Ten years ago, Bethany Tran went to Guatemala and had a transformative week that would ultimately change the trajectory of her career. Her friends had started a nonprofit that was working to break the cycle of poverty in the largest urban slum in Central America. It was her first time abroad and her first real interaction with communities living in poverty. Her experience ultimately turned her into a social entrepreneur, launching a brand in a field she knew nothing about: fashion.
Up until that point, Tran had been a marketing executive. Since graduating college, marketing had always been her path, but after her trip to Guatemala, everything changed. While the nonprofit was doing important work focusing on education, Tran knew that if there weren’t jobs available for the children after graduating, nothing would change. She started looking at poverty alleviation differently and felt there was a missing piece.
Over the next few years, she went back to Guatemala several times and each time, she felt stronger about the lack of job opportunities, feeling compelled to find a solution. In 2013, social enterprises were steadily on the rise, and Tran took a leap of faith by quitting her “perfect” job and launched The Root Collective, an ethical shoe brand that creates work for the people she had met in Guatemala.
Coming up on their sixth anniversary, Tran shares advice for aspiring social entrepreneurs. It is these core lessons that helped her get where she is today, which is lucky for us, because every woman should have at least one pair of The Root Collective shoes in their repertoire.
Throw Your Excuses Out The Window
When Tran turned 30, she had a solid corporate job with a good salary and benefits. By all accounts, she had “made it.” Except she was miserable. She began to wonder what she was really doing with her life and after watching Half The Sky, she had an epiphany. Inspired by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn’s book, the documentary chronicles women and girls who are living under some of the most difficult circumstances imaginable, and fighting bravely to change them.
It was a pivotal moment for Tran. “If all these women in Asia and Africa are seeing problems and solving them,” she said, “and they don’t have all the opportunities I do, then I literally have NO excuse to not do anything.” The idea for a solution to the problem she witnessed in Guatemala had been bouncing around in her head for a few years, so that’s when she knew it was time to stop making excuses and take action.