Organizational Secrets for Santa Barbara Ethical Business

Caleigh Hernandez Founded RoHo Shoes to Work with Kenyan Artisans

Caleigh Hernandez is helping Kenyan women sell shoes and raise money for career education | Credit: Courtesy

Many of us love shoes. But not many would go to the lengths that Caleigh Hernandez did when she spotted a gorgeous pair of beaded sandals in a Ugandan market back in 2013.

After spending weeks inquiring about the woman who made the sandals ​— ​not to mention hours of searching Kampala by motorcycle ​— ​she eventually tracked down a sandal maker named Lydia. 

The two women chatted for hours in bits of English and Swahili. This is how Hernandez, who was still in college and passionate about social entrepreneurship that empowered women, learned about a cooperative of women artisans who made the sandals in Kenya.

That encounter helped to spark an idea for an ethical fashion business that could help the Kenyan artisans expand their reach to the United States ​— ​and break their cycle of poverty. 

Returning to Santa Barbara after graduating in 2015, Hernandez partnered with her mother, Lindsay McTavish, to expand RoHo (the Swahili word for kindness and spirit). 

RoHo now works with four artisan groups across Kenya to create consistent, fair-paying work. Its direct-to-consumer website features not only sandals but also handcrafted scarves, jewelry, coin purses, and cowhide tote bags. (See rohogoods.com.)

In addition to RoHo, Hernandez has previously worked in several African countries, including Tanzania, where she was a recipient of a Princeton in Africa fellowship. Last summer, she received a Spirit of Small Business “Think Global” award from the Pacific Coast Business Times.

So how does such an accomplished twenty-something social entrepreneur get it all done? 

In drilling down to the nitty-gritty of her productivity systems and secrets, I have to say she’s doing everything right. It’s almost as if I’d trained her myself!

Which meant I had to know more about her best hacks.

For one thing, Hernandez swears by Trello, the web-based list-making application. She’s a compulsive list maker and loves nothing better than to get tasks crossed off.

For another, she plans out all of her social media posts. That helps her to find the time to brainstorm and find further inspiration.

Finally, Hernandez says it’s important to do monthly and quarterly check-ins ​— ​including setting and reviewing goals ​— ​with her far-flung team.

Here are some other tips she shared with me.

What time do you wake up in the morning?  I get up between 5 and 6:30 a.m., depending on the day. I’m a morning person!

What’s the first thing you do?  I check my email to ensure there are no immediate things to take care of, and then do some form of exercise. Either walking the dog or rowing at Lake Casitas.

What’s your email strategy?  I try to check my email twice a day, in order to not get caught up in responses. That being said, if an email will take less than three minutes to answer, I try to take care of it right away.

What’s your best habit?  I’m disciplined at creating and fulfilling to-do lists. I’ve found mapping out goals at the beginning of a week to be helpful in keeping me on track.

What’s your worst habit?  If I’m not careful, I’m always thinking about work, to the point where I burn out. 

What’s the last thing you do at night?  Listen to a podcast or audiobook. 

What time do you go to bed?  Around 9:45. If it’s a good day, I’m in bed by 9.

What does your best day look like?  On my best days, I work out, and I get to cross everything off my to-do list. There’s no stress behind the work and everything flows. A great day ends with something fun, like dinner with a friend or walk with the dog.  

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