A recent episode of Shark Tank featured founders Liz and Ben Bohannon and their company Sseko Designs. The company, which aspires to become a powerful global ethical fashion brand by hiring high potential women in Uganda to make sandals, is an excellent example of social entrepreneurship.
Rather than manufacture its footwear products in China or Vietnam like everyone else, Sseko Designs was founded around the idea of hiring and empowering women artisans in Uganda to help end the cycle of poverty in Africa. The women they hire come from backgrounds of extreme poverty. Through Sseko Designs they have been able to earn enough money to go to college and complete their secondary education, a dream that is out of reach for many young women in Uganda. Let’s take a look at a few of the innovative footwear displays that RICH LTD. designed for Sseko Designs.
Our primary challenge in designing an effective footwear display for Sskeo Designs was creating a merchandising solution that could tell the company’s unique story while also being able to merchandise their products in a way that clearly communicated the choice and product configurability available to shoppers. The Sseko Designs product line enables customers to choose a base sandal and then add an interchangeable strap and also add interchangeable accents.
The floor display we designed featured a wood structure with a wood laminate base and a white laminate on the main structure. The display included a center structure with wings on each side. On the left wing we incorporated the shelves for the base sandal arranged by size as indicated on the removable shelf sign. The right wing of the display included 10 hooks which displayed different styles of straps to go with the base sandals. The center panel was designed to tell the company’s story and to show two different completed sandal/strap combinations. To accomplish these objectives, we added strong branding graphics at the top as well as graphics to reinforce the “Every sandal has a story” theme. The center panel also featured 2 shelves with foot mannequins to show completed product options. At the bottom of the center panel, we created personalization graphics by featuring some of the women artisans in Uganda. The back of the display included ample storage space for overstock.
We also designed two other versions of the floor display that were less expensive and featured a smaller footprint. The first version was a 4-sided display that included wire sandal shelves arranged by size on 1 panel, hooks for hanging sandal straps on the opposite panel, a center panel with branding story graphics and 2 shelves for mannequin feet showing completed product options, and storage shelves on the back panel. Like the larger display, this knock-down display was constructed of MDF with wood and white laminates and silk screened graphics.
We designed a third version of the floor display which was also intended to carry a smaller footprint and meet a lower budget. This version also featured a wood structure with 6 inside wood shelves for extra product, 4 wood shelves on the right side with foot mannequins, 3 hooks on each of those shelves for sandal straps, hooks on the front panel for base sandals and sandal straps, printed graphics on the front panel, circular header sign, and rear storage shelves.
Finally, we designed a simple but effective counter display that incorporated many of the features of the floor displays. The counter display was focused primarily on promoting the sandal strap accessories. It included a header that featured the Sseko Designs brand name along with pictures showing the product. The main panel included 5 hooks for various strap styles and a mannequin foot showing the completed product with the base sandal and strap combination. We also included a brochure holder as a way of providing shoppers with more information about the Sseko Designs story and their vision for creating a brighter, more just, and more beautiful world.
The founders of Sseko Designs asked the sharks for a $300,000 investment for a 10% stake in their company. So why did all 5 sharks turn them down and how could they have positioned the company to be more appealing to investors? Ultimately, the sharks decided that since the company was losing money on $1.1 million in revenue, it would be difficult for them to generate an attractive return on investment. If the company can get a major retailer to take on their product line with any of the footwear displays we have discussed, the company is likely to experience a significant spike in sales, which might leave the sharks kicking themselves.