If you’re nearing your graduation and have no clue where you are heading in the future – you are not alone. When Hannah Davis founded BANGS Shoes, it wasn’t exactly what she envisioned herself doing at 22.
In fact, she never planned on being an entrepreneur or owner of a start up, no less releasing a National Nomad, High-Top sneaker.
“I found a pair of shoes on the side of the road while teaching English in China. The shoes are worn by Chinese workers and I just loved the the look of them. I was also at this weird crossroads where I was asking myself, ‘How do I become an adult with a career?’ I was a new college graduate and the job economy wasn’t looking too good, so I came up with a business plan to sell these shoes to a Western audience,” said Davis.
This moment, coupled with inspiration from a Dan Pallotta TED Talk about non-profit organizations, is what Davis said motivated her to create the BANGS brand. “The Dan Pallotta TED Talk really inspired me to want to help other up-and-coming business and entrepreneurs. He made this point about how we have an abundance of non-profits that often fight for the same causes. This winds up hurting some of those causes because the resources become limited, so I didn’t want to create another non-profit,” explained Davis.
According to the BANGS Shoes website, the company name comes from the Chinese character that means “help,” and that’s exactly what Davis intends to do with the profits. Being able to sponsor other entrepreneurs and their businesses, Davis said she feels fortunate and that this ability to help others is critical to the brand’s business model and philosophy. Davis jokes that BANGS Shoes is a, “start-up that helps start other start-ups,” but the way she and her team of fifteen exhibit their passion for philanthropy is no laughing matter. The brand’s slogan is, “Your adventure helps others find theirs,” and so far, they’ve invested 20 percent of BANGS net profit into 667 entrepreneurs and startups in 63 countries around the world.
BANGS Shoes also partnered with Kiva Lending Team, which provides micro-loans to those who qualify for a BANGS Sponsorship. “I just want to invest in experiences and opportunities so that communities and individuals can grow and build something awesome,” said Davis. Despite the success of her company, it wasn’t until recently that Davis considered herself an entrepreneur. Outside of the company’s philanthropic efforts, she hopes that her story can inspire others to pursue their goals and dreams.
“People have a fear of failure that holds them back from pursuing their vision, and it’s like why worry? If you’re starting a small business or service just come up with a simple plan and give it your all. It’s okay if it sucks the first time around because then you gain experience and learn from your mistakes,” said Davis.
Davis emphasized that experience is the biggest asset that anyone can gain. “I prioritize experiences over job titles and sometimes that means that I would work a free job in addition to a paid one. I want to give those experiences to other people, so I created our Brand Ambassador Program,” said Davis.
The Brand Ambassador Program that BANGS offers works to help inspire future entrepreneurs to pursue their goals. Those that get accepted into the program, have the potential to work in marketing, social media, design or even lending a hand to Kiva in deciding which businesses qualify for sponsorships and loans.
Davis encourages communication among ambassadors, ranging from games of flag-tag and dinner, to cultivating long distance pen pals.
“There’s been quite a few Brand Ambassadors who have told me it was a life changing experience for them. Some of them didn’t even know they had an interest in the different branches of the company that you can get involved in or that they would love being in a city they’ve never thought of visiting. It just brought a whole new point of view to their life and to mine because it’s unreal to hear that!” said Davis.
Brand Ambassadors usually hold the position for increments of three month periods, but you can be an Ambassador for years. Those who are part of the program for a longer period of time, Davis said, have a greater chance of getting a paid position at BANGS Shoes. “The application process isn’t easy for anyone; business, Ambassadors or employees. We only have a team of 15 employees, and all of them have been been involved with the brand for a while. I look for people with initiative and those who share and believe in BANGS core values.” BANGS Currently has a handful of paid positions that long term Ambassadors have filled, showing that hard work can pay off. If you would like to apply to be a Brand Ambassador for BANGS Shoes, the final submission date for early fall applicants is July 1.