This post is near and dear to my heart because it not only shares the story of a company that I love and believe in, but the founders of Sseko Designs – Liz and her husband Ben – are also dear friends and neighbors of ours from when we lived in Kansas City, MO!
I’m excited to have a bit of help in giving you the beautiful story behind the brand, and can’t wait for you to take a peek at today’s Impact feature for an inspiring way to tie a little extra sweetness onto your feet. ;)
By Meredith Mohr for Style & Pepper
On her face shines a smile of hope and the laugh lines of a life well-lived.
On her feet, she wears one-of-a-kind wrap sandals, sewn with love.
They are shoes with a story, and she is a Sseko woman.
Sseko Designs is a company that empowers African women by helping them pursue their education, while also providing them with a space where they can grow into the bright young future of their native country of Uganda. Working for Sseko during the “off year” that customarily falls between secondary school and higher education is an experience that allows them a chance to earn money for a University program, and fills a sometimes-challenging time with financial and mental preparation for the new chapter in their lives.
Founder and dreamer Liz Forkin Bohannon said that when she first came to Uganda, she never could have dreamed it was where her adventures would take her. When she saw the struggles that her Ugandan counterparts were experiencing, she could think only of creating a program that would help the women in a wholehearted and sustainable way.
“When I learned that many of these incredible young women were graduating from secondary school and struggling to find work to finance their university education, the idea for Sseko was born,” Liz said.
“Some of these young women are from villages that have never seen one of their own continue on to University. And here they are, two years later… All they needed was an opportunity.”
The Sseko women also have the unique chance to sit down with notable businesspeople in the Ugandan community, and through the program, are mentored by some truly inspiring individuals. For a woman who wants to be a doctor, but has never actually been in a hospital, these experiences are invaluable. In addition to education and careers, they have access to full health care coverage (which is certainly not a standard in Uganda), personal finance training, and extensive professional development materials.
“We make beautiful things,” Liz says. “We laugh and we love and we dance and we learn. And every nine months, we let go and we send these incredible women off to pursue dreams of their own. Our goal is that every woman that comes to Sseko is actively becoming more healthy, whole and happy.”
Creativity is never in short supply at Sseko… They’re designing much more than wrap sandals these days, and as the product offerings grow – so does the chance for women to recognize their true potential as bold and capable and lovely gifts to the world.