When Sophie Eckrich, Hanna Hall de Arzu, Travis Breihan, and Ashley Ludkowski graduated from college in 2012, they set off for Guatemala on a mission to build something in line with their values of diversity, cultural heritage, and innovation. Turns out that the cause can now be found on feet all over the world.
Teysha hires local shoemakers and weavers, pays them a fair and equitable wage, and builds custom-made leather and fabric shoes.
“Starting an international manufacturing footwear brand at the age of 22? It wasn’t exactly in the plan, but the idea of working with traditional artisan communities in a region we loved, in order to bring economic opportunity to these communities as well as delighting people worldwide with the most colorful, specially crafted goods, made perfect sense,” they write.
Over the past five years, Teysha’s founders have built a workshop in Guatemala, where they employ more than 20 traditional shoemakers. They designed rural supply chains enabling weavers to work from home and care for their families. And they did all that through custom-designed footwear that artisans and customers can collaborate to create.
The process of producing Teysha shoes begins with Mayan artists who weave textiles with looms, something that has been part of Mayan culture for more than 1,000 years. Then customers come into the mix and choose a combination of fabric and leather for their boots. After that, the textiles are prepared and the leather and fabric are sewn together. The shoes can be custom-designed to fit any foot perfectly because they use a person’s exact foot measurements to create the shoes.
But Teysha is about a lot more than just custom shoes and profits.
The team’s background in microfinance and international development instilled in them the belief that there are people all around the world with incredible talents, who are hard-working and creative, and who just need a chance to show that. Through their workshop just outside of Antigua, Guatemala, they have built up a grassroots network of women-run cooperatives, small businesses, and artisan groups. They also work with artisan groups in Panama and Mexico, and are continuing to build their network.
“Each and every product encompasses an entire supply chain made up of people, families, and small businesses,” they write.
If you’re in Guatemala, you can pay a visit to the Teysha workshop and witness the craft behind the making of the boots and shoes with your own eyes. You even have a chance to design your own pair of boots or shoes. If you want to visit, email Hanna at email@example.com to arrange a time.