There is every reason to be grateful for such a thoughtful entrepreneur as Mabel Suglo, the founder of Eco-shoes in Ghana. Everything about Mabel’s shoe-making business is worth the applause. From her heart to the essence of employing only persons with certain physical limitations to the eco-nature of the business, Mabel stands for everything humanity dreams of.
The business was borne out of the desire to make the lives of persons with disabilities better. By employing them she hopes to change the attitude of people towards the disabled.
Secondly, the Eco-Shoes Project recycles used materials and available African prints to make shoes and accessories.
“I seek to build a community of conscious consumers with a forward-thinking team who believe reusing and recycling can turn trash into treasure.”
Mabel Suglo Business Startup
At the time she started her shoemaking industry, Mabel who is passionate about poverty alleviation was a University student. She started her humanitarian and eco-friendly company in 2013 with 5 people. Choosing to go into the shoe business was not exactly fashion driven. According to her, the inspiration to make shoes came from her grandmother’s experiences.
Mabel’s grandmother suffered leprosy. Thus, she witnessed first hand the discrimination and stigma she had to go through. On a different occasion the young entrepreneur with a heart of gold shared this narration:
“Then one day I went to town, and I saw a disabled man begging for money. One person didn’t give him money, but started telling him that he is good for nothing, useless, and that kind of thing.
“I just watched and had this mental picture of my grandmother. I really saw how we isolate these people. I thought it high time we make them feel welcome in the community.”
From how people treated her grandmother and some other vulnerable persons like that, Mabel vowed to make life better for those with disabilities.
“So I just walked up to him and I asked him if he could get a job that would pay better than begging, would he be ready to work? And he said yes.”
Mabel wanted to change the perception of these physically limited persons by giving them a purpose; a reason to wake up in the morning and feel useful unlike the impression that the public creates.
Still brainstorming on what to start, Mabel Suglo borrowed a leaf of creativity from her grandmother.
“The idea of using car tyres to make shoes came to mind… My grandmother actually used to wear bits of old car tyres for shoes because she had no toes and no shoes could fit her feet… So she just took a car tyre, cut it into short pieces and tied it with a rope and it worked well. Other farmers did the same too.”
Mabel wishes to build a community of conscious and conscientious consumers who believe, like herself, that by reusing and recycling, they can turn waste into treasure. For a more appealing and commercial product, young entrepreneur sought the help of fashion entrepreneurs. Mabel also partnered with a local school for the disabled.
The institution helped to train these persons with disabilities on how to make shoes from discarded tyres and recycled materials.
In 2015, and at 22 years old, Mabel Suglo won $12,500 as a second runner-up of the Anzisha Prize, Africa’s premier award for young entrepreneurs.
Eco-shoes and accessories are sold through a small distribution network to various retailers across four regions in Ghana. Mabel has plans to launch into the wider market; she anticipates that the artisans will produce 1,000 to 1,500 handbags per year in addition to the shoes that are being made. With the 2015 Anzisha Prize of $12,50, Mabel plans to use the prize money to purchase better machinery to enhance productivity at the Eco-Shoes Project. Her other plans include investing in the creation of an e-commerce site and additional training for her employees, including computer-aided shoe design.
Mable Suglo understands that DISABILITY IS NOT INABILITY thus with her likeable personality, she was easily able to recruit disabled employees when she approached them with dignity and respect and asked if they were willing to try something new if it paid more. Besides the business, she is actively involved in changing attitudes in Ghana.