US writer Henry David Thoreau is credited with the quote “Goodness is the only investment that never fails”, and this is certainly true when it comes to charity in the footwear industry.
Today, many corporations, private individuals and institutions see the sense in not only helping those least able to help themselves, but also giving financial and mentoring support to young entrepreneurs.
Trade charity Footwear Friends, the two main footwear livery companies Pattenmakers and the Cordwainers, as well as some prominent companies and individuals in the trade, are active in responding to requests for assistance from people who have a significant record of service in the industry but who are experiencing difficulties in day-to-day living.
Hundreds of ex-industry members who have been let down or neglected by the system and/or their families receive vital grants to make their lives more tolerable. This traditional role of charity is part of the lifeblood of the industry in supporting its own.
Another and arguably equally important element of charity is mentoring and funding young managers, designers and start-up companies to enable them to successfully navigate their first years in business. Again, the organisations mentioned previously give bursaries and prizes to about 30 to 40 up-and-coming footwear specialists each year. This makes good business sense,
as without this new talent the industry would struggle.
It could be argued that more companies and individuals should help out, not only by supporting retired members of the footwear trade but also by encouraging the development of those who will be the industry’s key drivers in the future.
- Richard Kottler is chief executive of the British Footwear Association