George Fox Grads Find Community and a Mission Through Socially Conscious Fashion

Molly Walter (left) and Monique Boehme (right)

By Andrew Shaughnessy

When  Molly Walter (G06)  and  Monique Boehme (G04, MAT06) met as students in George Fox’s Academic Resource Center in the early 2000s, they never imagined the adventures ahead of them.

After graduating with a master’s degree, Boehme took a job teaching junior high at a private school. But after having her first child, she decided to stay home to care for, and later homeschool, her kids. A few years later, she discovered Sseko.

A socially conscious fashion brand headquartered in Portland, Sseko employs bright young women in East Africa, giving them jobs making sandals, jewelry, bags and accessories. They are paid a fair wage, receive life-skills training and mentorship, and save a portion of their income – matched 300 percent at the end of their term – enabling every woman who graduates Sseko’s program to attend university. “I fell in love with the concept, the mission and the impact,” Boehme says.

When Sseko launched its Fellows Program a few years later, she jumped at the chance to get involved. Sseko Fellows function as the stateside sales team for the business. These “impact entrepreneurs,” often women working out of their homes, buy kits of products from Sseko and sell them in their communities, sharing stories of impact along the way.

Walter, meanwhile, had spent a decade working in marketing after graduating from George Fox. “Almost four years ago, I got tired of schlepping auto loans and talking to the world about things that didn’t really matter,” she says. “I decided to quit my corporate job and go freelance, working out of my home.”

The freelance life, Walter discovered, can be a lonely existence. When she was invited to a Sseko event, Walter reconnected with Boehme and quickly realized she had found something special. “This was an opportunity to use my storytelling skills for something that has a global impact on women,” she says.

Walter joined Boehme’s Fellows team, “The Dreamers and the Doers,” and they got to work sharing Sseko’s story, vision and products. In the years since, Boehme and Walter’s team of Fellows has grown to around 100 women, and their sales work has helped employ and empower many women in East Africa. In 2018, Boehme and Walters had their biggest year yet. By hitting a major sales goal, they earned a two-week company incentive trip to Uganda.

“We just fell completely in love with the culture,” Boehme says. “It was incredible.”

Both women credit George Fox faculty with influencing their passion for empowering women through business.

“My time at Fox introduced me to some really powerful, brave, passionate women – my advisors, my cohort leader in my master’s program,” Boehme says. “I draw from their courage and determination to create opportunity for those who have fewer opportunities.”

Through Sseko’s Fellows program, Boehme, Walter and hundreds of other women have found a way to merge their entrepreneurial heads with their humanitarian hearts. They have found community, a mission, and a way to make a lasting impact on the world – together.