Ask Liz Bohannon what came first, the chicken or the egg, and she’ll actually have an answer for you. When she traveled to Uganda in 2008 as a new college graduate and met women who had graduated from high school but couldn’t raise money for college tuition, she decided to create the necessary platform. After a series of attempted business ventures—chicken farming included—she hatched Sseko (pronounced say-koh), a sandal company whose newest T-strap silhouette hits their online boutique today.
The framework of the brown leather sandal is simple but each pair has an alluring twist. Priced at $89, they include a set of interchangeable, hand-beaded, and locally sourced embellishments (it feels as though you’ve added two new pairs of shoes to your closet). The thoughtful, highly practical approach to the sandals is a direct extension of Bohannon’s financially self-sustaining business model, which places 50 percent of the women’s salary into an account that can’t be touched until tuition is due. And it’s worked: To date, 47 women have gone on to college.
Bohannon’s greatest lesson thus far? “Mistakes are inevitable but if you posture yourself for the process of learning and there is joy behind what you’re doing, success will happen.” As she walked us through the assortment of shoes, leather bags, bracelets and partnerships that are shaping the company into a lifestyle brand, we asked about the meaning behind the word Sseko. With an ear-to-ear smile, she gave us the most befitting of responses: “It’s derived from the Lugandan word for laughter.”