Women's History Month – Ocean Sole

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with small steps.” 

This rings true for Ocean Sole. Over the years, many people have visited our shops, purchased our products and engaged us; we appreciate the support. We are sharing a bit about our history to know us better. 

Since we became a social enterprise in 2006, Ocean Sole has played a significant role in the conservation efforts in Kenya under the leadership of the CEO, Erin Smith. The Ocean Sole we know and love today has undergone many changes in the intervening years.

How did Erin become the CEO?

Erin worked in the technology industry for 25 years. We’ve all had that moment when we realized it was time to bow out and move on to something else. Perhaps more fulfilling? Erin decided to leave the tech industry, and that’s how she got involved with Ocean Sole.

Her friend Julie had started the enterprise then, and Erin jumped in as a Business consultant. Like most businesses, Ocean Sole was struggling with debts. To keep the employees working without laying off anyone, Erin decided to buy off the debt with Julie’s consent, and that’s how she became the majority shareholder. Julie moved on to a new enterprise which is doing quite well. 

How did Ocean survive the debt burden?

After buying off the debt, Erin had to strategize how to move the enterprise forward. Our CEO is excellent at problem-solving. Ocean Sole’s entire ethos is people focused. Erin paid particular attention to her people, her artists. She took them on a safari so that they could see the safari animals they had beautifully made. You’d be surprised to know most of them had never seen those animals up close before.

This inspired the artists in their creativity.  Later, she ran a training program to help the artists with their skills. Erin also started engaging local communities more in our beach clean-up exercises. This was a way of helping people living in high-impact coastal environments clean their environment while having a source of income. Erin hired them to assist in the enterprise in different capacities. 

 Where do we get buyers?

It's a question we get asked a lot. Our business is unique; therefore, our buyers are an equally remarkable group of people who understand us and what we do, and they understand the need to support us. We have different ways through which to sell our products.

  • On our website.
  • You can visit our shop in Kenya and the US; in Kenya, we’re located at the Karen Village; in the US, you’ll find us at 5150 Palm Valley Road, Suite 406, Ponte Vedra Beach, FL 32082. 
  • Consignees are also part of our enterprise. 
  • Exhibits, both local and international.
  • Wholesalers are also key players in our enterprise.

What products does Ocean Sole make? 

We make safari animals, Bahari (sea animals), custom orders, wall art, functional art and masterpieces.



Erin Smith on a Honda masterpiece

Erin’s business model has propelled Ocean Sole to where it is today. Erin encourages anyone who wants to start their own business or a passion project not to expect perfection. Every company will have its share of ups and downs. In a world where women still fight for equal rights in the workplace, Erin advises young women who want to venture into business to have the right attitude. “There will be many things and people pushing you in many different directions; stay the course and don’t lose focus.” 

At Ocean Sole, we are proud of the work we do. The environment and the people affected by it are our priorities. We’re glad to have a visionary leader like Erin, a great Eco-warrior. Speak for the Blue podcast recently caught up with Erin, where they talked in depth about Ocean Sole. Listen to the podcast here.

To conclude, anyone can be part of the change. It doesn’t have to be huge. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Whatever you intend to do, believe in it, believe in yourself, work toward it, and you can achieve it. If Erin could, so can you. Ocean Sole is a perfect example of a dream that was never given up on and continues to thrive!

Email hello@oceansoleafrica.com  for custom projects and creative ideas or to see how to stay connected & get involved with our mission!

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