The Root Collective by Founder Bethany Tran
We are always so ecstatic to get to feature women who are taking their businesses to the next level by making an impact in their communities and the world. Bethany Tran of The Root Collective is impacting the women of the world by creating job opportunities. Their handmade boots are incredibly durable and fashionable. Take a minute to read Bethany’s story and be inspired to make a difference! Oh, and for sure go and purchase these amazing boots!!!
What’s Your story? Don’t hold back we would love to know!
I left college with a career in marketing and writing. I worked for a few start ups and small businesses, before landing at Comcast (livin' the dream, right?!). I'm a 1 on the Enneagram, so I had (read- "have") a habit of looking at the world in it's brokenness, It can be an exhausting way to live, but it's just natural for me to see how things could be, which is always better than how they are.
In the middle of all of this, friends of mine started a nonprofit called Lemonade International, which worked in the slum community of La Limonada in Guatemala City. It's considered the largest urban slum in Central America and one of the most dangerous in the world, due to the gang violence there.
A good friend of mine moved to Guatemala for a year, and I went to visit her while she was there. I started realizing pretty quickly that so many nonprofits focus on education, which is so needed, but if you educate a kid and there's no job for them after they graduate, how much has actually changed? Maybe we've been going about poverty alleviation all backwards.
What lead you to become an entrepreneur and create The Root Collective?
It was never my plan to become an entrepreneur. It actually always sounded like an awful way to live to me, if we're being totally honest. Mostly because it becomes your life. There's no escaping it (lordy, did that end up being true!).
But after 3.5 years of going to Guatemala and seeing this problem of jobs needed in these communities, I realized that something needed to be done. Usually, if you see a problem that no one else is solving, it's because you're supposed to solve it yourself. Mind you, social entrepreneurship wasn't really a thing 7-8 years ago. It was just starting to become popular that maybe business could be done a different way, that maybe people were more important than just profit. And even better, maybe those two things could exist at the same time.
I had just started working at Comcast, and turned 30 three weeks later. I went through my second quarter life crisis in five years, wondering what the heck I was doing with my life. I was miserable at my job, simply because I wasn't being fulfilled. Then, PBS aired the Half the Sky documentary and my life was ripped wide open. I watched eight women around the world solving incredible problems and pushing past the fear they had to do so. I realized I had zero excuse.
The wheels got rolling on The Root Collective the next day. I had a business idea but no product, so I called up the executive director of Lemonade International and asked who they knew who made stuff. That's pretty much how we ended up in shoes.
The entire business was started (and continues) in order to solve problems. At first it was poverty alleviation, but now it's shifted into more. Now, we want to empower women to understand how much power they have every time they pull out their wallet. They can literally shape the world by voting with their dollars.
Tell us about The Root Collective and how it has positively impacted the people in your community and the people of Guatemala?
We've seen people in Guatemala have access to jobs that weren't there before. We've seen moms be able to feed their kids 3 meals a day for the first time. We've seen dads be able to provide consistently for their families. We've seen young men have an alternative to the gang life that's so pervasive there.
We've seen women in the US come alive when they realize what a positive impact they can have on the lives of real people in Guatemala and around the world. We've seen entire families shift how they're spending their money so they can support companies that have their ethics front and center.
We've seen people empowered.
Frankly, that's what keeps me going.
How has The Root Collective and the people of Guatemala changed you personally?
I couldn't possibly be more different than I was 10 years ago. I'm no longer afraid of taking risks to do what's right. I now look at the problems in the world and understand that together we can do so much. I've learned what grit means, and how important it is to dig deep in the hard times to get to the beauty behind the hard times.
I've seen what every single person can do to change the world. I am seriously no one. I had no contacts, no influence. And yet, I've been able to help build this incredible community of world changers who believe that the future can be better for our children. And that's pretty freaking amazing.
How would you encourage other women who are wanting to pursue a similar career?
Don't let your fear run your life! You have so much to give. Even if you aren't going to be out making shoes in tough communities, you can have such an impact in your community through whatever gifts you have that are unique to you. You are doing the world a disservice if you don't go out and do what you were created to do.
Contributors: Bethany Tran of Root Collective