EP. 17: Bethany Tran

Bethany Tran | Founder of The Root Collective

Bethany Tran is a problem solver. She left a stable career in marketing to start The Root Collective because the lack of jobs in underserved communities wasn’t being addressed. She believes that commerce can change the world, that women are a key part of that, and that every single person has the power to create a better future. She lives in Raleigh, NC with her husband, two dogs, chickens and a parade of foster dogs constantly in and out of the house. She likes to ferment beverages in her kitchen, thinks pizza should be its own food group, and that unicorns just might exist.

Bethany and I chat about how her first visit to Guatemala raised up a heart cry in her that followed her around until she finally launched a social enterprise. She shares about the challenges of running a small business that partners with other small businesses.  She shares about her personal struggle over comparison during the first few years of The Root Collective and we chat a little about her chickens 🙂

2:59 Bethany introduces us to The Root Collective.

6:50 Bethany begins sharing her faith journey

14:34 Bethany begins to share about a quarter life crisis she experienced while working for a Fortune 500 company which eventually led to The Root Collective.

Lemonade International 

Home to 60,000 to 100,0000 people, La Limonada is the largest urban slum in Central America.

“Non-profits are focusing on education…which is great, but if you educate a kid and there is no job for them after they graduate, nothing has changed…We’re approaching things a little bit backwards, when we are talking about poverty alleviation. Why aren’t we focusing on jobs?”

Definition of Social Entrepreneurship

“We need people who love corporate America…but for me it was, this is not where I am supposed to be.”

Half the Sky book and documentary.

22″43 “One of the biggest, early mistakes I made was trying to do way too much too soon, because you can’t do anything well…but had I not done that we never would have just done shoes.”

The Root Collective celebrated 5 years in November.

23:50 Bethany begins sharing the process behind the making of The Root Collective (TRC) shoes, Guatemalan artisans, etc.

TRC partners with existing small businesses in Guatemala (shoe workshops and weavers).

Shoes are designed stateside, then TRC works with Guatemalan businesses for manufacturing.

They purchase products outright, so there is no risk to their partners.

TRC partners (currently) with:

  • 3 shoe workshops
  • 2-3 weaving cooperatives

“Weaving is very cultural for the Mayan culture…The thing that is very interesting about the women we work with is most of them never had the opportunity to go to school. If you are living in a rural Mayan community, you don’t speak Spanish. You speak one of…[many] Mayan dialects. So if you don’t go to school, you don’t learn Spanish. If you don’t know Spanish, you can’t get a job in the formal economy….The weaving gives them the opportunity to have a trade that is cultural for them. They get to work from home, so they can still take care of their kids. And they get to earn an income which is beyond important.”

25:50 Bethany and I discuss work and the value it has in our lives.

Our pastor did a sermon series on work and something he said stuck with me. “The first thing God did in the Bible was work. He created. He worked. So we are created in the image of God, which means we were created to work.”

TRC has a full time in country (Guatemala) manager, Pablo who is employed by TRC.

30:25 Bethany shares about her attic being TRC’s warehouse 🙂

Still Being Molly

33:20 Bethany discusses why it is so important for women to have a job.

“In a lot of these communities women are not valued, but when they have a job, all of a sudden…it makes them more valuable, it makes them more respected.”

Bethany and I are both Enneagram one’s. Bethany shares about the struggle with perfection and comparison during the first 4.5 years of the business.  She speaks of it being like hell.

Referring her dark night of the soul experience: “It took me a year and a half to climb out of that.  I almost sold the business last year, because it had gotten to that point of (Also, it was coming to the point of it is my business or my marriage. Nobody really talks about how much impact having a business is has on your marriage, but it is extreme if you allow it to be and we had allowed it to be. Mostly me.), so the growth in the last six months was me number one, coming out of that. Two (this always sounds really terrible, but you need to understand what I am saying), I stopped caring so much. I had to stop caring so much about what everybody else was doing. I had to stop caring about how quickly the business was growing. I had to stop caring so much about all the production problems we were having.”

39:09 “I also realized I don’t want to be a household name….When people ask me what I want for it, the way I explain it now is, ‘I want to be a cult brand’.”

“What a cult brand is basically, you are a little underground, not everybody knows who you are, but the people who do are hard core.”

40:13 “My big thing is I am nobody special. I had no contacts, at all. It is the living proof that anyone can do this. Period. Anyone can do this, so if I can grow a business that is going to inspire other people who see a problem that Jesus is knocking on the door going, ‘Um, hey, you wanna come out here and do something about this?’ If I can do it, literally anybody can…That’s what I want for it. I want to be able to have a manageable business that other people can look at and say, ‘If she can do it, I can too’.”

“Women control 85% of household budgets…You are talking trillions and trillions of dollars are controlled by women. Women literally control the global economy.”

Hebrew word Karash has two meanings:

  • to work; to labor
  • to be still or to be silent

“Do everything you can and then, BE STILL.”

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