We met up Sophie, the hippy chic co-founder of Tesyha, at the flagship store in Austin. Nestled near a vegetarian brunch spot, juice stand, and tattoo parlor, Teysha is an apologetically vibrant home to the beautiful boots and shoes handmade by men and women in Guatemala. As a co-conspirator in creating some real social change, Sophie took some time to chat with us about the world of social entrepreneurship.
What is social entrepreneurship to you and how does Teysha fit in?
Social entrepreneurship, to me, means seeing a challenge or problem facing the world and finding a way to help solve that problem in a meaningful way by creating value for all groups involved. For us, we wanted to help find a way to create opportunities for artisans to share their talents, raise their income, have better opportunities for their children's education, and then preserve the incredible artistic heritage in their cultures --- rather than ask people to donate to this cause, we wanted to create something that stood alone on its own merit of quality, design, and uniqueness, and also happens to have a deep social mission as well. We don't want to depend on people's charity and instead, offer them something of value while creating value for our artisan partners.
What are some companies or brands do you think are doing it well?
UBUNTU of course! I am a huge fan of everything y'all do and look up to you in so many ways. Beyond UBUNTU, I love the models in the sustainable fashion space of Reformation, Manos Zapotecas, Seamly.co, and more!
Social stars: tell us a success story from someone you work with on the ground.
Victor was one of the first people we met in the town where we are now based in Guatemala. At first he was quiet, focused, hanging in the back and cutting leather which had been his job. He quickly became our number one all star on our team in Guatemala, realizing that he was incredibly smart, animated, passionate and dedicated, he had just never had the opportunity to express that before. He just graduated with his degree in accounting and has become the manager of our workshop. He is young, bright, and really to me says so much about the future of Guatemala if more people like him can find those opportunities to challenge themselves and work in a place that supports their growth and passions.
What has been Teysha's biggest challenge on the way to sustainability?
I think it's always a challenge when you are trying to do things in a way that respects all your stakeholders- balancing fair wages, costs for quality materials, accessibility to a wide audience, and fitting into the retail world, can definitely be a challenge but can be done!
If you could give prospective entrepreneurs two pieces of advice, what would those be?
Just do it! If you are thinking or dreaming of starting something, go for it. You have so much more to gain than you have to lose, and if anything, you will learn more than you ever thought while trying to build something amazing. My second piece would be to play to your strengths and what you really want your life to look like, while building your business -- remember you can't be the best at everything, so learn what you are best at and most passionate about, and do that! Another would be, for anyone thinking about a product based company, that design and quality is key -- make sure your product can stand on its own, and know that the story is essential but not the only thing that is important.
Now for the fun ones. What did you eat for breakfast?
Tacos all day every day! (Literally breakfast, lunch, and probably dinner today.)
Favorite place you've traveled?
Can't pick favorites, but most recently Oaxaca, Mexico! I was in love with the culture, food, colors, art, mescal, and the city just had such an entrepreneurial and action oriented feel. Another semi-recent favorite was the island of Ometepe in Nicaragua. I will forever love Bali for the sense of spirituality and nature ingrained in everything.
What do you never leave home without?
Chap-stick, laptop, notebook, and tennis shoes for my evening run!