One Year in Guatemala

When people inevitably ask, “so how’s it going down there?” I respond, “it’s a battle,” and it’s hard to fully describe. Overseeing production in a fast-growing company with no prior shoemaking (or fashion) experience requires a steep learning curve. Additionally, we’re operating in a landscape that is much more friendly to large businesses than startups, which makes it more difficult to source small quantities of high quality materials. New startups that want to change the status quo in Guatemala are only just beginning here. It’s been an adventure and a grind over the past year to move from an idea on Kickstarter to an established and fully-functioning business.

In 2017 I’ve been stuck in more traffic than I could have ever imagined, worked with gang members in maximum security prisons to make our shoe bags, listened to hundreds of hours of reggaetón music, and worked with every possible provider of high quality shoe materials in Guatemala.We’ve done a full product redevelopment (twice), cycled through 8 different black leathers, and spent over $4k in ATM withdrawal fees. I even had to chase down a tuk-tuk that ran off with $2,000 worth of our shoes.

We’ve purchased Italian machinery, Mexican Shoelaces, El Salvadorian Pig-skin, and Colombian leather. We’ve shipped to over 25 countries across the globe.

However, the most rewarding aspect has been the countless hours talking about life, shoes, and Guatemala with our craftsmen. There have been many conversations about mastering one’s craft, the pursuit of creating a better product, and bringing passion to everything that you do — making shoes is as much an art as anything I’ve ever been a part of.

Here we are:  Beginning 2018 with 15 incredible craftsmen (and our first craftswoman!) in our workshop, all paid above the Living Well Line. And for me, the best part about finishing this past year is knowing we are only getting started.

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