Covenant graduate Leo Saballos majored in community development and has merged that knowledge with his passion for fashion to create a new online retail store, called Solo Viva.
The company's mission is to promote designers, set a standard for fair trade and support nonprofits.
"Fair trade should be the standard," he said. "We want to make ethical commerce the standard."
The first line is purses, but the products will not be limited to purses. The first collection is called Viva Xairo, handbags that were designed by Katie Jo Ramsey, who is also a Covenant College graduate.
Saballos, who is originally from Nicaragua, has also partnered with Zona Franca Masili, which is a worker-owned sewing house in Nicaragua.
The purses in the collection were handcrafted by the women with Zona Franca Masili. Ramsey created her vision for the purses, and Saballos then took that vision to the women at the sewing center, who agreed to manufacture them.
Saballos pays the women, who set their own prices, for the products and then sells them through his site.
"Xairo, 'to rejoice,' is the essence of life," Ramsey said in a prepared statement. "In that spirit, each purse is named after a woman who inspires me to seek joy, women who embody strength and life."
Ten percent of the proceeds from all sales will go to benefit nonprofits.
The first nonprofit that Saballos has partnered with is LifeSpring Community Health, which is an organization that aims to provide health education and promotion, medical services and community advocacy in urban Chattanooga.
Saballos didn't rule out the possibility of a storefront in the future and said he'd love to help make Chattanooga more of a fashion hub in the process.
And although other details of the business may evolve, his mission to promote artists, nonprofits and free trade will not change, he said.
"We will start small and grow from there, but those three core things set us apart from any other company," he said.
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