Tufts University’s Peter Sacco sells shoes with soul. The 25-year-old Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy student heads up Adelante Shoe Co. Adelante is Spanish for “moving forward,” says Sacco. The shoe company plans to sell high-quality Guatemalan leather footwear while paying craftspeople a fair wage when it launches next year.
“We do interviews with each individual craftsperson. We ask them what living well means to them and what they need to live well,” Sacco says.
He then weighs the figures from the artisans against an analysis of World Bank Living Standards Measurement Study data to arrive at the relative cost of living well in a specific area. For instance, he plans to pay workers in the Guatemalan village of Pastores $16 per day; the fair-trade wage there is $11.50.
The idea for the business came during a trip to Guatemala when Sacco met craftspeople in Pastores, a village known for shoe making. The footwear was gorgeous, but the producers lacked market access to the United States. Sacco isn’t a footwear fiend, but he knew he could help the workers he met.
“To be honest, I’ve never really cared too much about fashion or style. The shoes are a vehicle for the broader idea, which is that we don’t need to exploit people in order to make money,” he says. The increase in wages will have a minimal impact on his bottom line, he says, but will matter a good deal to his colleagues in Guatemala.
He plans to sell the shoes — wingtips and boots for men; loafers and boots for women — for roughly $200, targeting young white-collar workers who value social responsibility as well as fashion. Adelante is running a Kickstarter campaign through December to raise money for its first production run. He hopes to sell the shoes from a roving truck beginning this summer.
“Think of it like a food truck, but for shoes, so we can bring our product to our target customers,” he says.
The business will initially work with about 15 shoemakers in Guatemala, but Sacco believes the concept is scalable.
“My dream is to scale our impact through Latin America,” he says.Kara Baskin can be reached at email@example.com.