Fashion should always make a statement. What you're wearing can say so much — that you're just not feeling it today, you want that job, or you're down to have some fun. Sseko Designs (pronounced "say-ko") is a footwear and accessory line with a different kind of statement — this brand wants to educate and empower women. But will that be enough to make the tough investors bite when Sseko Designs makes its Shark Tank debut on Friday night? The fashion line boasts some super cute sandals (with interchangeable ties), silk and infinity scarves, wallets, and clutches.
The best part is that the products are made by a team of 50 women in Uganda who are employed by and receive scholarships from Sseko to pursue university-level education. Pretty cool, eh? Not only that, Sseko has become Uganda's largest exporter. It's not often you can say these sandals were made for providing young women with an education. But it'll take more than just good will to impress the Shark Tank investors. Maybe it'll be the cute designs, the wide range of products for sale, or the fact that they're available in lots of retailers already. That's right, you can buy Sseko Designs' products right now on their website, where their signature sandals range from $54.99 to $59.99. You can also find them in stores throughout the U.S., all listed on the website. Here's what else you should know about Sseko.
At age 22 and fresh out of the University of Missouri, Liz Forkin Bohannon left her sweet public relations job and bought a plane ticket to Uganda. Bohannon studied journalism in college and wanted to make a difference in the world, but she wasn't sure how. As she traveled across Uganda, she got to know the community of women — and that's how she came up with Sseko.
"When I came to learn that many of these bright, passionate young women were graduating from secondary school and struggling to find work during their gap year to finance their university education, Sseko was born," Bohannon wrote on the company website.
She first tried her hand at a chicken farm, but then designed a sandal that has become the company's signature product. "Sseko is not a charity," Bohannon wrote. "What we’re trying to do is create partnership, possibility and opportunity where it didn’t exist before."
Today, she runs Sseko with her husband Ben.
Around 50 women are employed at Sseko during their nine-month gap year between high school and university. According to the Sseko website, 50 percent of each woman's salary goes into a savings account that can only be used to pay for college tuition.
"Some of these young women are from villages that have never seen one of their own finish high school," Bohannon wrote. "And here they were graduating from secondary school, despite all odds. They had received an incredible education and were academically qualified to continue."
Sseko's signature sandal is very stylish and also has the ability to interchange fabric straps. So not only can you change colors and patterns, but you can tie them in all sorts of ways, making the most of one nifty sandal. Check out the above instructional video and the rest on YouTube.
Images: Michael Desmond/ABC