affected by natural disasters. Nonprofit social enterprise Soles4Souls gives shoes to people in need for just that reason. Since 2006, the team led by CEO and president Buddy Teaster has distributed millions of pairs of shoes and clothing in all 50 U.S. states and 127 countries worldwide.  

The NRF Foundation recognized Teaster as a “Giver” on The List of People Shaping Retail’s Future 2018 in January. In this episode of Retail Gets Real, he discusses how the nonprofit serves communities in crisis, as well as entrepreneurs in developing countries.

Co-host Ellen Davis (left) with Buddy Teaster (middle) and host Bill Thorne (right).

Co-host Ellen Davis (left) with Buddy Teaster (middle) and host Bill Thorne (right).

Soles4Souls’ business strategy reflects Teaster’s mix of for-profit and nonprofit experience. The organization was founded to donate shoes to disaster-affected areas; looking to make a longer-term impact, Soles4Souls now also uses donated shoes to create income opportunities for people in developing countries. The company sells shoes to these entrepreneurs, allowing them to establish sustainable microenterprises. “Giving people the tools to be in charge of their own economic future,” Teaster says, “is the most powerful thing that we can do.”

Since Soles4Souls employs a small team of highly passionate people, there’s a large emphasis on partnership. Although the nonprofit accepts donations from the public, it also helps retailers find a use for excess stock. Using both corporate and community partnerships, the company has been able to distribute 30 million pairs of shoes worldwide. “We’ve seen some dramatic results,” Teaster says. “People have been able to change their lives.”

Listen to this episode to learn more about Soles4Souls. For more inspiration, check out the complete list of The People Shaping Retail’s Future, and find more stories from NRF 2018: Retail’s Big Show in our official recap.

Nadee Bandaranayake is an assistant producer on NRF’s Retail Gets Real podcast. Meet all the co-hosts and learn more about the show.