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.”
At the time she started her shoe making industry, Mabel who is passionate about poverty alleviation was a University student.
Mabel 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 others in her shoes, Mabel vowed to make life better for persons 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,”
For a more appealing and commercial product, she sought the help of fashion entreprenuers. 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, 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.