Buddy Teaster is a relative newcomer to retail, joining nonprofit social enterprise Soles4Souls as president and CEO in 2012. In the process of rebuilding the board, expanding partnerships and disrupting the poverty cycle through the organization's mission — to create sustainable jobs and provide relief through the distribution of shoes and clothing around the world — he’s been blown away by the power and generosity of the industry. “For all the dog-eat-dog stories,” he says, “we work with so many people who want to give back.” Since 2006, Souls4Souls has distributed over 30 million pairs of shoes across the United States and in 127 countries.
A nonprofit veteran and ultramarathon runner, Teaster leads with transparency and vulnerability. “That means sometimes saying, ‘I have no idea what we’re going to do, but we’ll figure it out together,’” he says. “It’s been understood for a long time that the not-for-profit world can learn a lot from the for-profit world, but I think the reverse is true now too. There’s something becoming more valuable in blending those two worlds, and that’s where the magic is.”