There are plenty of interns who would love to be in Alvaro Guzman’s shoes this summer.

Alvaro Guzman

Alvaro Guzman
Image Credit: Craig Mahaffey

Through a relationship built with Tiger Ties mentor Scott Woods ’93, the senior marketing major has scored an internship that has him working for a social business enterprise that seeks to put shoes on the nearly 1.5 billion people on Earth who are infected with foot borne diseases.

Guzman is working from his home in New Hampshire for The World Shoe, a for-profit business that provides foam, anti-microbial shoes that help resist and treat foot-borne diseases, which are life-threatening.

“The internship is a great opportunity for me on several fronts,” Guzman said. “I’m wearing many hats in my role with a start-up that is tackling a global issue, which affects the livelihood of many, many people.”

Woods, managing director of Advocatus Consulting, Fort Mill, S.C., became involved with The World Shoe after meeting its founder, Manny Ohonme in church 12 years ago. Ohonme, a native of Nigeria, didn’t wear his first pair of shoes until age 9.

“The World Shoe produces shoes and Manny’s non-profit, Samaritan’s Feet, distributes them free to people all over the world, where many go through life without owning a pair of shoes,” Woods said. “Many people don’t live to be 20 because of the diseases they contract by not having shoes. It’s an atrocity that we’re trying to do something about.”

Ohonme and The World Shoe, based in Charlotte, N.C., are giving a lot of responsibility to Alvaro, who will graduate from Clemson’s College of Business in December. In addition to helping create a launch strategy, Alvaro has researched similar charitable-type companies that are for profit, and he’s soliciting companies to contribute to fulfill corporate social responsibilities.

The shoe's active anti-bacterial agent protects and heals feet from infections.

The shoe’s active anti-microbial agent protects and heals feet from infections.

“One thing I’ve learned this summer is that I have more to offer than I thought. When asked questions about the direction of a campaign, I realized I had tangible knowledge and was much more prepared than I thought,” Alvaro said. “What I learned in school and the involvement with my venture is benefiting me at The World Shoe.”

Alvaro’s other venture is Koala Cloth Apparel, a clothing start-up he launched in college. Woods said the experience Alvaro gained by starting his own business made him a good fit for The World Shoe.

“The World Shoe needed a marketing mind and my experience with a case study Alvaro participated in through Tiger Ties convinced me he’d be just what we needed,” said Woods, who also serves as acting chief operating officer of Barefoot Global, the company that designed and produces the shoes for Samaritan’s Feet and The World Shoe. “Besides his business acumen, Alvaro’s ability to connect with millennials is important. They will be the primary consumers of a commercial version of the shoe we will sell to support the social venture.”

Since its inception, Samaritan’s Feet has distributed 7 million pairs of shoes and 17,000 pairs of the anti-microbial World Shoe has been distributed in Central America and Africa.

“The shoe protects feet from injury, infections, diseases, and because of an active anti-microbial agent, can actually heal infections as the shoe is worn,” Woods said. “Our goal is to distribute 150,000 pairs by the end of 2017 and a million pairs in 3 years.”

Beyond the business experience and connections he’s making through the internship, Alvaro said there’s a sense of satisfaction that comes with what he’s doing this summer.

“Besides the negative health effects of being shoeless, footwear is often required even in the poorest of areas to attend school. Children can be denied an education simply because they are shoeless,” he said. “It’s very rewarding to know that in some way I may not only be contributing to someone’s life expectancy, but also providing them an opportunity that many of us take for granted.”

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