We are a social enterprise, that upcycles washed up flip-flops found along the beaches and waterways in Kenya. Inspired by the toys children were making out of the flip-flop debris, Julie Church, the Ocean Sole Founder, encouraged their mothers to collect, wash, and cut the discarded flip-flops into colourful products to sell at local Kenyan Markets as another means of income for their families.
Our social enterprise positively impacts over a 1,000 Kenyans through the collection of flip-flops and direct employment. We provide steady income to nearly 100 low-income Kenyans in our company. We recycled over half a million flip-flops in 2017 and aim to recycle a million this year. We contribute over 10-15% of our revenue to beach cleanups, vocational and educational programmes as well as conservation efforts.
We use our social enterprise to pay bonuses to employees, invest in a welfare programme that allows a zero return in funds to all employees to help facilitate payments for educating their children, buying land and other means. Our actions must make a difference to the plight of our oceans and our ethos is to give back what we earn to change the lives of many – through employment, education, and meals.
We turn flip-flops into art and functional products and in turn raise visual awareness of the problem at hand. By creating these sculptures, we are creating employment for a country that has over 40% unemployment rate but we are also sending a message about how we can help our planet, our oceans and people, through creating beautiful art that portrays an important message about the state of our oceans.
Our business is all about the community. We support men, women, youth (18 to 35), fishermen and other entrepreneurs that are all part of our ecosystem. Whether picking up flip-flops that we pay for or using our waste for up-cycled products such as mattresses, our community engagement has been strong and is at the core of our business and hearts.