Ocean Sole Africa, a social enterprise and nonprofit from Kenya with a mission to turn the Earth’s flip-flop pollution into inspiring art, has recently expanded sales operations to Northeast Florida. CEO Erin Smith, a longtime Ponte Vedra Beach resident and global entrepreneur, recently returned to the United States to launch Ocean Sole Africa’s product line in local art galleries, surf shops and fair trade boutiques as well as partner with area nonprofits and for-profit organizations.
“We brought a few of our Ocean Sole team members as well as two shipping containers full of our most popular works of art,” explains Smith. “For more than 3 billion people on the planet, flip-flops are the only available footwear. After about a year of use, they get discarded and end up along the beaches and waterways in Kenya. We work with locals to collect the flip-flops and transform them into unique, hand- carved animal sculptures ranging in size from a keychain to life-size.”
Each piece is made with care as Ocean Sole artists collect the washed-up flip-flops, clean them, shape them and then carve the material into one-of-a-kind art. Some of Ocean Sole Africa’s most popular pieces include brightly colored giraffe, rhino, turtle, dolphin, shark and elephant sculptures. “With more than 24 percent of our sales originating from America, it was a natural fit for us to expand to the United States,” Smith says. “I have spent a decade living in Northeast Florida and most of my family currently lives and works here, so it made sense to bring Ocean Sole African back home to Ponte Vedra Beach and integrate it into the vibrant art and ocean culture that defines the beaches now.”
Over a ton-and-a-half of flip-flops are recycled each week with more than 20 percent of revenue going toward beach clean ups, vocational/educational programs and conservation efforts. Currently, Ocean Sole Africa positively impacts 1,000 Kenyans as well as provides steady income for over 130 Kenyan residents.
Ocean Sole Africa’s showroom, located at 5150 Palm Valley Road, Suite 406 in Ponte Vedra Beach, is open by appointment only. To schedule an appointment, contact [email protected] or 904-907-3596.
To learn more about the company and to browse Ocean Sole Africa’s small pieces, masterpieces, and functional products, head to www.oceansoleafrica.com.