We had the good fortune of connecting with Bethany Tran and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Bethany, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
I spent some time in a slum in Guatemala and realized that so many nonprofits were focusing on education, which is necessary, but I wondered if maybe we weren’t looking at poverty alleviation backwards…. maybe we needed to be focusing on the parents instead. What if the parents had access to a job so that they didn’t need charity? That made so much sense to me.
I also knew that there was such a disconnect between consumers and the people who made the thing that we all buy every day. In a world where we are so connected with the internet, there was this massive fissure in which our society has seemingly forgotten that real people with real names make the things we wear every day. In the fight to the bottom with getting the cheapest price, we’ve also forgotten the real price of cheap…. we know how much something cost us, but do we know what it cost the person who made it? That true cost of cheap is so hidden, even when we should be so connected to it.
So these two things, wanting to provide jobs for people who need them and wanting to connect consumers with makers, blended into the business model that we promote with The Root Collective. We pay fair wages for good work for people who need jobs while reminding our customers that real people make our products (and everything else they buy!).
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
We truly believe that all people deserve respect and dignity and pride ourselves on being a leader in the movement towards ethical practices in manufacturing. There is so much work that needs to be done in creating a better world where workers are bing paid fairly across the board, and don’t think that there should be a “fair trade” label attached to that… it should just be standard business practice. This is the soapbox that we get on every day, and are so encouraged to see consumers (who really hold ALL the power) demanding better. There are still not enough companies paying attention to fair wages, and our hope is to inspire our customers to have the courage to ask for that. This is my biggest passion.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I mean, I have to say Guatemala! That’s where our products are made. It would start off in Antigua (the one in Guatemala). A drink at Cafe Sky, ramen at the little shop just down the street, coffee in the main square. Then we’d spend some time at Lake Atitlan, shopping in the little markets, taking a boat ride across the lake, and staying in one of the gorgeous hotels there. We’d head up north to Tikal to see the ancient Mayan ruins and spend some time in the jungle areas.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I need to give a major shoutout to our community! We have an incredible community of women (also known as our customers!) who believe that the people who make the stuff they wear every day deserve respect and dignity. They are so brand loyal and love sharing the story behind their shoes, and the people who make them, with their friends, family, and strangers on the street. They have been the driver behind our success and we wouldn’t be where we are without them.
Other: We have a facebook group as well that we love to have people join! https://www.facebook.com/groups/therootcollective
Live Socially Branded