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we turn pollution into artwork

Ocean Sole, a Kenyan-based nonprofit, is a dynamic social enterprise dedicated to transforming discarded flip-flops into vibrant sculptures, providing employment, education, and an outlet for artistic expression for local communities, while raising awareness about conservation and actively protecting coastlines through art and weekly beach cleans.

OUR SOLEMISSIONIS CLEAR

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protect our planet &
provide for our people

Ocean Sole is a dynamic social enterprise based in Kenya, dedicated to transforming discarded flip-flops from the country's waterways and coastline into colorful sculptures and products.

 

Through our people-first approach, we empower local communities by offering employment, education, and avenues for artistic expression. Committed to positive impact and eco-advocacy, we raise awareness about conservation, recycle 10,000 flip-flops weekly, and actively protect the coastline through art and beach cleans.

 

Our mission extends to empowering women-led groups and ensuring essential benefits for our employees and their families. Together, we strive to make a lasting and meaningful impact on marine pollution and sustainability, turning environmental challenges into opportunities for creative solutions.

 

Join us in our mission with #LetsDoGoodTogether.

MISSION & 
HISTORY
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In 1999, the seeds of Ocean Sole were planted on Kiwayu Island, Kenya, where the colorful flip-flops washing ashore sparked an idea that grew into a global movement. Our founder was inspired by local women who crafted beads from these discarded flip-flops, turning marine debris into beautiful, sellable art. This humble beginning set the stage for a transformative journey.

By 2006, what began as a community project evolved into a flourishing business—the Flip Flop Recycling Company. A small workshop in Karen, Kenya became the creative hub for 10 artisans, supported by collectors who cleaned beaches and waterways, turning pollution into profit.

The period from 2010 to 2013 marked a significant evolution in our craft. Our first Safari & Ocean Collection was born, capturing the imagination of a global audience. This era also saw strategic investments that helped scale our operations, setting a foundation for the next phase of growth.

In 2014, we rebranded as Ocean Sole and gained international recognition at the Smithsonian Folk Festival. The following years were a whirlwind of creativity and challenges. Masterpieces travelled from our workshop to Spain and the UN, while partnerships expanded our reach across continents. However, growth was not without its hurdles—shareholder disagreements and managerial shifts in 2016 nearly brought us to the brink of bankruptcy.

2017 was a turning point under new leadership. Erin Smith stepped in, resolved past liabilities, and reimagined Ocean Sole as a social enterprise focused on global impact. Despite tough times that saw our team working out of Erin's house, we persevered, delivering large orders and sustaining our mission.

By 2018, the focus shifted towards our team's well-being. We introduced hot meals, profit-sharing, bonuses, and health benefits, strengthening our foundation. The viral success of “I am a Flip Flop Artist” in 2018 brought unprecedented attention, furthering our message of conservation and creativity.

The years that followed were marked by global installations and exhibitions, from Canada to Singapore. Our advocacy for ocean conservation gained momentum, and in 2020, despite the challenges of the pandemic, we launched a nonprofit in the USA, ensuring continued support for our Kenyan artisans. In 2021 we were even on the Paris Fashion runway with the Chloe collaboration and the gorgeous Lou flip flop.

Recent years have seen us expand further into showcasing our craft on the Paris runway with the Chloe “Lou” flip flop,  increasing our online presence, and strengthening our storytelling globally. Our commitment to community and conservation deepened in 2023, with initiatives like Ocean Mamaz and TurtleSafe BOFA beach, highlighting our dedication to protecting marine life.

In 2024, we held our first fundraising event and are working with clients in Brazil, USA, Holland, Japan, Spain, Australia and across Africa to showcase our art advocating for conservation.

Today, Ocean Sole stands as a vibrant testament to the power of transformation—from waste to art, from adversity to opportunity. We continue to innovate, inspire, and advocate for a healthier planet, proving that every discarded flip-flop has a story worth telling. 

Join us as we sculpt a better future, one flip-flop at a time.

Julie Founder of Ocean Sole
Francis Muvau Carving in Ocean Sole Workshop

2006

OUR HISTORICAL TIMELINE

1999

Business Evolution

Transitioning from a grassroots project to a formal enterprise, the Flip Flop Recycling Company was established. A workshop in Karen, Kenya, became the heart of operations, employing ten artisans committed to transforming beach refuse into valuable art. This strategic move not only generated income for local communities but also underscored the company's commitment to cleaning Kenya's waterways.

Foundation and Vision

From the innovative spirit of Kiwayu Island's women, inspiring the creation of a project that transcended traditional craftsmanship. By empowering these ladies to repurpose ocean waste into beautiful beads and products, the seeds of change were planted, marking the inception of a movement dedicated to both environmental sustainability and community upliftment.

Meet the Team Behind the Mission

Our team and community are the heart and sole behind everything we do. Without their dedication and passion for our purpose, we would never be able to make the impact that we do. 

Africa Sales

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