How a Pair of Cheap Slippers Changed Our Lives

Five years ago I received a well-intentioned birthday gift from my mom. It was a pair of house slippers that she'd purchased from Costco. 

At the time we'd just returned from a year travelling overland through Asia. On that trip we witnessed countless examples of waste in communities striving to manufacture goods fast enough to satiate western demand. 

When Rachel and I saw those slippers we both came to the same thought at exactly the same time: "within a year or two, those slippers would be sitting in a landfill and would not break down for generations and generations to come". Multiply that by all the other slippers that Costco was selling worldwide and suddenly the problem became huge. It was exactly what we didn't want. 

"Knowing what you don't want is all you need to start the adventure of a lifetime." -- AJ Leon

When I saw this quote it took me back to those early days of KOOSHOO. Those early formative days were spent analyzing the slippers and listing what didn't work about them:

  • Cheap, synthetic material that didn't breathe
  • Construction not made to last - meaning a premature trip to the garbage
  • Made in a supply chain that about which I had no information. All I knew was country of origin - no thought to working conditions, wages, safety, dyeing, transportation, etc...

When I boiled it down it was clear that those slippers were made with one sole intention: to make money. Not to comfort my feet. Not to create safe, win-win jobs in a far off economy. Not to improve the world in any way. Only to make money. 

That list later became our reference point for how NOT to create a company. We began this journey by creating a new list with what we DID want our company to stand for. 

Must-haves included:

  • Organic and natural materials that excelled at the tasks demanded of them
  • Dye facilities that caused no harm to employees, customers or the environment
  • Artisanal techniques and traditions where possible
  • Local - as local as an online company could be! 
  • Fair and transparent manufacturing
  • A system in which to give back to our communities 

A quick glance at our company ethos and you'll see that we were able to start KOOSHOO with those principles as our backbone. Today it is those same principles that define what we do and who we are to our customers around the world.

Seeing what we didn't want in those slippers set us on our adventure of a lifetime! Would love to hear from you on any similar such experiences borne of knowing what you didn't want. Please comment below. 

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