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Inspiring Conversations with Bethany Tran of The Root Collective

Today we’d like to introduce you to Bethany Tran.

Hi Bethany, please kick things off for us with an introduction to yourself and your story.
Friends of mine had started a nonprofit that worked in a slum community in Guatemala City. I spent some time in the slum and quickly realized that while nonprofits were focusing on education for the kid (which was so needed), but really, what was needed most was for the parent to have a job. This was back before social enterprise was a term everyone knew, so there weren’t many companies focusing on job creation in communities like this. After a few years of waiting for someone to do something about this problem, it became pretty clear that I was that someone. I had no experience in pretty much any of the things I needed to know to start a business, but sometimes you really need to be naive in order to be brave enough to take a huge leap of faith.

We are 7.5 years in business now! We’ve learned a lot, failed a lot, grown a lot…. but here we are. We now partner with multiple groups in Guatemala and purchase touch about 30 families in various communities. Our partners are all extremely talented and now with an outlet to a larger audience, they’re able to work more consistently and hire more people. And our customers love knowing that their purchase is made by a craftsman or woman who is proud of their work.

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
I don’t think smooth roads exist in business, especially not when you’re running a social enterprise. Working with small scale, artisan workshops in another country with a language and cultural barrier on a very difficult product has been rough. From a business perspective, I’ve been repeatedly advised to switch up my model and move to a larger scale factory. But my heart is with providing a hand up to underserved communities and so that’s where we’ve stayed.

Great, so let’s talk business. Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
One of the things we are most proud of as a brand is our community. We’ve had an incredible community of people (women mostly) who really want to create change with how they spend their money. Women are responsible for about 85% of household budgets, which means that women are really the most powerful people in the world. As consumers, they get to decide which companies live or die every time they open their wallets. The women who have rallied around The Root Collective are literal world changers. We are so grateful and so impressed by them every single day.

What makes you happy?
Professionally: watching women understand just how much power they have to change the world simply by how they spend their money. Knowing our partner artisans are able to care for their families because they have access to a job.

Personally: puppies of all ages. I’m the obnoxious person who stops people to pet their dogs on the street (and I feel no shame about it). We also foster dogs and that’s been one of the greatest joys of my life. It’s so rewarding.


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