It’s not often that a national organization can say their charitable contributions tie in perfectly with their business goals. So, when BioPed Footcare Centres partnered with Nashville, Tennessee-based Soles4Souls in 2015, it seemed too good to be true.
The Canadian franchise was in search of a new, innovative approach to distributing used shoes to those in need as part of their company-wide goodytwoshoes Foundation. Founded in 2012, the Foundation supplies Canadians with used shoes which would otherwise end up in landfills. A little research lead them to Soles4Souls, a non-profit organization with a mission to discover entrepreneurship, create employment, and end poverty through shoe distribution in third world countries.
Through Soles4Souls’ unique Micro-Enterprise Program, used shoes are delivered and sold at a low cost to female entrepreneurs in various countries from Haiti and Guatemala to Tanzania, Ecuador and India, among others. The program provides communities a way out of poverty, as women resell the shoes in their local marketplace, employing other women and young entrepreneurs in the process.
“As soon as we met with Soles4Souls and learned more about the Micro-Enterprise Program, we knew there was something special,” says Peter Scully, BioPed’s President and CEO. “This is our business – we are in the feet business. It’s pretty incredible when you can find a cause that compliments what you do for a living so well.”
Within the first year of the partnership, BioPed franchisees collected a total of 34,000 pairs of shoes from their local communities. The initiative was an immediate success as more and more franchise partners became inspired by the work Soles4Souls was achieving, sharing the message with Canadians from coast to coast. To date, the franchise has donated 200,000 pairs with a goal of reaching 1-million.
“It’s really morphed into something much bigger than we ever anticipated,” Scully says. “We’ve even tacked on an additional aspect where our BioPed franchisees get to travel to Haiti.”
In 2016, to reward franchisees’ shoe collection efforts for the program, BioPed head office decided to bring their top shoe collectors to the country the shoes were being sent too. Now, every time a clinic collects 25 pairs of used shoes, they are automatically added into a draw. A handful of names are randomly selected, with the lucky franchise partners winning a trip to Haiti.
“We chose Haiti only because there’s a tremendous need there,” Scully explains. “And we continue to go back because we are continually inspired by the country. The most incredible thing about Haiti are the people and their resiliency. People take care of people.”
Whereas used shoes are collected in partnership with Soles4Souls, BioPed’s trips to Haiti are designed to bring children new shoes. Travelling to the country once a year – with plans to make the trip two times beginning in 2018 – BioPed franchisees bring over 1000 shoes each visit, sizing children in schools and orphanages across the country.
Sudbury, Ontario franchisee Kyla Rouleau has been fortunate enough to make the trip twice, and describes the experience as life-altering.
“Not only do we meet these children, we also get to explore the country, visit some of the markets where shoes from the Micro-Enterprise Program are sold, and meet the women who benefit from the initiative,” she says. “It really changes your entire outlook. On the plane ride home, I always wonder if I gave as much as I received from the experience.”
Each trip to Haiti offers a new opportunity to help children and communities in need. As they get set for their next trip, Scully says they will continue to deliver shoes in addition to finding other ways to give back, whether that be helping with food programs or teaching students English.
And their contributions haven’t gone unnoticed. Earlier this year, BioPed received the Canadian Franchise Association’s Outstanding Corporate Citizenship Award, recognizing their partnership with Soles4Souls and their work in Haiti.
“The entire BioPed team are, by nature, caring people,” Scully says. “The work we’ve been doing is just a natural extension of that. Receiving the award was so special because it brought awareness to our franchisees of just how powerful their contributions are. Our owners are the real stars of the show, so this award was for them.”
By Kristin Di Tommaso