Stylish New Sneaker Brand Helps People Start Their Own Businesses

Meghan Blalock

While we all know that sneakers are very in right now, so it’s not that hard to find a solid pair to top off any stylish outfit. What’s a bit harder, though, is finding a pair of sneaks that’s stylish, affordable, and serves a good cause all at the same time. Enter Bangs.

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A relatively new sneaker brand (it launched toward the end of 2012), Bangs has a unique model. Unlike Toms, who donates one pair of shoes to someone in need for every pair of shoe purchased, the Bangs team has partnered up with microfinance behemoth Kiva to donate 20% of the net profit from each pair of shoes to an entrepreneur trying to start up a new business.

The Story: “[I minored] in Mandarin in college, and I went to teach English in China,” founder and president Hannah Davis tells StyleCaster. “While I was in China, I discovered these shoes that were worn by Chinese workers and farmers. I realized you could link fashion and giving back, so I decided to link this Chinese-style farmers’ shoe to giving back.”

How It Works: “Every month, we make a donation to what we call our Kiva lending portal, then we go in and actually choose which entrepreneurs we’re funding, so it’s not just a lump sum,” Hannah explains. “It’s really personal, and I’m involved in that process.”

After Hannah and her team hand-pick which potential entrepreneurs (Kiva works with people in a total of 76 countries) will get funding, they send financial backing to them from the profits made via their e-commerce site. The company then introduces their shoppers to the people they’re aiding through social media-type profiles on the site, like this one.

It doesn’t hurt that the shoes are not only super cute and perfect for the warm-weather months, but also that they’re affordable: the low-top sneakers are $55, while the high-top ones are $60.

Ambassador Program: Another unique feature of Bangs is their ambassador program, through which nearly 200 students across almost 50 U.S. college campuses serve to help support the brand, raise awareness, and therefore raise funding.

“We have over 200 volunteers who wear the shoes and represent the brand,” Hannah says. “It was kind of like an organic snowball. We recruited one person on the Clemson campus, and then she told a friend who told a friend, and by the end of the first year, we had 27 schools. And we’ve been continuing to grow it. These networks of students come together and promote the brand, do presentations to their classes, and post on social media.”

The Name: The name might seem random, but it makes a lot of sense: “Bangs” actually means “Help” in Mandarin.

Check it out: BangsShoes.com

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