Ever wondered how you could support ethical, sustainable businesses? Welcome to a  regular series highlighting products, services, and organizations that are doing well by doing good.

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Inkkas is a footwear brand that specializes supercool footwear made in collaboration with local artisans in South America. As part of the OneShoeOneTree project, Inkkas plants one tree for every purchase. In partnership with TreesForTheFuture Inkkas is helping reforest the world and provide sustenance for local populations in developing countries.

We spoke to Inkkas co-founder Dan Ben-Nun, who splits his time between Brooklyn and traveling the world, about how the company started when he was on a South American adventure through Peru and Bolivia when he saw local artisans using Andean textiles in their shoes.

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Please give us an overview of your organization.
Inkkas aims to provide high quality handmade shoes and accessories to consumers at an accessible price point. The line features hand woven Peruvian textiles that we purchase directly from artisans in Peru, providing them with a stable source of income for their traditional style of weaving. We are based in New York City with manufacturing in the EU, Mexico, and textile suppliers based in Peru.

How did you get started with this idea?
Inkkas was founded during a 2012 backpacking trip across South America. I was wandering through the streets of Cusco near Machu Picchu in Peru, when I met local artisans making footwear out of authentic South American textiles. This footwear was very lightweight and excellent for the local market but perhaps not sturdy enough to sell to the international market. I wanted to create a global market for well crafted shoes featuring these hand woven textiles. The classic hand woven Peruvian textiles are the backbone of the entire Inkkas collection.

What are you proudest of?
I am very proud that Inkkas has become one of the most up and coming shoe brands in the US for mindfully crafted, stylish, authentic textile based footwear. I’m also really proud of our Instagram channel that just launched. Follow @InkkasWorldwear on Instagram (shameless plug).

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How do you think you are different to your competitors?
Inkkas shares a lot of brand space with some very big names both in Footwear and in the conscious consumerism sector. What differentiates Inkkas from a more mainstream shoe brand for example is how we manufacture. Our production facility in Mexico pays their employees double the minimum wage for Mexico. We have a representative from Inkkas doing site visits 8 times a year.

Inkkas might cost a little more than a similar pair of shoes from a mass produced brand, we feel it’s worth it to make sure we are doing right by the people who make Inkkas. Inkkas are also not your average flimsy fair trade pair of flats, they are very sturdy and comfortable with memory foam insoles; and are excellent for wearing to a music festival (We love Governors Ball and Figment!), day hiking or enjoying the outdoors. Inkkas are a great value and also a great conscientiously manufactured shoe.

What do your community say about your organization that makes you happy?
Every day we have new positive feedback from members of the Inkkas community about how much they enjoy their Inkkas especially in the #Inkkas feed on Instagram. A customer in the Ukraine recently had his and hers Inkkas at her wedding! We are consistently impressed to see where people go in their Inkkas it’s really amazing.

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What is your favourite story about your organization?
There are too many but my favorite so far has to be partnering with Marcus Lemonis, and being featured on an episode of “The Profit”. We are thrilled with what he’s been able to contribute to the company, his style of strategic thinking is something that is really unique and we are learning so much every day working with him and his team.

What difference do you make in people’s lives?
We are able to provide excellent pay and safe working conditions for our factory partners in Mexico, as well as income for the Peruvian artisans who make our signature woven textiles. We offer our community handmade distinctive shoes at an an accessible price, and also use the proceeds from sales to support our nonprofit partnerships with Trees.org and Souls 4 Soles.

Where can people go to support your organization?
Inkkas.com is the best place to find more information about Inkkas and the best place to order your next pair of Inkkas.

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What are your plans for the future?
We are starting to look forward to new designs for Fall 2017 and unique partnerships with other brands under the Marcus Lemonis Fashion Group umbrella.

Afdhel Aziz is the co-author of the forthcoming book on social entrepreneurship ‘Good is the New Cool’ available for pre-order on Amazon now.

If you have a suggestion for a business or organization you think should be highlighted, please email him at goodisthenewcool@gmail.com

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