The Root Collective

The Root Collective: A Different Kind of Investment Piece

Durham, United StatesGuatemala City, Guatemala
Year Founded:
Organization type: 
for profit
Project Stage:
$100,000 - $250,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

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

The Root Collective partners with small-scale makers in Guatemala to create handcrafted shoes from handwoven textiles. We are dedicated to production standards that put people first, and provides jobs in some hard places of the world. We want to empower women to spend their money in ways that matter

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

What if people could be protected and empowered in the manufacturing of the things we wear each day?
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Poverty remains a cycle because jobs are scarce and cultural stigmas keep people stagnant. In the slum of La Limonada in Guatemala City, 60,000 people live in poverty and have to lie about their address to get a job because they are considered less than. In manufacturing around the globe, people are dying for the things we wear because standards are low. People are paid poorly, and their poverty forces them to accept it.

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

We are partnering directly with local business leaders who understand the cultural complexity of their communities and are working with them to create jobs. We design footwear here that will sell in the American marketplace, and work with businesses in La Limonada and other areas of Guatemala to grow their business. We ask questions about what workers are being paid to ensure that they are being paid fairly. We started off working with a single cobbler, and his business has since grown to hire on 7 men. We are also partnering with 50 women in a weaving cooperative, and they are able to feed their children three meals a day and send them to school for the first time.


MEDA 20 Under 35 Young Professionals
Impact: How does it Work

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

Our master shoemaker, Otto, is known in his community as a changemaker. He has developed a reputation for his work, and is being recognized as someone who has a tremendous heart for the slum of La Limonada where he grew up. A few months ago, a young man came to Otto's door with a story that is sadly common. Six men in his family had been killed in gang violence. The uncommon thing was that this young man wanted to be the one to break that cycle. He wanted to be different. He was asking for a job, because he knew that was the one thing that could keep him from the violence in his community. Otto hired him, even though he didn't necessarily need to bring on someone else to support production. He believed in the impact that a job could have.

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

We have helped local business leaders grow their employee base since we launched in 2013. The cobbler business went from one part time employee to seven full time employees. These men have been given consistent work in creating shoes. We also went from partnering with two small groups in the weaving cooperative, to three larger groups, with conversations to bring on additional women. We are now partnering with 50 women in the cooperative. These women are also able to feed their children three meals a day for the first time and pay for necessary school supplies in order to keep their children in school. The weaving cooperative has also received requests from other groups to join the cooperative because they see the consistent work and the value that is bringing to the families. More and more jobs will be created as this continues to grow.

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

The Root Collective is looking to expand the business through wholesale accounts with boutiques and shops. We are also going to be expanding to partnering with additional shoemakers to handle demand and vary our product offering. Our main goal is to provide more jobs and additional avenues in new communities to empower people to lift themselves out of poverty. We are hoping this empowerment will show younger generations that they have intrinsic value and an alternative to violence. We also want these skills to be able to be used locally to grow and expand the maker businesses in their country.

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

Our funding comes from product sales, so as we grow and continue to expand online sales and open new wholesale accounts, our financial situation will become stable. Sales are key to sustainability and we are pushing this aspect hard. We plan on pitching to major retailers to grow the business effectively.

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

The ethical fashion movement is growing and new companies are constantly emerging. Companies like People Tree, Noonday Collection and Shoes are a necessary and largely missing piece in the ethical fashion arena, which is where The Root Collective comes in. We believe that collaborating with other brands is essential to bringing attention to the industry as a whole.

Founding Story

After a week spent in the slum of La Limonada, learning that poverty is a social construct and hope survives within the hearts of those who are overcomers, I left with a solid piece of my heart behind in the streets of that place. People were born here, forced here, and left here by a society that wants to keep them here. I realized that money will never solve poverty, but opportunity could. I wanted to be a part of providing jobs, empowering people, and creating change. I believed that there were people here who wanted to make an impact with their dollars, and would support an social enterprise that allows that.


Bethany Tran- founder, designer, overall dreamer (full-time) Christen DiGerlando- customer happiness manager (part-time) Thanh Tran- business analyst/operations manager (part-time) Kylie McCabe- southeast sales rep Leah Bryson- influencer outreach (part time) Brooke Fontoura- blog manager (part time) We are looking to expand the team to include visual merchandisers, product stylists, graphic design, and on-person photographers. An advisory board is being developed as well, in order to have mentorship as the business grows.
Value Chain: Where does your work fit into the apparel value chain? [check all that apply]


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

Advocate/Organizer, Corporate Staff, Designer, Sourcing Manager / Supply Chain Manager.

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

Consumers, Factory Workers, Factory Owners, Supplier - contractor, Women, Youth.

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

Conscious Consumerism, Labor Rights (i.e. Collective Bargaining, etc.), Gender Equality, Anti-forced Labor or Anti-Human Trafficking, Physical Working Conditions, Transparency.

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

Advocacy, Standards.

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

Consumers Aren't Motivated to Care: Neither Compelling Reasons Nor Easy Means to Change Consumption Habits, 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?

Unite More than Voice: Tap into Community Capital and Collective Resources.

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


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

We are inspiring consumers to vote with their dollars and to be mindful of how they spend their money.

● 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 other fair trade brands to increase awareness to items that are produced in ethical ways.