Tag Archives: social entrepreneurship

Milaap: Connecting People Through the Giving Experience

While the issues of poverty and lack of education around the world are still daunting, we’re grateful here at Soap Hope to partner with organizations like Milaap, who are addressing these problems with innovative new platforms and technology.

Milaap: Creating Connection through Technology

Milaap means “connecting people” in Hindi, and was founded by three entrepreneurs in 2010 — friends with a single vision “to change people’s concept of giving and make it a personal, transparent, and sustainable process.”

The Milaap microlending program is unique in its implementation of a technology platform that allows for people to lend money to a number of people in need.

Lenders are able to choose from a list of borrowers, based on their needs and loan requirements. The eligible borrowers are selected by Milaap’s field partners, who are “established organizations that have a strong presence at the grassroots [level], a deep understanding of their communities and challenges, and a commitment to serve their needs.”

The borrowers receive 100% of the funds, and lenders are able to track the process of the loan through the Milaap platform, where the stories and progress of the borrowers can be shared with a larger audience.

Usha’s Story

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Usha is one of the borrowers who has benefited from Milaap’s giving platform and your Soap Hope purchases.

Usha is 28 years old and leads Samanvaya SHG, a company that produces natural home décor products. Samanvaya has been up and running for the last 8 years, and regular production activities have helped its members to support themselves and save for the future. Usha was able to purchase a small facility in her hometown from her savings.

There are other women who want to join Samanvaya SHG, but Usha needed adequate machinery and infrastructure to accommodate more women, which is why she applied for a loan from the Milaap program.

Supporting Usha will allow her to grow Samanvaya and empower more women in her community to support their families and save for brighter futures.

Creating a Wider Impact

By partnering with innovative organizations like Milaap, Soap Hope is able to create a wider impact with our profits. We believe that businesses everywhere can create this kind of change in the world, but only through the hard work and creativity of companies like Milaap that share this vision.

 

//Photography credit: Milaap

The Soap Hope Team: Meet Kyle

About three months ago, I started working at Soap Hope. And that’s where I met Kyle Lukianuk.

Kyle falls into the category of what market researchers are calling “Millennials.” The specifics of what age group makes up this demographic has been debated, but it’s suggested that anyone born between 1980 and 1995 might possess Millennial-type traits. Especially when it comes to work habits and career choices.

Millennials are often determined to be driven and passionate — as long as they actually care about the end goal and reason behind what they’re doing.

Meeting Kyle and working with him has been nothing short of wonderful. He’s passionate and charming, and we joke that he’s the most photogenic of the Soap Hope team.

And I think you should meet him.

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Kyle was born in Michigan, and grew up in a tight knit family. He moved around a bit as a kid, after his dad ended his career as an international lawyer and went into a career in Christian school administration.

“I was in highschool when he made the change, and it made an impression on me – he started pursuing something he was passionate about,” says Kyle.

Kyle also made a shift, of sorts. He became more outgoing, and got more involved in school and sports (especially basketball). His dad was principal (for a period of time) at the highschool he attended before he moved to Chicago after his sophomore year, and they grew surprisingly closer.

When it came time to pick colleges, Kyle decided on Southern Methodist University here in Dallas. He had family here, fell in love with SMU’s campus, and he was accepted into the Business Scholar program.

Kyle studied Finance and was able to land an internship with a private trading firm on the Chicago Board of Trade.

“That’s what I thought I’d end up doing, working as a trader on the Board of Trade. It was challenging, and there was plenty of opportunity to reap financial rewards,” he says.

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Kyle, on his recent travels in Iceland

He enjoyed the competitive atmosphere – the work was intense and the lifestyles of his coworkers matched that intensity.

Then Kyle got the opportunity to live abroad during his junior year, and it was this opportunity that would influence a pretty drastic change in course for his career path.

“I witnessed first-hand the issues that exist in communities around the world: poverty, human trafficking – the kinds of issues that force people into cycles they get stuck in,” he explain.

That’s when he realized he didn’t want turn the internship with the Board of Trade into a full-time job.

“I didn’t want to turn into the kind of person that I saw in that work environment,” Kyle explains.

After turning down the position, he started to go through what he calls his “quarter life crisis.”

He accepted a position with Bank of America after graduation, but continued to feel that same discontent.

“I really wanted to start something that would make a difference, that actually mattered to me, and that might impact other people,” he explains.

Kyle started volunteering with different programs locally, and through that involvement he met Salah Boukadoum (cofounder of Soap Hope).

“I brought an idea to him about microfinancing, and after talking with him for a bit, he sort of tore the idea apart,” Kyle laughs.

But they kept talking, and started to discuss the Good Returns model. Yes, that’s the same model Soap Hope uses to send all of our profits to make an impact on women around the world.

Kyle spent a year and a half volunteering with Salah – they wrote an academic paper on the Good Returns model – when eventually Salah brought Kyle on full time to further develop the model and build partnerships.

Kyle manages Operations here at Soap Hope, ensuring that our day-to-day processes run smoothly and keeping our customers happy.

He wears a lot of hats here at Soap Hope, and working with him keeps me on my toes. Always insightful and generous, Kyle doesn’t hesitate to extend help where he can.

Before he left for college, Kyle’s dad told him two things: always invest in people, and that he hoped Kyle would find his calling and passion in life before he did.

“You only get one chance to live your life, and I’m swinging for the fences,” says Kyle.

I’m sure Kyle’s dad is very proud.

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Fun Kyle Facts:

soap hope favoritesFavorite place he’s traveled: “Iceland, China, Cinqueterra, and Prague were all amazing.”
Favorite beer: Peticolas Velvet Hammer
Favorite animal: dog
Favorite concert: Ben Howard
Favorite Soap Hope product: A Wild Soap Bar’s Timber and Coal

Esperanza International: Addressing Poverty by Creating Real Opportunity

It’s important to us at Soap Hope to make a greater impact.

Our mission incorporates both our dedication to providing natural and safe products for our customers, as well as our commitment to making opportunities available to underprivileged women around the world.

We do that by partnering with organizations like Esperanza International, a nonprofit that focuses on freeing children and their families from poverty.

Bienvenida’s Story

When we first partnered with Esperanza, our cofounder, Salah Boukadoum had the opportunity to visit the Dominican Republic, to witness the impact that our organizations were making in communities in underserved countries.

That’s where Salah met Bienvenida, an entrepreneur who was able to grow her business through her own determination and with support from funds that she received.

“She started with nothing but vision and commitment,” Salah said. “With the support of a few small loans and training, and through her own hard work and dedication over many years, Bienvenida now has a convenience store, a restaurant, and a home anyone would be proud of.”

Bienvenida is a shining example of how entrepreneurship can change lives
Bienvenida is a shining example of how entrepreneurship can change lives

Bienvenida chose to build her home in the neighborhood she was a part of, demonstrating her own commitment to strong community and hope for the future.

Esperanza Means Hope

Eighty-seven percent of the loans that Esperanza disburses goes to women. Strictly from a business standpoint, women are more likely to pay back their loans and are less of a credit risk. Women like Bienvenida use their earnings to help educate their children and do good in their community.

Women like Bienvenida are key players in ending poverty and building up communities that are underserved.

“People do break out of the cycle of poverty,” says Esperanza International’s founder, Dave Valle. With financial support from organizations like Esperanza, serious issues like poverty can be addressed in the Dominican Republic.

And Esperanza doesn’t only provide microfinancing for these individuals. Their “microfinance plus” model is designed to address poverty and community development through a combination of financial services and health and education initiatives.

“It is designed to address the cultural, social, spiritual and economic forces that frequently prevent families from breaking the chains of poverty, so that they can be free to create their own brighter futures.”

Esperanza implements a number of programs focused on vocational training, literacy, health and hygiene. Health screenings and dental care are also made available in the communities where Esperanza works, helping individuals to “prevent various infections and illnesses, make nutritionally-sound dietary choices, create STD and HIV awareness, conduct self-exams for breast cancer, and encourage participation in cervical cancer testing.”

Esperanza recently announced that they’ll offer micro-insurance, the first product of its kind in the Dominican Republic.

“We are always looking for new ways to help children and their families and we know that one of the most vulnerable areas for our associates is their health. This is due to a deficient healthcare system in the DR, especially within the public hospitals.  This service will give them to the ability to go to private clinics for treatment.”

And it’s through the opportunities that Esperanza makes available to women like Bienvenida that we can start to tackle widespread issues like poverty and education. It’s through these opportunities that we can spread hope.

To learn more about Esperanza International, visit their site here.

To learn more about Soap Hope’s mission, you can click here.

And remember — every dollar that you spend at Soap Hope goes towards a program like Esperanza. You can shop and spread hope by visiting our Soap Hope store.

 

(Image credit: Esperanza International)

The Soap Hope Team: Meet Craig

Building a small business isn’t for the faint of heart. It takes a person with a certain kind of gumption to navigate the risks that come with owning and operating a business.

Starting Soap Hope

Craig Tiritilli is no stranger to the world of startups. He met Soap Hope cofounder, Salah Boukadoum, in their previous business that together they managed, grew and later sold. After that experience, they realized that they wanted to start another company together.

Craig Tiritilli“We spent a lot of time coming up with business ideas. The idea of Soap Hope and Good Returns evolved over time – the original pillars of our mission remain, but the implementation has been refined over time,” explains Craig.

He’d always been concerned with healthful living, and liked the idea of natural products, but starting a business like Soap Hope was a new experience.

Soap Hope is a Good Returns company, meaning every dollar of profit is used in programs that support women. Those dollars spend a year doing good for women (both abroad and right here in the U.S.), and are then returned to Soap Hope.

“Cash is a major consideration in any startup, but in one that carries inventory, the issue is significantly magnified. We had to balance the financing requirements with the desire to use our profits to serve our social mission,” says Craig.

“As we got started, there were things we didn’t anticipate. We had to refine the Good Returns program to enable us to grow our business and make resources available for our mission. Eventually the program reached a point that would work not only for Soap Hope, but for a lot of companies of varying sizes.”

Behind the Scenes

Working on Soap Hope and growing it has bled into other areas of his life. He’s a big fan of the products that we carry here at Soap Hope, and uses them in his own household regularly.

“I love the Seaweed Bath Company products and A Wild Soap Bar soaps. And I’m looking forward to using the Better Life cleaning line at the house, too,” says Craig.

When he has spare time (which can be hard to come by when growing a small business), Craig likes spending time with his family and friends. Health and fitness have always been important to him, as well, so he enjoys exercising and staying active.

The Future of Soap Hope

“It’s exciting to see how much we’ve grown and accomplished in this past year,” says Craig, “especially in these last few months. Our team is growing, and the industry is really hitting its stride.”

And it’s important to everyone here at Soap Hope that we continue to fulfill the mission that the company was founded on.

Responsible Business

“I believe it’s really is up to businesses to be an example when it comes to sustainability and social responsibility,” says Craig.

“Governments and traditional aid organizations can only handle a portion of the burden of addressing the world’s most challenging problems, and the number of individuals with the resources to make a significant impact is relatively small. That leaves businesses,” says Craig. “So being a part of a company that is designed from the ground up to impact communities and larger issues like poverty has been extremely fulfilling.”

“Being attached to that bigger purpose, with people that care deeply about what we are working to achieve, has been really important to me,” says Craig.

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You can learn more about the Good Returns business model here.

And check out some of these “Craig-approved” products in our store!