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Young entrepreneur making custom sandals to transform lives in Korogocho

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For one Micheal Karuri, Chief Designer at Eco sandals, akala sandals were his ticket out of poverty. He has made the once boring shoe trendy with cutting edge designs and intricate bead work. He says his passion is not only driven by his desire to change the course of his life, but also youth in the Korogocho slums made him venture into the noble business.

“The youth have to get creative and stop waiting to land lucrative white collar jobs. They should learn to engage their inner creativity and strive to solve the incessant unemployment problem instead of being the problem,” he says.

A maestro in his own right, Michael skillfully designs the sandals in record time. He has mastered the art of making the sandal, taking only 30 minutes to design men’s sandals and almost a day to complete women’s sandals due to the beadwork. His creativity knows no bounds as he has ventured into wedge heeled sandals to keep up with the latest fashion.

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His unique designs have landed Eco Sandals a partnership deal with apparel firm, Levi Strauss to help in its marketing endeavors.

What really makes eco sandals stand out from others is the level of craftsmanship and high quality of the sandals. Unlike the normal maasai sandals, Eco sandals have an extra layer of material between the sole and leather to enhance comfort. The leather used is of high quality also.

“At Eco sandals we strive for excellence. We depend on word of mouth advertising hence we have to make good products for us to stand out from our competitors,” he beams.

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While a normal sandal would retail at Sh500 maximum, an Eco sandal will set you back Sh900 to enjoy its luxury. Michael credits this to the fact that the intricate bead work is outsourced, high cost and quality of leather used and also the fact that 80 per cent of the sandals are handmade and custom made.

“Our sandals will guarantee you value for money and unmatched service. The fact that we sell our shoes abroad is testimony in itself of our promise to deliver quality goods,” says an ecstatic Michael.

The future of Eco sandals is bright. The company has already bagged international and local awards including the highly coveted Jefferson award for online shantytown development project in 2003.

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