The story starts on the shores of the Indian Ocean
In 1997 Julie Church, a marine conservationist born and bred in Kenya, was leading the conservation and development project for the Kiunga Marine National Reserve which lies just below Somalia in Northern Kenya.
On a remote Island
Situated on the remote Island of Kiwayu, Julie was horrified by the waste washing up onto the beaches creating an environmental disaster for the marine ecosystem.
We made small waves
Inspired by the toys children were making out of the flipflop debris, Julie encouraged their mothers to collect, wash, and cut the discarded flipflops into colourful products. The flipflop became the connection between the human community and their marine species.
Stopped in our tracks
Julie took on a male buffalo when up at her family farm. This was a near fatal accident and she spent over 2 months in hospital, 7 months out of the field and had to learn all the basics of life such as walking, sitting, running – and one of her greatest passions, swimming.
Rising To Higher Tides
Marium and Bihawa, mothers from the Kiwayu community came up to the city for the first time to sell their flipflop creations at East Africa’s largest Christmas Craft Fair in Nairobi.
From sticks and thorns
A large order from WWF Switzerland for 15,000 turtle key rings helped us streamline our production. We moved from sticks and thorns to beads and glue.
UniquEco at Marula Studios
UniquEco Designs was formed, a for profit company believing in trade not aid. It launched a fresh and fun solution to beach pollution as well as local poverty. The main workshop moved to Marula Studios, a hub of local ingenuity showcasing the work of other creative Kenyans.
Having a whale of a time
In 2006 we created a full size Minke whale out of wire mesh and recycled flip flops for Environmental Day in Mombasa, Kenya. In 2008 our 18ft Giraffe was shipped to Rome and displayed during Fashion Week.
Living on credit
One of the 12 finalists in the BBC World Challenge we gained recognition as a small business that demonstrates enterprise and innovation.
The Swedish Cultural Museum commissioned The Flipflop Palm Tree as part of its “Destination” exhibition which highlighted Kenya’s innovative use of recycled flipflop material.
Decorated for our efforts
We won the National Award for Kenya at the Energy Globe Awards, Rwanda, celebrating our work with sustainable development.
Maureen Atieno was promoted to Production Assistant.
“ I really like my new position, especially helping workers meet their targets and giving tours around the showroom. I am very proud that such beautiful things are created out of of recycled flipflops. Before working here I was unemployed and my son and I would often go with out food and could not make our rent. All that stress has gone.”
As seen on TV
Filmed in April 2012, we were featured on BBC2’s “Indian Ocean” series with Simon Reeve.
HItting the catwalk
Funded by USAID Compete Initiative and under the Source East Africa Brand, we exhibited our new jewelry range at the 2012 Ethical Fashion Week in Paris.
All of a flutter
London Zoo commissioned us to create a curtain for its butterfly park, WWF it’s renowned panda icon out of recycled flipflops and the Discovery Museum in Newcastle upon Tyne now has our xlarge Elephant in its world culture collection.
Becoming an exhibitionist
In partnership with the Sarut group we made a splash at Trade Fairs in the USA including Atlanta International Gift & Home Furnishings Market in January, the New York International Gift Fair in February and the Museum Stores Association Conference and Expo in LA in April.
Rise to Action
As Ocean Sole expands its product range, working with wonderful new partners around the world, we started the Ocean Sole Foundation to make sure a percentage of profit is put both towards marine conservation and the encouragement of innovation, creativity and sustainable trade solutions.
Ocean Sole at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival
Ocean Sole was invited to participate in the 48th annual Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington D.C. and showcase our innovative project to over one million visitors. Two of our carvers Jonathan Lenato & Francis Muvua left Kenya for the first time & travelled to the US to take part in this prestigious event at the end of June.
Julie Church (founder) travelled to Portugal to speak at a high level conference in Lisbon in September. Having seen Ocean Sole featured on CNN and in the Guardian UK, Portuguese NGO, AMI, invited Julie to present our story as part of their annual theme "A Green Economy in a Blue World".
Pope Francis Visit to Kenya
His Holiness Pope Francis' visit to UNEP headquaters in Nairobi, 26 November 2015. He received the a gift of one of Ocean Sole's XLarge Sculpture animal. Thi Was made out the recycled flipflops.