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Madi Riley, a senior majoring in international studies, is changing lives one sock at a time.

Riley served her mission in Albania, where she noticed women in poor living conditions making beautiful socks. Riley decided by selling their socks she could utilize their talent and help them earn money to support their families. “It’s a win-win situation,” Riley said.

A year ago, her idea transformed into reality. Starting a non-profit wasn’t easy.

 

“I’ve been learning as I go. The business world is a new field to me,” said Riley.

In the beginning, Riley was doing everything herself, from accounting to designing her own company. “I’ve just been doing my best to figure it out on my own but welcome tips and feedback,”Riley said. She launched this business in Provo where she “took advantage of opportunities with entrepreneurial events and organizations.

Riley came up with the name of her business herself: “Toesty,” pun intended. Toesty is a non-profit organization that sells socks made by Albanian women. Riley travels to Albania to pick up the socks and sells them in the United States. She sells the socks through various mediums, from online to farmers’ markets or by word-of-mouth and sends the money back through Western Union at specified times.

 

“The money goes directly back to the women. I don’t make anything off of it,” Riley said. Typically the women receive anywhere from twenty to several hundred dollars depending on how many pairs of socks Riley is able to sell. Albanian currency, lek, is of far less value than American money; a little over a hundred lek is equivalent to one US dollar.

 

The four women that make these socks are Lindita, Nika, Shqipe and Tefta. They each have plans for how they will spend their money they earn. For example, Tefta wants to start her own dairy business. Her job pays for her basic needs while the sock money is set aside for her to live her dreams of entrepreneurship.

Each of these women’s pictures are attached to the pairs of socks they make. When Riley initially showed the ladies the packages of socks with their pictures on it, their eyes glistened with tears; they’d never received recognition like this before.

 

Riley stays in contact with these women through Facebook Messenger, and when she travels there, Riley makes sure she visits them. “Talking to them, it was really heartwarming to hear the trust that they had in me and hope,” Riley said. She cherishes her relationship with these ladies and sympathizes with them in their situation.”They expressed feelings of being trapped in their situation and feeling forgotten because volunteers and missionaries come, love them, and go back home to their thriving communities and well-off lives,” Riley said.

The Albanian women are very grateful that she hasn’t left them. “I’ve received a lot of comments about the gratitude they had at not feeling forgotten and having someone remember their situation in their disparity and urgency for help,” Riley said. Many lack the funds to do basic necessities such as sending their kids to school.

Those comments of gratitude and remembering the faith that they have in her keeps Riley going when she begins to doubt her abilities and feels swamped with her responsibilities. Starting a non-profit organization hasn’t been easy, but she said “Remembering these families who are depending on my efforts to feed their kids and pay their rent” keeps her motivated.

 

Those comments of gratitude and remembering the faith that they have in her keeps Riley going when she begins to doubt her abilities and feels swamped with her responsibilities. Starting a non-profit organization hasn’t been easy, but she said “Remembering these families who are depending on my efforts to feed their kids and pay their rent” keeps her motivated.

Through this process, she has learned many lessons. Riley has obtained basic skills such as bookkeeping and organizing records to making a website and editing videos. She has also learned what it takes to make things happen. “I’ve learned that I need to take care of myself so I can help people,” Riley said.

Riley remembers the first time she went to pick up the socks. “I came back with five dollars to my name because I spent my own money.” She recognizes her desire to help these people she cares about but also sees the need for her own stability so she can do more and have this business grow and continue.

“My eyes have been opened to the world of serving and trying to give back but not always seeing the fruits of my labors firsthand… When I’m stressed I just remember that I go to bed with a full stomach in a comfortable apartment, so I can handle that little bit of stress,” Riley said.

She’s working on upgrading her domain to toesty.org and getting more advertising; however, right now her focus is on graduating. Once she graduates, she hopes to continue growing and stabilizing this business. Riley plans on getting a Master’s in social work. Her overall goal is to work with minority communities, and right now she is helping women reach their goals, one sock at a time.

To learn more about this non-profit organization, follow @toestysocks.


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