This month's featured #bloomgirl is Liz Forkin Bohannon, founder of Sseko Designs! Liz is a bright, enthusiastic, caring, and inspiring #girlboss that we can learn a lot from! Read more about Liz and her journey below!
Tell us a little bit about yourself!
Hey! I’m Liz! Founder of Sseko Designs, a wife, a mom of (almost!) two, a speaker, author, and avid traveler! I live in Portland, Oregon but the story of Sseko started across the globe. Shortly after graduating from college, I bought a one-way ticket to Uganda with the goal of being a journalist… little did I know my journey would end up leading me to start an ethical fashion brand!
What Sseko has become is somewhat of an accidental result of blind determination. While living in Uganda, I met a group of incredibly talented and ambitious young women who needed economic opportunity in order to continue on to university and pursue their dreams. I knew I was in a certain place in a certain time and that the story of these women would become a part of my story and I theirs. I didn’t really care too much about how that would take shape. Almost everything about Sseko was born from necessity. We needed to generate income. We had to do something that 18-year-old girls could be a part of for a season and then move on to pursue their goals and become leaders of their country. We had to create something out of the limited materials available in the East African region. After several other ideas (including a chicken farm!) I was reminded of a pair of funky, strappy sandals I had made a few years earlier. I spent a few weeks scouring the country for the materials we needed and trying to learn everything I could about making footwear. I hired three young women and several weeks later, under a mango tree, a sandal company in East Africa was born!
Who or what is your biggest inspiration?
Oh, my. I feel so inspired by our team. Our team in Uganda, here in the U.S. and especially by the Sseko Fellows who are a team of impact entrepreneurs who are building the Sseko brand alongside us in their own communities. Truly, when I need a dose of inspiration, I hop on our private social network and soak up inspiration, encouragement, and bravery of the women in this community! It's truly a remarkable sisterhood of dreamers and doers who are co-creating alongside me every day!
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced, personally or professionally? How have you overcome it?
My very hardest and darkest moments have been things I wouldn't share publicly. I don't say that to be ambiguous or angsty but rather because I think often times when you "follow your dreams" people assume the road will be easy and that just isn't the case. The road has actually been filled with grief, stress, and pain, in the midst of all the beauty and life-giving things that come along with pursuing your purpose and passion. The degree to which you give your heart to anything determines the depth of what you experience in the process. And especially if your passion leads you to try to help solve some of the world's greatest challenges, your heart is bound to get a little shattered in the process because you realize more than ever how deeply broken the world is and how seemingly insignificant your efforts can feel at times.
THAT being said, perhaps my proudest moment to date was last spring when I took a group of 10 of our sellers, Sseko Fellows, to Uganda. We were in our factory and were explaining this amazing scholarship program we have for our Uganda employees and one of our team member's, Sylvia, raised her hand. I fully expected her to ask something about her scholarship and instead, she said, "This is all wonderful, but what do our Fellow's get if they succeed?" This concern for making sure her U.S. sisters were also being compensated and taken care of for their hard work made me SO proud. It felt like such a confirmation that the culture we are creating isn't one of charity, but a global sisterhood where we have one another's back!
If you could talk to yourself 5 years ago, what advice would you give yourself?
“We're all just figuring it out as we go along! Embrace the journey!”
What are some key books/learning experiences that helped shape you/your company?
It is so hard to narrow this down, because there have been SO many learning experiences that have shaped Sseko, and I am a voracious reader! One of my favorite books is Starts with Why by Simon Sineck. As Maya Angelou says, “At the end of the day people won’t remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.” As leaders, we must inspire those around us to help co-create a brighter future. And you truly cannot make someone feel inspired if you’re not deeply connected to your WHY. When I walk into a room with a great leader who knows their WHY, I can feel it immediately. I want to join them, support them, eat what they are eating for breakfast.
What are your favorite bloom products, and why?
I am such a fan of the Vision Planners that bloom creates! At Sseko we believe that a dream without a plan is just a wish. I’m also a BIG believer in getting your thoughts out on paper and creating a roadmap towards your goals!
I hope you enjoyed learning more about Liz and the face behind Sseko Designs! Do you have a #girlboss story to share? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for a chance to be our next featured bloom girl!