Bridging The Gap Between Fashion And Poverty

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TOPEKA, Kansas (WIBW) -- One woman is using her passion for fashion to make even just a small stitch in the struggle to end worldwide poverty.

It is her belief in helping others, while making them feel beautiful inside and out, that earned her a 2014 Small Business Award nomination from the Greater Topeka Chamber.

Zoe Schumm is bridging the gap between fashion and poverty. Knowing that fashion can make you feel great on the outside, she is using it to help women all over the globe feel important on the inside.

That's how her business 4 All Humanity was born.

"Our mission is to use the apparel to alleviate poverty around the world," Schumm said. "I really believe that fashion can be a real source of good."

4 All Humanity is a fair-trade apparel line that works with artisans in Uganda, Ethiopia, India, Thailand and Peru to create hand-made clothing and accessories that are sold online and in boutiques here in the United States.

Mostly women, these artisans make much better wages and work fairer hours than in other garment factories.

"As of now fashion has gone to the side of exploiting workers and it really needs to swing the opposite direction. I really had a heart for the people. It's not right. I just really felt the need to do what I could to change that."

With a background in textile and apparel design, Zoe sends her ideas and the women in each cooperative across the globe bring them to life, creating trendy, beautiful pieces - and a better life for their families.

"I think the best thing is when we hear stories back from the women we work with and they are now able to send their kids to school," Schumm said, "or in a group in India, the first person went to college ever. Those things are really big deals.

It's amazing to see that, but at the same time it's something that should be the standard, it shouldn't be the exception."

4 All Humanity now employs almost 500 artisans and continues to grow.

"I just hope there's a stronger support in Topeka of what I'm doing. If someone could just buy one or two things free-trade, it really does make a big difference."

More about the artisans and the cooperatives 4 All Humanity works with is on the site.

Schumm was nominated along with 11 other small business owners in the area. Winners will be announced on May 13 at Washburn University at the 2014 Small Business Awards Ceremony.