Roma Provisions combines fashion with charity. For every pair of rain boots sold, they donate a pair of rain boots and school supplies to impoverished children living in cold and wet climates. Founder Samuel Bistrian sees social entrepreneurship as a way to give back, starting with the Romanian community he grew up in.
“I grew up poor, but was able to make a life for myself and my family because I got a good education. Providing proper footwear is the first step in helping these children break out of poverty.”
"Roma is Amor spelled backwards" says Samuel Bistrian, founder of the rain boot company Roma when describing the several ways in which his company name reflects its origins. The word is a nod to Romania where he grew up and where his idea was born, and also "the proper term for the gypsy people, who are a poor, marginalized population" who benefit from the company's work.
Samuel's own story is a classic American one, with a global twist. Having grown up in a small village in Romania, he would return many times and was struck by the sight of children roaming the streets with sandals, broken shoes or no shoes at all, through mud, rain and snow. Back in Dallas, TX, where he worked as a department store salesman, he met Blake Mycoskie, the now famous founder of TOMS shoes, and was inspired. Cobbling together some funding and support from family and friends, Samuel's Roma was born 2009 and has grown rapidly since.
Through the proceeds from boot sales in the US, Roma funds the nonprofit arm Roma For All, which provides these same warm, waterproof boots to Roma children. "Our broader plan is to empower these children to break out of the cycle of poverty by getting them back into the education system where they can learn to take care of themselves," says Samuel.
Despite early setbacks, from finding a Fair Trade Factory to keeping the production on schedule, Samuel is resolute in his purpose: "I see this as an obligation, given where I came from. Furthermore, to be able to combine my love of fashion with my love of charity, it never feels like work." He remembers proudly the moment when it all came together: "The Dallas Morning News wrote an extensive story on what I set out to accomplish. Shortly after I received calls from stores, individuals and NGO's who wanted to get involved in our cause. It was a very humbling and exciting time."