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Something for You & Something for the Planet

Founder of Venture Leather Company, James Crawford, shares his story

Founder of Venture Leather Company, James Crawford, shares his story

As a sophomore in college I had no idea what to do for a career. At this time, the genocide in Sudan was getting widespread media attention. An estimated 300,000 people were killed during this conflict and during the summer of 2007 "Save Darfur" bumper stickers were common. The question I had though was, "how exactly would we 'Save Darfur'?" I stopped by a Barnes & Noble and picked up a book on Sudan to try to answer that question....

The simple answer is that there is no easy answer for stopping civil war. That didn't sit well with me. I didn't know where to begin, but as I kept reading that summer the core issue behind so much strife in the world seemed to be poverty. My passion soon became diving into one of the biggest questions facing our society, "why were we all once living in absolute poverty but now only some are?"

In graduate school at the University of California, San Diego my focus was on understanding two specific periods of history: The Industrial Revolution and China from 1980-2000. During these two periods, mankind saw unprecedented success in lifting the masses out of poverty. The main mechanism was clear, business and creating jobs. Thus, I set out to create a company based in the developing world where a business fuels more business. Rather than selling a product to give, we would invest 100% of the profit back into local businesses.

After graduate school I took a job in a Fortune 500 management consulting firm to pay off my student loans and pursue this on the side. I used all of my vacation time to take a trip to Kenya, Uganda, and Rwanda in 2013. After this trip one of my contacts sent me a job opening for a social enterprise in Northern Uganda. I spent almost a year living and working in Gulu, Uganda, but I realized that my vision was different and to pursue it I needed to start my own company. I found partners who shared my vision: to fundamentally transform Uganda and demonstrate to the world that great products can be made in Africa.

Three years later, we finally have product to get into our customers hands. We have the ability to make finished product from the raw hide, to tanning the leather, to cutting and stitching the final product in Uganda. Under our model of investing 100% of the profit back into the industry we will gradually build up our capacity in Uganda so we can continue to build livelihoods and incredible product.

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