A Life Lived Beautifully: Bethany Tran
I recently found The Root Collective through Instagram and fell in love with the mission of this shoe company. Not only are they providing opportunities for employment in Guatemala, but they are also pointing people to Jesus. Ethical fashion is a huge issue these days. After majoring in Fashion Merchandising in college, the Lord began to open my eyes to these problems in this industry. I am still learning more about how we can make a difference and make wise choices with our purchases. Having a good pair of flats is a staple to my wardrobe. Each year I look for a new pair that I can wear with any outfit and won't hurt my feet at the end of the day. My flats from The Root Collective are the most comfortable shoes I own! They are my go-to pair of everyday shoes and they coordinate with the outfits in my closet. It is a joy to be able to wear clothing that serves a gospel purpose and is functional. You can find their shoes here AND purchase them at a discount using the code LIVELIFE at checkout! Grab a cup of coffee and get to know the founder of The Root Collective, Bethany Tran!
Introduce yourself like we are having a cup of coffee together. What kind of coffee/tea would you drink?
I'd be sipping on my black fair trade coffee (likely from Guatemala or Ethiopia)! I don't like to adulterate good coffee with cream and sugar (I always joke that I know coffee is sub par if I have to add something to it). If it's a special occasion, I might treat myself to a mocha latte with soy and whip cream, which I always feel like such a snob ordering. "Yes, I'll have that with SOY, please." Oh well. I decided to get over feeling like a nerd about it and just embrace it.
I'm Bethany Tran, founder and designer-in-chief of The Root Collective. I'm super passionate about living a full life, letting go of fear, and empowering people around to the world to do the same. I work with people with hard stories in Guatemala and together we make beautiful handmade shoes. These shoes are fighting poverty and gang violence by offering dignified work in rural and urban slum communities. (let me know if this is what you were looking for?!)
What is your definition of a "life lived beautifully"?
Gosh, what a great question! I think of the words "fearless" and "obedient." I think that if we'd each learn to say "yes" to scary and just let God lead our lives... what change we could create in the world. It's so easy to get wrapped up in fear and in doing so, we deny the best that God has for us. Jesus rarely asks us to do easy things, because we wouldn't require Him in our lives if we were able to do it on our own. Obedience requires sacrifice and the getting over of ourselves and the hinderances that we put in our own way.
What are some verses you constantly cling to and bring life to your soul?
"Be still and know that I am God." Psalms 46:10
This is my daily mantra. It's hard sometimes to be a "doer" and to remember that what I do on a daily basis need to be driven by God. Stillness is not something that I'm comfortable with, and I can easily burn myself out from all the doing. I recently read a theory on a Hebrew word "charash," which is one of those uncommon words. It is not the Hebrew word in that verse in Psalms, but the meaning of it has changed me. It means both "to labor" and "to be still." That's an odd combination, considering how opposite those meanings are! But, this author theorized that this is actually a beautiful word. We are to labor, to do all we can, and then after that, we are to be still and wait. That has impacted me so much as I strive and labor, and sometimes life feels so out of control. It's at that point that I'm reminded.... I've done all I can. Now I wait and be still.
How do you integrate sharing the Gospel with creativity?
I feel they are inextricably linked. We worship a creative God. He is the ultimate artist. The Root Collective isn't an explicitly Christian company, but we operate on Christian values. I believe that living the Gospel is the best way to share it. Jesus is the great surgeon, and He's been working on me for years now! I also believe that surgery extends out in our broken world. So many times I see traditional aid actually harming communities that they mean to be helping by offering "bandaids" that don't go to the root of the issue of poverty. They simply provide relief (this is sometimes needed, don't get me wrong!). But if you're putting a bandaid on something that requires surgery, it's only a temporary fix. It will never heal, just temper the problem. I think that our Creative Surgeon is using something as simple as a job and a pair of shoes to begin repairing the broken community of La Limonada where our shoes are made.
How did God direct you to start The Root Collective?
It started 6.5 years ago when I first traveled to Guatemala. My friend was a founding member of Lemonade International, a nonprofit that was focused on a single slum. I spent a week with her in the slum of La Limonada, and began having my expectations of poverty shattered. What I started learning during that week was that people are in poverty, not because they're lazy, not because they're drug addicts, or even that they have mental illness. It is sometimes (and often) because they happened to be born into a place that has intense social stigmas over it. I learned that the poor will many times stay poor because their society won't allow for anything different. That their address can actually determine whether or not they can get a job. This blew my mind.
I had a background in marketing, and you should always do what you know. The idea for a social business was planted on that first trip (and continued to grow in subsequent trips) but it took more than three years for me to finally get the guts up to do something about it. It turns out that starting a business from scratch is pretty scary, especially since out of the 17 million things I needed to know to do it, I only knew about three. But, I decided to say "yes" to scary and the calling that was on my heart. God broke me for that community repeatedly until I couldn't ignore it anymore. A few months after I had the second quarter life crisis in five years (turning 25 and then 30 were rough for me, y'all), PBS aired the Half the Sky documentary. The next day I was on the phone with the CEO of Lemonade International, sharing my heart with him about my dream for a business that could create change. It took over a year to get it off the ground, and we officially launched in November of 2013. It's been a crazy ride since!
What is the vision behind The Root Collective?
The vision is simple: to create a kinder world through business and opportunity. I've learned so much on my journey in the last six and a half years. What went for a passion for providing solutions to the complicated issue of poverty has turned into a craze for the change that can be made through business. I never understood all of the issues behind supply chains, and that people around the world were suffering for making my stuff. Clothing production in particular is posing a huge issue. About seven months after I started building The Root Collective, a clothing factory called Rana Plaza in Bangladesh collapsed, killing over 1100 people. I had this entire new (and huge) issue unfold before me in the news, and I started to understand that I could help solve another problem: providing people with an ethical alternative to the items people buy everyday. I began to truly understand that how we spend our money determines the kind of world that we live in. Consumers are the most powerful people in the world, and making choices with that understanding can impact the global economy. Imagine if people began to think about every purchase they make and imagine a face behind it.... because there is. Oh.... the things we could change!
What are some books you are currently reading?
Goodness, things have been really busy lately, and I haven't had a ton of time for reading! But, some books that I'm in the middle of (that I'll finish eventually) are Travels of a T-Shirt in a Global Economy, The Tipping Point, and When Helping Hurts. Yes, I read economics and business books for fun. Don't judge me;-)
If you could tell every woman reading this blog one thing God has laid on your heart, what would it be?
"For I know the plans I have for you... plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you a hope and a future." (Jeremiah 29:11)
God has big plans for you. Yes, you. We are all the same, not one person is more special or significant in God's eyes. He has big things for you, things that can only be accomplished by you, because of your uniqueness. Because of exactly who you are. Don't deprive the world of that.
The Root Collective has graciously offered Life Lived Beautifully readers a discount! Use the code LIVELIFE to receive a discount at checkout!
The coupon expires Friday, September, 11th. Grab a pair of flats to go with your wardrobe this fall! Even shoes can be an opportunity to share the gospel!