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Name: Bethany Tran

Business: The Root Collective, handmade clothing and accessories supporting underprivileged communities

Industry: Clothing & Accessories, Social Enterprise, E-Commerce

Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.

Reason for starting: The idea for The Root Collective was first hatched on my first trip to Guatemala with Lemonade International (which is now one of our nonprofit partners!). Spending time with the people who lived there, learning more about the cultural stigmas that come with living in a slum, and knowing the hardworking nature of many of the residents made me want to be involved in a way that could help produce change. I wanted to partner with the people who lived in these communities, who had a vision for being leaders and wanted to build businesses to employ others.

Related: Read about another clothing & accessories entrepreneur here.

How do you define success? I define success by the number of lives that are touched by what I’m doing. I want to leave the world a better place than when I entered it. I think that if we spent more time doing things together within our own communities, and with members of other communities, we’d be able to make such a positive impact.

Biggest Success: Watching the businesses of my partner artisans stabilize. Otto, our partner shoemaker, has been able to refine his craft, bring on additional employees, and recently received a loan to rebuild his house in the slum of La Limonada in Guatemala City. He has worked hard, and our partnership has helped him grow his business. There is nothing like watching my hard work manifest in his business!

Related: Read about another e-commerce entrepreneur making strides in social enterprise.

What is your top challenge and how have you addressed it? In retail, marketing is always the biggest challenge. I’m a relatively shy person by nature, so I’ve had to go far outside of my comfort zone to get my business name out there. I find myself tweeting to celebrities and sending emails to magazine editors. I never would have thought I’d have the courage to do that! I’ve had to push myself to the limits and have grown so much as a result.

Who is your most important role model? Tita Evertsz. She’s a Guatemalan woman who very bravely ventured into the slum of La Limonada in Guatemala City, where most locals weren’t crazy enough to go. This woman has such a huge heart for her people, and has risked everything to bring change to a marginalized community in her hometown. La Limonada is known for being highly dangerous and gang-ridden. The level of her courage and love is such an inspiration to me. She’s endured so many heartbreaks and yet she perseveres. She’s absolutely amazing!

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Edited by The Story Exchange