A Santa Barbara-based socially conscious company is rebranding itself because it is expanding its line of shoes and accessories.
Best Foot Forward is renaming the company RoHo, which is a Swahili word for kindness and spirit, said founder Caleigh Hernandez, 24, a San Marcos High School and Northwestern University graduate.
Initially, the company imported stylish leather and beaded shoes and sandals from Kenya that were made by highly skilled artisans who were able to support themselves and their families with the export sales. However, Hernandez said, the company is expanding its line to include scarves, jewelry, belts and perhaps dog collars.
“It’s a hub for ethical fashions and quality-made goods from Africa and other parts of the world,” Hernandez said. “We want to honor people for their crafts and to help them support their families.”
She and her mother, Lindsay McTavish, now work together in Santa Barbara and with 36 women and six men in Kenya who make the products the company sells.
Hernandez said she last went to Kenya in June before the volatile elections that ended up being overturned and held again. Despite Kenya’s turmoil, Hernandez said she plans to return twice a year to meet with her artisans.
Hernandez has experience working in development in Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya, where she discovered artisans who designed and made leather shoes. She recognized that those making the shoes were mostly female. Her company was founded on artisans being paid a fair wage and empowering women, which is important to community growth and curbing poverty. That’s why she built a partnership and launched Best Foot Forward.
For more information about the company, see LoveRoHo.com