Meet COMUNITY, a new shoe brand creating socially conscious sneakers and looking to innovate the industry. Three footwear industry veterans with past collective experience from TOMS, ASICS, Nike, Vans and Sanuk, have joined forces to launch this premium-quality, small batch footwear company headquartered and manufactured in Los Angeles.
Founders, husband-wife team, Sean and Shannon Scott, along with accomplished footwear designer, Ryan Gumienny have built this giving platform inspiring action, participation and empowerment to its customers through civic engagement, by making a positive difference in the community they live and work in.
Each pair of shoes purchased by the customer will allow COMUNITY to donate $10 USD of their sale to a curated group of non-profit organizations in downtown Los Angeles with the intention of empowering its members to be happy and successful contributors to the community.
“Producing footwear in Los Angeles is not an easy task,” said Sean Scott. “But it is an important component of our mission to be an integral part of the community and to attract innovative, socially-conscious entrepreneurs back to the heart of the city.”
COMUNITY’s initial offering will include three unique styles of footwear for men and women, ranging from $150 – $180, designed and handcrafted with premium materials for the utmost quality, comfort and durability. Versatile and functional, the lifestyle collection will be manufactured locally in Los Angeles. By manufacturing locally, COMUNITY will focus on sustainable products and processes as well as bringing jobs back to downtown.
Below is a Q&A with the founders behind COMUNITY
What does community mean to the COMUNITY team?
By definition, a community is “Self-organized network of people with a common cause or interest, who collaborate by sharing ideas, information, and visions.”
The vision of COMUNITY is a simple and small truth that starts within each person and is brought to life in every facet of their life. Community is about taking care of each other and in turn taking care of the very place you spend time with co-workers, family and friends living a life that is meaningful and with purpose. A community can be a place or a group, but more than that, it is a way of living happily. We all seek that feeling of being “home”; at one with our fellow people and our surroundings. A supportive community provides that feeling. Communities are inspiring and engaging because each person feels value, purpose, pride, and a sense of belonging. This feeling can be spread from person to person, neighborhood to neighborhood, city to city and eventually a movement is created that is worldwide.
Why the arts, education and homelessness? Tell us a little about the issues surrounding these themes in L.A. and the change your team hopes to see.
We are very passionate about the three platforms we chose to support as they represent the different parts of the LA community where we feel like a sustainable difference can be made.
ART – The arts is an integral part of the community where our headquarters will be located in the Arts District of Los Angeles. Art helps bring freedom, joy and expression to both the creators of art as well as those who appreciate the arts. It can also be an emotional outlet for those struggling with tough issues that they may be dealing with which is why we selected Street Poets as our giving partner for this platform. Street Poets harnesses the healing power of poetry and music to save lives, create community and transform culture. Working to break the cycle of violence in the lives of at-risk and incarcerated youth, the organization helps to awaken them to their gifts and builds creative community, bringing youth, adults and elders of diverse backgrounds into deep transformational relationships.
ENDING HOMELESSNESS – Ending homelessness is a hot topic in the Los Angeles area as it has reached epic proportions. Our headquarters is only block away from Skid Row, so we are in a good position to mobilize and activate concerned citizens to get involved at all levels. Our partner The People Concern has joined with LAMP Network to empower people to rebuild their lives. The goal is to end – not simply manage – human suffering. The People Concern is an independent, community-supported organization in which staff, volunteers and clients work with mutual respect to address the effects of poverty, abuse, neglect and discrimination. The agency’s programs are designed to remove barriers to access the resources individuals need to ensure their survival, end their victimization and improve their quality of life.
EDUCATION – We believe that the more people are educated and given the tools to change their set of circumstances, it can lead to a more sustainable and productive life for the individuals involved who can contribute and become productive members of their community. Violence and crime are concerns in the LA area that can be addressed with the youth of the community to educate them on the alternatives available to them with some guidance from others.
The Mission of our partner the Youth Mentoring Connection is to awaken at-risk youth to their power, unique gifts and purpose by matching them with caring adult mentors and placing that “match” within a structured group dynamic that provides the resources youth need to reach productive, conscious adulthood. They further seek to awaken society to the needs, promise and value of this overlooked population, and inspire young people bring their gifts back into their communities.
Tell us about the process of crafting these beautiful shoes.
We come from decades of experience manufacturing footwear in Asia so we felt like transferring that knowledge to manufacturing in the U.S. would be second nature. We learned very quickly that was not the case. Currently the U.S. is not set up for larger scale production of footwear and the majority of the cost of the shoe is in the labor to produce them, which in turn results in expensive products. There used to be thousands of factories in the LA area and now it is down to dozens so our options were limited.
We searched for months to find just the right factory that would be able to construct the shoes we had designed in the quantities we were projecting at a fair price. Finally, we happened upon a factory just across the LA river from our headquarters who was willing to partner for the long term. They are known for their beautiful craftsmanship and the owner is committed to rebuilding the industry of footwear manufacturing. Our shoes are built with high end materials and construction at a price that is fair based off local production. We believe implicitly that manufacturing in the U.S. and in particular LA is the right thing to do as it helps to rebuild the community and provides jobs to the local community members.
How do you think COMUNITY will influence the local L.A. community to improve their own city rather than focus on cities and communities in developing countries?
We specifically chose giving partners located in the LA area so that the local LA community can get involved personally in their efforts. We will be coordinating with each of the groups to host events where local community members can donate their time and energy to the giving platform of their choice. The area where we are located and the surrounding downtown LA area is in a period of rebuilding and there is definitely a buzz while walking the streets of a community that is rebuilding.
There is a sense of pride in DTLA and it is gaining a lot of notoriety nationally as well as internationally. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti is behind revitalizing business and community in Los Angeles and he has a lot of local supporters ready to pitch. We are counting on that spirit to get others involved in a meaningful way and to help spread the word.
What do you hope COMUNITY will grow to become in a year following successful completion of your Kickstarter campaign?
Looking one year down the road, we hope that COMUNITY will be a force for change in the community and that we are able to empower others to take positive action to make a difference in the community on all levels. We want people to feel that even if they do something no matter how small, they can make an impact. It only takes a small group of motivated people to band together to take control of their lives and not surrender to situations where they feel hopeless. So often we find that people have the right motivations to help and give but they don’t know the first steps to take. COMUNITY wants to be that hub for connectivity and change people’s perspectives from “ME to WE” on a daily basis.
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Founder of Causeartist + Social Entrepreneur + Partner at Charity Charge.