Friday, February 5, 2010

{deep breath: we're back}

Hi Friends! Lest you thought we had long forgotten all of our e-friends and family--we are back in the blogopshere!

(Pause for long, but appropriate reunion hug)

Like many of you, we are still trying to catch our breath from the whirlwind of the holidays--a whirlwind that we did not quite expect.

To give you a little insight into the world of Sseko, we were gearing up for what we assumed would be a long, quiet winter. Obviously, we sell a rather seasonal product. It seemed a safe assumption that as the temperature dropped, so would our sales. Which is not inherently good, but would at least give us a few months to catch our breath and do all the things one needs to do to keep a company running and sustainable.

November rolled around and our assumptions were true. {Chirp Chirp} Things were quiet. I settled in for long hours at the local coffee shop to do some retrospective organizing, planning, and preparing for what the new year would bring.

But our season of quiet hibernation and thoughtful planning was pleasantly, but surprisingly interrupted. To kick off the holiday season of giving and getting, Martha Stewart placed us in her 2009 Holiday Gift Giving Guide, naming Ssekos as one of the hottest gifts of the season.

What? Really? I mean we think Ssekos are the bomb diggity. But Martha Stewart does too?

Goodbye quiet winter. Hello, back-ordering and sold out-ness and late night sandal packing parties with my trooper-sandal-packing-guru husband.

Our business model is unique one for a lot of reasons. One of these reasons is our "employee cycle." As of right now for about 4 months out of the year, we don't make any sandals. We bring these young ladies on to our team, pour into them, learn from them and love each other and then about 8 months later we wave goodbye and watch as they begin to embark on the adventure of University. And that quiet season in Uganda happens to coincide with our "quiet winter" here in the states. We have spent many an evening over our little yellow kitchen table talking about this "unique" part of our business plan. Is this realistic? Can we really make this work when for 1/3 or the year we are not making our selling anything? Is this sustainable? WE HAVE TO MOVE CLOSER TO THE EQUATOR!! (Ok, that might have been me in a short moment of drama...)

Well...our first winter proved that it turns out, people buy sandals in the winter--even here in the very non-equatorial Midwest.


Now, I, like many of you probably reading this right now, often find myself overwhelmed by the commercialization of the holiday season. And you know what? That is all I am going to say about that, because I promise you can find someone else who more eloquently articulates that somehow we as a society turned a story of hope for the hopeless and radical love into a season of consumption and stress and debt and "stuff."

But Internet, I wish you could have a peak into my inbox this holiday season. Because for Christmas this year, I got a lot of gifts. And most of those gifts came in the form of emails from people around the world so excited to give Ssekos to the ones they loved. Notes with stories about why these sandals will mean so much to her. And how passionate she is about Africa...and social justice...and education...and clean water...and microfinance and... how great and exciting it is to give her something that encourages and acknowledges that love and passion in her! And how they were just bursting to give this gift that is so much more than a pair of sandals. And... well the love goes on...

Amidst the commercials and the glitter and the jingles and the crowds, I witnessed a small army of people excited about this new way of giving. A giving that goes beyond the "stuff" and into the world and the lives of those who make our stuff. A giving that acknowledges when we give, we give not only things, but also the story behind it. A giving that gives a little something to everyone in the giving chain--be that an opportunity, dignity, a hope or a challenge to give better.

Thanks for being a part of this new way of giving.



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