Philanthropist Hannah Davis signed a contract in 2009 to teach English for a year in China.
She landed in the country with a decent knowledge of Mandarin, a political science degree from Clemson and a textbook she found boring and didn’t want to teach.
She noticed many of the students and passersby wore olive green army boots that they bought secondhand. Her observation inspired her to create a shoe company based on global philanthropy.
“I suddenly woke up one night and realized that I could use the shoes I kept noticing to make a company built on long-term, positive change,” Davis said.
Davis bought the original shoe, an olive green army boot, and had BANGS stitched to the toe of the shoe and the company’s “Stand on Issues” tag attached to the side.
The BANGS name comes from the phonetic spelling of the Mandarin word for help, which is BANG.
Her company grew into an active nonprofit shoe retailer that supports six different global charities, she said.
Those charities include organizations such as Drop in the Bucket, a nonprofit organization dedicated to building wells and schools in Africa, as well as Global DIRT, or Disaster Immediate Response Team, an organization dedicated to short term disaster relief initiatives.
“Our charities are our mission,” she said. “We support them by selling shoes. A different colored shoe represents each charity. We then donate to their cause based on monthly sales.”
Davis is now touring American universities marketing her product and building support for the organization.
Davis visited IU on Tuesday and spoke with several honors classes in the Kelley School of Business.
Her visit to IU allowed her to speak at events and get the word out about BANGS in order to create a grassroots retail network, she said.
“Our company is based on social change,” Davis said. “I started the company because I knew that in order to be happy in whatever I was doing, I needed to be giving back and have a positive social impact in the world.”
She visited several factories in China before selecting the one she believed could offer her the highest quality product at the lowest price.
From there she got the original investment for the company from her parents and had the original run of BANGS shoes made.
Davis said she hopes her college tour will engender support for her product and help to advance her company’s mission.
“I believe in our message,” she said. “I hope to remind people that their actions should be conscious and that they have the power to enact positive change, even through retail.”
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