Using "Sneakers + Slippers" to Drive Accessibility
At Leandoers, we believe business is at its best when it's driven by passion. Everyday, you and I make purchases and decisions without much thought, but what if every dollar we spent could make the world a better place?
Recently, our VP of Business Development updated his network, and we're excited to share his story with the world:
(Following excerpt taken from Louie Bernard's posts:)
The past three years of my life have been a whirlwind. After a stop in Brevard, NC with Camps Kahdalea & Chosatonga, I moved to Costa Rica under the cover of night, in hopes of providing ethical and sustainable forms of employment to adolescents and women stuck in illicit and dangerous forms of work.
"While there, life back home changed dramatically. My family and I lost our glue, the Maw Maw. Isolated and grieving, my time in Costa Rica became even more challenging. Hands down, it was the most difficult season of my life thus far.
Meanwhile, somewhere across the world, volunteering in Kazakhstan, my friend Joe Shamp was on his own adventure.
"I reached out, checked in, and tried to provide a long-distance ear that I so needed during my own time away from home.
When Joe came home, over a couple beers, he hiked his foot up on the table. I lol'd.
Joe's slipper/slide/croc/birkenstock/yeezy was like nothing I'd seen before. I figured he'd lost his mind (or at minimum, his sense of fashion) while in Kazakhstan.
But when Joe explained his vision and the heart behind the shoe, I was sold:
You see, while Joe was preparing for his time abroad, he was helping out with Young Life Capernaum, and as he bent down to tie his differently-abled friend's shoes, he received the below photo of a crudely drawn slipper.
Inspiration hit Joe in a flash.
"What if slide-on shoes were fashion-forward? What if my friends didn't need to feel different or disabled? In short, what if slippers were cool?"
Joe's shoes now didn't seem so silly to me. The social entrepreneur in me began to dream aloud over those beers.
"What if one day this business could employ folks with exceptionalities? They could be our models or fulfillment agents? What if slippers—the pinnacle of comfort—could provide better futures to the differently-abled?"
Joe smiled at me, as if to say, "now you get it."
The version he wore that day was a prototype of Ben Seago's slipper drawing. And eventually, with accessibility as the core design tenant, Ben and Joe launched Leandoers and the Lean1 to be the comfiest shoes no one knew they needed.
After helping out with some initial launch stuff in 2019, Joe and Ben offered to bring me on as part of the Leandoers team with a fancy title - VP of Business Development. While negotiating contracts, we took a trip to New York Fashion Week (NYFW), supporting the models and backstage teams, meeting famous people, and forming some amazing relationships.
As I sit in quarantine, reflecting on the past three years of life, I realize it's an absolutely absurd journey, filled with pain and beauty. But transformation and redemption take time. Crudely drawn slippers don't become hits at New York City Fashion Week overnight. And the seeds of the hardest seasons don't always show their fruit till much, much later. I don't know how long it will take for us to realize our grandiose visions, but we're in it for the long haul.
The comfiest shoes you never knew you needed.
As a young company, we're setting our sights high. The fashion and shoe industry don't include everyone, but we believe that simple, well-designed slippers will change that.
Every time you slide on your Lean1s to get comfy, remember that your purchase is making someone's feet and/or future more comfy.
Through our Comfort for All Initiative, you'll help provide shoes and opportunities to people who are differently-abled.