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Breaking the Poverty Cycle


Vacationing with a Purpose

Changing the World, One Pair at a Time


Wayne’s World Wayne Elsey, Founder and CEO of Soles4Souls and Clothes4Souls, continues working tirelessly on the organization’s mission to deliver shoes and clothes to millions of people in need around the world. In that sense, some things never change, but what has changed—for the bigger and better—is the six-yearold charity’s size, scope and determination to continue to improve on its mantra of “Changing the world, one pair at a time.” Elsey, a regular media guest as well as now a bona fide airport celebrity—thanks largely to his popular book, Almost Isn’t Good Enough, the Human Connection Changes Everything— reflects on the year that was and why the Nashville, TN-based charity’s reach will expand this year and continue to do so down the road. As Elsey sees it, with millions of people around the globe that still don’t own a single pair of shoes or have many more clothes than those that are on their backs, there’s plenty more work to be done. What have been some of the highlights for Soles4Souls the past year? It’s been a whirlwind year. We maintained our growth pattern, moved into a new world headquarters in Nashville and got all of our staff into one office, and purchased a 300,000-square-foot warehouse [in Wadley, AL] to process our donations. We now have more than 45 employees—up from 30 the year before. How would you grade the year? I’d give us a B. I never want to be blind to the need for improvements or be overconfident. I try everyday to do the right thing to make sure our ship stays on course. I think any charity or company is like a bicycle tire: all the spokes have to be in place tight and continued to be tightened when necessary in order to be successful. If you think you deserve an A, then you are not a realist. While I know that our heart is in the right place, we always need to try and better ourselves. What were some of the most pleasant surprises this year? It’s our continued growth in donations as well as awareness of our cause. People are reacting very well and engaging faster than we even expected. Also, the impact of my book has been well received; it’s just rewarding to hear people tell me how it has motivated them to join our cause. I see people on planes sometimes reading it. That is very cool. What areas still need improvement? Being a buttoned-up organization is an ongoing effort for us. I hired our own in-house counsel this year just to keep up with the magnitude of legal filings and related work as well as to further enhance our corporate governance. Part of our strategic plan was that I would step down

from being chairman, and we just elected Tom Ozburn, CEO of the Southern Hills Medical Center in Nashville, as the new chairperson. This will only further enhance our corporate governance. Beyond that, we are always trying to improve on our efforts to convert more people to join our cause. We continue to aggressively utilize social media to get more people engaged. We now have a full-time associate [Jeremy Chandler] doing nothing but social media outreach, which includes helping to form partnerships with non-shoe industry firms. Going forward, a huge focus of ours is to get the non-endemic world engaged into our charity as much as possible. What’s on tap for this upcoming year? To continue to grow the engagement of people with our charity. The win for the shoe industry is helping clean out closets so consumers will find the incentive to buy new pairs. The win for millions of people worldwide: perfectly good shoes to help the hurting. The win for the environment: millions of shoes kept out of landfills. Where do you see Soles4Souls in five years? I think that we will double in size in the next two years and be more than a $200 million charity, and in 10 years I expect we will exceed $1 billion in financial and in-kind donations. And the more donations we receive, the more people we can help. What do you love most about your job? Seeing the smiles of people that receive our shoes and clothes and the ability to offer people in need a sustainable and tangible means to better their lives and for their families. I Wbiebel[Z[l[bef_d]ekhijW\\$?bel[jeZ[l[befb[WZ[hi$š


360 degrees of Soles4Souls: from tornado ravaged communities in Alabama to millions still suffering the devastation in Haiti, the charity’s response is immediate and all-inclusive. Soles4Souls

The New Charity When it comes to the re-selling of donated used shoes, micro-enterprising can be the difference between life and death—literally.

ONE MAN’S TRASH is another man’s treasure. In the case of Soles4Souls’ rapidly expanding micro-enterprising program, this analogy is being proven the world over. From Haiti to Tanzania and Peru to Moldova, millions of pairs of donated used shoes Soles4Souls collects in the United States are being bundled and shipped to microenterprise distribution hubs for local entrepreneurs to purchase for re-sale or trade for goods in their respective communities. Most likely, these shoes would have remained in the back of closets never to be worn again, or eventually would have clogged landfills despite there being plenty of life left in them. “I never dreamed that used shoes—our garbage and excess—could sustain peoples lives,” says Wayne Elsey, CEO and Founder of Soles4Souls. During a recent outreach trip where he visited a micro-enterprise operation in Haiti, Elsey recalls seeing a woman trading a pair of shoes for a goat. “I asked her why, and she responded that she needed milk for her child,” he says. “We are providing jobs where there are none with the creation of little ‘shoe stores’ in developing nations that are helping save lives. Amazing.” Soles4Souls began supporting micro-enterprise operations in Tanzania, Togo, Guatamala and many other countries in 2007. It has since expanded to involve thousands of people around the world supporting their families on the sale of used shoes. Most recently, members of Soles4Souls visited a micro-enterprise program in Tanzania. Todd McKee, General Counsel and Chief Administrative Officer for Soles4Souls, says that seeing the operation in motion— from the charity’s drop-off at the distribution hub to watching vendors purchase the shoes and then clean and

Microenterprising puts a smile on the faces of vendors worldwide.

assemble the goods for sale in the numerous tiny markets in cities and small villages—was awe-inspiring. He met directly with many of the vendors and learned what their profit margins and total monthly earnings were, as well as what types of shoes sold best. “The average monthly take of many of these vendors is three times the average in Tanzania,” McKee says. And while the difference is more a reflection of the extreme poverty in that country, he says the donations of used shoes are providing a steady, sustainable source of income. “It has become pretty well accepted in the non-profit world that if you really want to eradicate poverty long-term, then you have to make an investment in the people in the country to where you are providing the aid.” McKee says a shining example of this investment is the third-generation Tanzanian who manages the microenterprise hubs in Kigoma and Dar es Salaam. “When Tanzania first allowed for the importation of used shoes and clothing for resale, he was at the forefront,” McKee says. “He’s moved on to owning other businesses, but still looks at this as his calling because he understands many people continue to rely on him to get product at a fair price so they can make a good living.” In fact, McKee says the man built a local school with his own funds and, according to his eyewitness account, it is the only school nearby with decent bathrooms, in addition to electricity, computers and WiFi. “We feel like we’ve found the perfect partner to help us with our mission to provide opportunity to the people in need in Tanzania.” Another bonus of micro-enterprising, McKee says, is that these vendors are providing a very affordable source of shoes for local residents. “Many of the people simply can’t afford to buy a new pair of shoes, especially in places like Haiti where it is very difficult to find affordable new shoes,” he notes. “It’s a way of getting product on the feet of people in villages and towns around the world at an affordable price.” And for those that express concerns that this might undermine the local economy, McKee says such concern is unfounded. “Micro-enterprising only stimulates the local economy,” he maintains, adding that shoes are the perfect commodity for this business model. “Shoes are universally desired and needed in order to go to school, get a job or just to be able to get around. And they are durable and offer much use past their prime in the U.S.; that’s why shoes are a perfect fit for this model.” McKee adds, “With just a little bit of soap and water and a toothbrush, these vendors get these shoes into good condition. Whereas many Americans take for granted not only the availability of shoes but also what it means psychologically to a person who doesn’t own a single pair.” Micro-enterprising programs are now up and running Soles4Souls

Haitian microenterprisers Used shoe donations delivered to convert used Haiti help stimulate the local economy. shoe donations into gainful employment.

in Africa, Bolivia, Haiti and, the most recent, Moldova, where Soles4Souls is partnering with a charitable organization that employs young women helping them stay off the street. To aid their efforts, Soles4Souls is encouraging the footwear industry to re-focus its efforts on being a drop-off point for used shoe donations. Keith Woodley, Soles4Souls’ Chief Development Officer, believes this economic angle may resonate particularly well with fellow business people. “Retailers might not always realize the

impact they could make with a trade-in program,” he says. While Woodley notes there’s the obvious benefit of bringing traffic into the store, micro-enterprising offers tangible illustrations of how Soles4Souls is giving people in need around the world access to a livelihood that helps pay for their children’s educations. “There’s always going to be a time for charity, but if you can move beyond that to actually help people get on their feet and build their own [Yedec_[i"j^[dj^WjÊij^[X[ije\Xej^mehbZi$Ț

A UTOPIAN MODEL OF GIVING AND RECEIVING The beauty of Soles4Souls’ micro-enterprise program is how it’s a perfect circle that benefits all involved parties. Just follow these easy steps…

Step 1. Millions of consumers clear their closets of unwanted shoes and, rather than tossing them into the trash where they will clog up landfills, they donate them to participating retailers, faith-based organizations, schools, etc., who then ship the shoes to Soles4Souls. Step 2. Soles4Souls

employees sort the millions of used shoe dona-


tions by size, style and grade of quality, which are then packaged and shipped to various micro-enterprise hubs around the world.

Step 3. The hub operators receive shoes from Soles4Souls and pay a small processing fee. In turn, the operators sell the shoes for a marginal mark-up to vendors. The money to Soles4Souls covers the costs

of their sorting, packing and shipping. What’s more, the funds cover the costs of their collection and delivery of millions of new shoe donations to victims of disasters when they arise.

Step 4. The vendors

clean their merchandise to make as good as semi-new so the selling (generally $2 to $3 a pair) can begin. Their profit margins help put

food on their table, a roof over their families’ heads and their children in schools as well as provide a sustainable and dependable means of employment and a way, hopefully, to break free of the poverty cycle.

Step 5. Millions of Americans—now with empty closets—buy new shoes, putting a smile on the faces of

footwear retailers and wholesalers.

Step 6. Years from

now, the children of these micro-enterprisers will have completed school and started on their careers in countless professions, giving back to their respective societies and contributing to their local economies—part of which is shopping for new shoes!

Trips of a Lifetime

Travel4Souls offers the opportunity to turn your vacation into a charitable experience that you will never forget. Christmas packages to the orphanage it visited. “The people gave all kinds of presents that had nothing to do with shoes,” he says. Another trip attendee, Woodley reports, has gone on two trips since and just finished managing a shoe collection drive that netted 40,000 pairs. Another trip-goer had her medical supplies employer donate supplies to people in need in Haiti. “The level of continued support for the people they interact with as well as our organization tells us that we have made an impact on their lives that was far more than they expected,” Woodley affirms. Wayne Elsey, Founder and CEO of Soles4Souls, goes so far as to say the trip attendees become “raging evangelists” of the charity’s work and return home wanting to get further engaged. Elsey believes the appeal is part of an overall philanthropic evangelism movement sweeping the country. “People want to get their hands dirty with a good cause,” he says. “They want the experience and engagement. It’s more meaningful than lying around for two weeks in the sand.” Todd Murray, Vice President of Wholesale Marketing at Brown Shoe, is one such Travel4Souls attendee that highly recommends going on a trip. “It will really put things in the right perspective,” he says. “And having people who ‘know shoes’ with regards to sizes and fitting, makes for an easier shoe distribution.” Murray and three fellow employees were part of a sevenmember group connected to the company’s Zodiac USA brand that visited Haiti in May of this year. The trip’s group totaled 14 people and it delivered more than 800 pairs of shoes to people in need around the country as well as spent time at an orphanage fitting children with shoes and clothes as well as playing with them. “While I was prepared to see the devastation from the earthquake as well as years of political turmoil, the biggest take-away from the trip was the spirit and resolve of the Haitian people,” Murray says, adding he would, without a doubt, go on another charitable Travel4Souls journey. To this end, Murray says, Zodiac is continuing its commitment to Soles4Souls. The brand was first launched in the ’70s, during a time of huge social awareness and community, and as a way to get in touch again with its roots, it partnered with Soles4Souls this year on a number of initiatives and has encouraged all of its employees to “do something more” this year. “We hoped that this trip would not only ignite our commitment to people, but also that upon our return we Travel4Souls could encourage those around us to do attendees on a trip to Haiti load more,” he says. Mission accomplished,

WE’VE ALL HEARD the term “staycation” being bandied about. Amid an ongoing shaky economy and high gas prices, millions of Americans are opting to stick close to home during their time off work rather than rack up expenses traveling abroad. If that sounds about as appealing as a sweaty afternoon spent on your back stoop with your feet stuck in a kiddie pool, then how does a “chacation” sound? Translation: A charitable-themed vacation. Travelers who sign on for a trip with Soles4Souls’ year-old Travel4Souls program will get to go to exotic lands, meet amazing people, experience incredible cultures and natural beauty, and—the real bonus—help those less fortunate. All for a comparably low price, considering all travel logistics and meals are taken care of once you get yourself to the hub departure city in the U.S. Soles4Souls ran 16 such trips during the past year with close to 300 attendees. Destinations included Haiti, Costa Rica, Peru, Honduras, Tanzania and India. The feedback has been nearly unanimous: they were trips of a lifetime—as evidenced by the fact that approximately 20 percent of attendees have already gone on another Travel4Souls trip. “The response has been just amazing,” says Todd McKee, General Counsel and Chief Administrative Officer for Soles4Souls. “I just got an e-mail from one of our recent Tanzanian trip participants that wanted to donate several thousand dollars to the eight schools and orphanages we visited during our recent outreach trip.” McKee adds that the ripple affect has been amazing. “In just the past year following several outreach trips to Haiti, six children are now in the process of being adopted by people who were attendees. It’s astounding how it’s connecting people, and shoe distributions are just a part of what we do on these trips. It’s a means to a bigger end.” Keith Woodley, Soles4Souls’ Chief Development Officer, reports being more than pleasantly surprised by the impact the experiences have on travelers. The group he joined to Haiti last August sent follow-up

donations for distribution at a local orphanage.


Murray reports, as the company has since run several Soles4Souls drives in its hometown of St. Louis and they are now looking into sending its employees on future trips. Woodley says a major focus this coming year will be to increase the participation level of shoe industry professionals. So far Brown Shoe and Kenneth Cole have sent employees. “We encourage the footwear industry to see first-hand the impact their donations are having,” he says. And McKee suggests turning a trip into a reward as one advertising agency did recently. The agency ran an essay contest on why select employees should be the ones sent on an all-expense Travel4Souls trip to Haiti. “They had 30 entries and picked the four best,” he notes. “That is a great perk to provide to your employees; we would love to see more of that.” This year Soles4Souls is planning more trips to more locations, including Jamaica, Haiti and Costa Rica (see side bar for details). McKee promises the trip will be more than worth it. “Our Tanzanian guide said something very poignant after our recent shoe distribution: ‘A lot of people come to Africa to see the animals, but very few come to see the people.’ That really summed up the feeling of our group. People come away not only with an amazing experience in terms of having one-on-one human contact but also gain an amazing cultural experience.” McKee adds that it’s an incredible bonding experience as well: “You h[jkhd\hecj^[i[jh_fim_j^Z[[f\h_[dZi^_fi$Èš

ALL ABOARD! Want to do some real good on your next trip? Sign up for one of these charitable-themed vacations with Travel4Souls. Here’s all you need to know to get going. For one price, Travel4Souls takes care of all of a trip’s details: international flights, translators, security and insurance. To learn more about trip details and pricing, log onto Or contact Katie Lentile, Travel4Souls Manager, at (866) 521-SHOE or travel@ UPCOMING TRIPS: Destinations include Haiti, Jamaica, Costa Rica, Peru, Honduras, countries in Africa and many others! Check our site often as trips are always being added.


Top to bottom: Honduran and Indian school children are all smiles after receiving new shoes from Soles4Souls.

...When you are traveling with Soles4Souls on a destination distribution trip! Soles4Souls collects shoes from the ware-

houses of footwear companies and the closets of people like you, in turn the charity distributes these shoes to people in need. We offer the opportunity for individuals to travel with our team on international distribution trips and experience first-hand giving to those in need. Our mission is to deliver as many shoes and as much clothing to people who are in need. The last step of this process – distributing the shoes and clothing – is a labor intensive but tremendously rewarding experience. Fitting the right size shoes to a child or the right pair of jeans to a young mother takes personal, one-on-one interaction. There is no substitute. Through Travel4Souls, our Team Member volunteers provide this personal interaction in places like Haiti, Honduras, Peru, Africa, Costa Rica, and India. And not only do we make it possible for you to join us, we make it easy! For one set price, we take care of all the details: flights, accommodations, meals, ground transportation, translators, security, and insurance. For more information contact Katie Lentile at or (615) 391-5723.



Soles4Souls | A Supplement to Footwear Plus | 2011 • August  

Micro-enterprising: Breaking the Poverty Cycle; Travel4Souls: Vacationing with a Purpose.