Anothersole: Effecting social change one pair of shoes at a time

Benny Chee and Phoebe Charn’s wholesale shoe business had been going strong for more than 20 years. But 50,000 pairs of shoes later, they took a leap of faith and created a new eCommerce shoe brand with social impact: Anothersole

Being deeply involved in the day-to-day operations of their successful wholesale shoe business, Benny and Phoebe noticed a change in customers’ mindsets over time. Rather than simply seeking the cheapest “fast fashion” on the market, customers were increasingly looking for ethically made products they could feel good about buying.

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With extensive supply chain management and manufacturing experience under their belts, Benny and Phoebe decided to create a retail shoe brand that would enable them to give back to the community.

Launched in 2017, Anothersole sells footwear essentials crafted from 100% natural materials to reduce environmental impact and ensure long-lasting wearability. The concept behind the design is a shoe that offers the comfort of a sneaker with the look of a timeless dress-shoe. And at just 280g per shoe (that’s less than the weight of a Coke can!), Anothersole’s shoes are the perfect lightweight travel companions.

But it’s not just the quality of the products that sets Anothersole apart. As part of their Buy1Feed1 program, a portion of the proceeds from every pair of shoes sold goes towards abolishing child hunger around Asia. Benny says it made sense for them to use their knowledge of the shoe business to benefit the greater good.

Being parents, we are especially sensitive to the issue of children who have to go to bed hungry. We wanted to use our business as a platform to bring awareness to the issue.

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Although they wanted their business to help effect positive social change, Benny and Phoebe didn’t want to be seen as manipulating people with their cause or using charity as a marketing ploy. That’s why they tell customers to let the quality of the product speak for itself.

To keep operating costs and product prices as low as possible (less than USD$100 per pair), Benny manages a large proportion of the business himself with help from three team members at his other wholesale business. As a lean start-up, they haven’t forecasted a burn rate and do the heavy lifting themselves to stay financially viable.

They also didn’t want to simply give their products away and risk crippling local industries, which is why they chose to directly target hunger, nutrition, and community uplift. By providing resources and microfinancing through charities like World Vision Cambodia and World Vision Vietnam, they’re not only helping feed hungry children but also empowering parents within these communities to start their own businesses.

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Their efforts are already starting to pay off. Despite Anothersole being just over a year old, shoe sales have already enabled Benny and the team to donate more than $100,000 to communities in need. Looking forward, they plan to expand internationally so they can grow that number to a huge $1 million in donations every year and partner up with more charitable organizations.

How TradeGecko has helped Anothersole thrive

In the early days, Benny managed Anothersole’s entire inventory manually using Excel spreadsheets and the like. Not surprisingly, it didn’t take long for him to realize that they needed a much more organized inventory management approach to run the business effectively.

After a friend recommended it to him, Benny started using TradeGecko and found that he could easily optimize inventory and stock movements using insights from TradeGecko’s Intelligence Reports. This enabled them to accurately allocate inventory in multiple locations – including in department stores across Singapore where they showcase their range. They also use the TradeGecko mobile app real-time visibility functionality to check stock levels on the go.

TradeGecko allows us to call up reports and look at where the stocks are so we can make a decision on a weekly basis on what to optimize or move move to different locations. That definitely has a direct impact on converting our sales and opportunities."

Although he has more than 20 years’ business experience, Benny says running Anothersole means he’s constantly learning. For aspiring business owners, he says choosing the right partners and solutions is key to success.

Don’t try to reinvent the wheel. Start selling and learn as you go along. It’s also important to find the right partners – like TradeGecko, Shopify, and EasyShip – to lean on for support.

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