Willan, who lives in Trujillo, Peru, with his four sons and wife, Doris, has always created high-quality shoes in his once dirt-floored home, but it wasn’t until he was approached by Nisolo Shoes that customers around the world had access to them.
Nisolo Shoes is a shoe and accessory company that works with impoverished craftsmen to produce merchandise available around the world. It donates 10 percent of all profits to education programs in the neighborhoods in which its shoes are made and operates on the foundational belief that long-term prosperity in impoverished areas is something that must come from increased opportunity, not the “Band-Aid” type of solutions that result from donations of food or the like.
“We have literally watched roofs and walls being built in their homes where these basic items were otherwise lacking,” said Zoe Cleary, a Santa Barbara native who works in the production and design phases of Nisolo Shoes. “These items have not been purchased through donations or handouts, but rather are a direct result of consumer purchases of Nisolo shoes. We are trying to show consumers the positive impact they can make globally without having to sacrifice quality, style, and price.”
Nisolo Shoes’ main goal is to provide the capital, training, and markets to help those with a desire to work to get their products out there, in the hope of starting an entrepreneurial trend around the world of encouraging growth in impoverished communities everywhere.
The Nisolo team started as a group working to empower women interested in creating their own small businesses in northern Peru. In one of the dirt-floored, metal-roofed homes of these women, Nisolo stumbled upon one of the husbands creating a “handsome” men’s dress shoe. Finding Willan led the company to discover over 3,000 small-scale shoemakers in Peru, many struggling to make ends meet despite their shoe-making talents.
After Cleary started a 1960s-style swimwear company called Acqua Sabbia, she earned an MBA in fashion management from LIM College in New York. Deciding to get more involved with fashion with a cause behind it, she learned from a friend about Nisolo Shoes and soon booked a flight to Peru to help start up the business.
Cleary said that her experience living in Peru and working with Nisolo’s craftsmen has been more than worthwhile.
“I have become close with the families of many of our shoemakers and have noted firsthand the importance of family closeness in the Peruvian culture,” said Cleary. “While I find myself sometimes missing some of the conveniences of the United States while in Peru, my exposure and increasing integration with this humble yet warm culture has been invaluable.”
Nisolo Shoes hopes to inspire similar business models around the globe as well as to expand itself worldwide. Shop online and learn more by visiting nisoloshoes.com.