Nisolo

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Nisolo

Nashville, United StatesTrujillo, Peru
Year Founded:
2011
Organization type: 
for profit
Project Stage:
Established
Budget: 
$1 million - $5 million
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Nisolo is a socially conscious lifestyle brand, connecting low resource, high skill producers to consumers worldwide. Carefully designed for quality, comfort, style, and longevity, Nisolo shoes and accessories benefit both maker and purchaser, fostering stable producers and changemaking consumers.

WHAT IF - Inspiration: Write one sentence that describes a way that your project dares to ask, "WHAT IF?"

What if consumers´ purchases were always investments in producers, if the quality of a product paralleled the quality of life of its maker, if companies valued their producers as much as their customers?
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

The last few years have been some of the most profitable yet deadliest in the fashion industry. Consumers, especially millennials, are looking for ways to break that correlation, but brand options that provide high quality products -- both ethically and aesthetically-- are scarce. The industry desperately needs critical, creative, and innovative brands that pledge to fill that demand and make a positive change.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

Through its brand and manufacturing , Nisolo’s vertically integrated business model connects producers to consumers and advocates for a revitalized fashion industry that follows suit. Shoes and accessories are produced by people with high skill and industry knowledge but low market access, and sold via Nisolo’s E-Commerce website. In producing communities, Nisolo establishes stable work opportunities in safe environments, pays above fair trade wages with benefits, provides extra work- and life-skills training, and offers in-house loans and savings opportunities. For buyers, Nisolo provides a high quality, classically stylish product made ethically -- proving to consumers that they can have it all, it's just a matter of asking for it.

Awards

Forbes 30 under 30 Social Enterpreneur 2016; Global Innovation Summit Ecosystem Award 2015; SOCAP 2012 & 2014 Featured Entrepreneur; NEXT Awards Top Social Enterprise & Sustainability Startup 2014; Unreasonable Institute and Agora Partnerships Fellow 2013
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

Before working at Nisolo, Karina, a single mother, spent each day working odd jobs. Despite skills developed over years working in shoemaking, Karina could only obtain piecemeal work for low wages. In her own words, “it was exploitation.” Two years ago, Karina began working with Nisolo, and for the first time found herself with a steady job: 5 days a week, 52 weeks a year. She signed her first formal contract, acquired healthcare, attended training sessions on personal finances and interpersonal skills, and began saving money for the first time through an in-house savings program. Karina helped produce 15,000 Nisolo products in the past year alone, and as demand grows, so does her, and others´, access to stability and success.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

Beneficiaries include our producers & their families in Peru and Kenya (totaling over 200 livelihoods), our 3rd party raw material suppliers, our fan base, our customer base, and the fashion industry at large. These producers have experienced an income increase of 161% since starting with Nisolo. And, whereas 84% of our producers ended education early for financial reasons, 95% of producers’ children are in school and 100% of those who are in university will be 1st time graduates in family history. Our social media fan base who regularly receives posts about social impact and industry issues has surpassed 100,000 people. In 2015, we consulted with over 15 ethical fashion brands, hosted/attended 12 impact-focused events & launched a Kickstarter that exposed a new audience of over 50,000 to Nisolo, a proper alternative for conscious consumerism. Now, let's scale our impact.

Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact?

Scaling impact means expanding our production and brand awareness. We will grow our workforce in Trujillo to over 500 individuals, including more people in our existing initiatives (work & skills trainings, savings & loans program, inclusion in the formal workforce, access to healthcare, etc.). Beyond Peru, we have already expanded into Kenya, adding nearly 40 supported livelihoods to our team. We envision employing thousands of individuals, deeply impacting their communities, and long to play a major role alongside our consumers in pushing the fashion industry in a new direction.
Sustainability

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

Our product is superior to our competitors´ & ‘sells itself.’ We are cash flow positive and are expecting to profitably grow by over 200% this year. Our supply chain is sustainable & scalable, with over 100,000 people in the footwear and leather accessories industry in Peru and thousands of jewelry makers in the artisan community of Nairobi. We are “product & profit first” because only through scale can we impact millions of lives.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

Over 150m producers in the fashion industry are living in “modern day slavery.” What’s needed is a new model. We want to be held accountable and connect our consumers directly with producers. Our solution is vertically-integrated manufacturing and direct-to-consumer distribution. This allows us to maintain healthy margins, sell superior products at a fair price, and deeply impact the lives of our producers and their families in the process. No one else has done this and delivered the same quality of product that we have. In the words of one Nisolo producer, “Somos pioneros”—we are pioneers.
Team

Founding Story

In 2011, Patrick Woodyard took a development job in Trujillo, Peru. While visiting the home of a microfinance client, Patrick met Willan, who was handcrafting handsome, high-quality men’s leather dress shoes. Intrigued by the fine leather craftsmanship in the midst of such poverty, Patrick was even more surprised to find that despite such a quality product, Willan struggled to make ends meet or find consistent work -- and that Willan´s story was in fact not a unique one. Alongside Willan & designer Zoe Cleary, Patrick created Nisolo with the vision of delivering an excellent product to consumers while maintaining the wellbeing of producers at the forefront of the brand’s philosophy.

Team

The Nisolo team is based out of Nashville, TN, with production teams in Trujillo, Peru and Nairobi, Kenya. Patrick Woodyard, Co-Founder and CEO, graduated from the Croft Institute for International Studies at the University of Mississippi, where he studied Global Economics, Business, and Spanish. His experience with economic development ranges from the Mississippi Delta to rural Uganda and throughout South America. Nisolo was born out of Patrick´s experiences while working in microfinance in Trujillo, Peru, where he met a group of shoemakers who possessed remarkable talent yet lacked access to consistent work, capital, and established markets. Zoe Cleary, Co-Founder and Director of Product Design, is originally from Santa Barbara, CA and has also spent many years living abroad. The minimalistic and classic designs of Nisolo are largely influenced by her time living in Italy and France and the integration of unique textures and fabrics are the influence of the bold Latin American culture that she has grown to love. Zoe graduated with honors from Willamette University and then completed her MBA in fashion management in New York City. After working for several multi billion dollar fashion labels, she decided to change directions in order to pursue a career she was most passionate about in the social enterprise sector. A mutual friend introduced her to Patrick Woodyard while he was in the beginning stages of Nisolo. After flying to Peru to meet Patrick and witness the talent that existed in Trujillo, it was an easy decision for her to join forces in order to help launch the brand. She travels back and forth between Peru and the US and enjoys getting to see the progress and development on both sides. Becky Bailey, VP of Finance and Operations. Prior to joining the Nisolo team full-time, Becky worked as Portfolio Manager and then Chief Operating Officer at Agora Partnerships, a Latin American Social Enterprise Accelerator Program, where Nisolo was a client. Becky fueled her passion for utilizing business as a force for good while earning her MBA at the Wharton School, where she was Co-President of the Social Impact Club and an Associate for the Wharton Social Venture Fund. Prior to Wharton, Becky worked as an Analyst and then Associate in the Equity Capital Markets (ECM) division of the Investment Bank at J.P. Morgan, where she helped found the San Francisco Technology ECM practice. Becky holds a B.A. in Mathematics and Economics from Smith College. She has traveled throughout the world and is business proficient in Spanish. Travis Gravette, VP of Business Development, has been an entrepreneur since his first lawn care business in middle school, but a transformative life experience led him to enter the nonprofit world first. A google search as a senior in college landed him at an orphanage in rural Uganda over his Christmas break in 2004. That trip changed his life and he started a nonprofit to support local leaders in East Africa soon after graduating. With strong skills in business strategy and an eye for marketing he made his way back into the for-profit world, but with a mission to use it as a force for good. He has nearly 15 years of business experience working in the social enterprise space, primarily in East Africa. Daryl Edwards, VP of Production, Peru, began his career as an Electrical Controls Engineer, designing control systems for projects in more than 30 countries. His work brought him face-to-face with inequities all over the developing world, driving him to repurpose his technical skills through an MBA focused on Nonprofit Management and Finance from Schulich School of Business. Daryl deepened his knowledge of business in Latin America through a 1 year internship with Agora Partnerships, delivering a stringent strategic analysis curriculum for businesses located in 4 countries. This led directly to his current role as VP Production for Nisolo, where he leads all operations in Trujillo, Peru, and has grown the team from 25 to 50 people in the last year. Daryl holds a Bachelor of Applied Science in Engineering from the University of Toronto, and has an ongoing personal mission to make the perfect shot of espresso. Willan Ulloa Sanchez, Production Improvement Manager, Peru. Five years ago while working in the workshop in his home, Willan met Patrick and the story of Nisolo began. A 3rd generation shoemaking expert who has worked in the industry for over 20 years, it was originally his high quality leather work that caught Patrick´s attention. He currently heads up Nisolo´s new product development, the training of new shoemakers, and production expansion. Willan has four boys, two of which also work at Nisolo. When not in the factory, Willan works as a preacher in his neighborhood church, where he has had a considerable impact on the community through the implementation of a school and library. Jhon Mostacero Medina, Quality Manager, Peru, has worked in shoemaking for more than 20 years and has been with Nisolo since its inception. He likes to say that he was born among shoes -- his father was a shoemaker and taught him the trade from a very young age. With an eye attuned to the details of leather and shoemaking, Jhon manages quality control for the entire production process, from the arrival of the leather to the final product. Eliseo Moreno Romero, Supply Chain Manager, Peru. An early friend of Patrick´s, Eliseo has been with Nisolo since the beginning. He is an energized and passionate person with his heart fully in Nisolo. In his time with the company, he has worked as general manager, his current role as purchasing manager, and just about everything in between. Eliseo is a networking fiend who has built an impressive and valuable web of connections with suppliers throughout the city and country. When he's not in the factory, Eliseo is almost definitely on his motorcycle exploring his native Peru. Raymond Nyamodi, Production Manager, Kenya, has worked for more than 15 years in the jewelry making business in Nairobi, Kenya. Originally an accountant, Raymond worked for a big artisan crafts exporter before realizing that he enjoyed the jewelry making more than the bookkeeping. Today, he has his own workshop where he works with his wife, Miriam, and 10 full time employees. Raymond is also a big runner and loves to play soccer.
Value Chain: Where does your work fit into the apparel value chain? [check all that apply]

Manufacturing.

Your Role: What is your relationship to the apparel industry? [check all that apply]

Designer, Factory Owner.

Target Population: What stakeholder groups do you engage or empower in your work? [check all that apply]

Brands, Consumers, Factory Workers, Factory Owners, Sourcing Manager / Supply Chain Manager, Supplier - contractor, Women, Youth.

● Intervention Focus: What are you trying to achieve / influence? [check all that apply]

Access to Essential Services (i.e. Healthcare and Education), Access to Social Protection Services (i.e. Insurance, Pension, etc.), Conscious Consumerism, Physical Working Conditions, Transparency.

Lever for Change: Select up to 3 ways your work is helping to transform the industry.

Advocacy, Capacity Building, Standards.

Is your project targeted at solving any of the following key barriers?

A Job is Not Enough: Low-Income Workers Cannot Secure Long-Term Well-Being, Sustainability is Not Yet in the DNA: Fast Fashion’s Current Model Disincentivizes Value-Driven Economies.

Does your project utilize any of the innovative design principles below?

Activate Local Know-how for Driving Solutions: Build Opportunities for Workers to Become Leaders.

Innovation Inspiration: When you first conceived of your project, did you think of it as applicable to the apparel industry?

yes

If you answered "no" to the previous question, which industry was your project originally aimed at transforming?

● Replicating in the Apparel Industry: If your project didn't initially target the apparel industry, how are you specifically tailoring it to do so now?

n/a

Are you nurturing or inspiring others to be changemakers? If so, how?

We inspire new changemakers through mentorship, collaborations, events, and major campaigns like Kickstarter.

● Tell us about the partnerships that enhance your approach. How have you collaborated with others in the industry to increase your impact?

We collaborate with local NGOs and ethical brands and have some of the top names in fashion on our advisory team.

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