Ocean Sole is a social enterprise that turns washed up flip flops into colourful and fun art pieces to promote ocean conservation and spread awareness about pollution. Alongside this Ocean Sole positively impacts over a 1,000 Kenyans through the collection of flip-flops and direct employment. Ocean Sole provides steady income to nearly 100 low-income Kenyans in the company. The concept came from the remote island of Kiwayu, which borders Somalia and the very tip of Northern Kenya. Shocking amounts of marine waste washed up on the shore, particularly on nesting turtle sites and their hatchlings. The rubbish problem then led to imaginative and innovative children turning the waste into toys to play with. When the mothers saw how colourful and fun the upcycled toys looked, they decided to start cleaning and sculpting discarded flip flops into art pieces to sell. Over the years Ocean Sole has evolved from focusing solely on Kenyan communities to impacting an entire ecosystem of traders, collectors, designers and most importantly, employees. In 2017 Ocean Sole shared their story globally and evolved from a for-profit business to a social enterprise. Supporting communities and the ecosystem symbiotically underpin what Ocean Sole is about.
Main contributors to the STOA169 column: Raphael Kang’utu * 1969 in Makueni, Kenya, lives in Makadara / Bryant Muhanji * 1988 in Kakamega, Kenya, lives in Race-course / Francis Mutualities Muvau * 1968 in Kitui, Kenya, lives in Bulbul.
Photo © Oliver Nicklin