University friends set up Leiho, a sustainable and socially aware business selling daily essentials. For every item they sell another is donated to a homeless person.
Walking past homeless people on their way to the Launch Lab at City, University of London gave two university friends the idea for their sustainable and socially impactful business.
Joey Li and Thuta Khin started Leiho where people can buy daily essentials and do good at the same time.
They started selling bamboo socks where every pair they sell another pair is donated to a homeless person.
The business women, who both studied MSc in Marketing, Strategy and Innovation at City, started with socks as they are the most requested essential by homeless people, many of them walking up to seven miles a day.
Partnering with various charities that help the homeless Leiho has donated 626 pairs of socks so far and Joey and Thuta have worked hard to spread their business idea to different market places.
According to figures from a report by the housing charity Shelter, 1 in 200 people are without a home. And in December 2019 280,000 people were recorded as homeless in England.
Leiho’s philosophy is that one pair of socks may not change the world but it’s a start. And in the first month of trading they sold 200 pairs of socks proving that many others agree with their ethos.
Both Joey and Thuta know that socks are just the starting point of their business and there are many different essentials that connect with the buy-one-give-one model.
Social impact is at the front of their business and drives them to help more people.
During the Coronavirus lockdown in partnership with Slough Outreach, they launched a new initiative where one pair of socks equalled four meals donated to vulnerable people. More than 1,500 meals were delivered to those in need.
So far Leiho has donated 626 pairs of socks:
- 75 given to homelessness services
- 391 to local projects and homelessness services
- 143 given to homeless shelter partners
- 17 to people on the streets.
Leiho match every pair of socks sold to the exact number donated and always aim to prove the impact.
Working closely with homeless and outreach charities means Leiho can directly help homeless people knowing those most in need are benefiting.
Joey and Thuta also hold pop-up shops where they get to know their customers as well as talking to homeless people and nurturing their business partnerships.
They are also in talks with other charities to donate more socks and water bottles and would like to help people with mental health issues in the future too.
Joey and Thuta agree it has been a difficult journey but the social impact they are making motivates them to do more.
Leiho has received lots of support from City and the Launch Lab and the business has not only proved to be socially impactful but also commercially viable too.
Future plans and benefits
Starting with bamboo socks Leiho has, since its inception, planned to launch more essential products to help people in need. Partnerships play a vital role in getting the donations to the right places.
Recently they have launched stainless steel water bottles in partnership with Aquapax to help provide clean water and prevent dehydration for homeless people during the summer. But this is just the start, with plans to sell other day-to-day essentials.
Joey and Thuta also have plans to release their own products and expand their venture outside of London around the UK.
Entrepreneurship at City, University of London
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