Liz Forkin Bohannon is the founder and CEO of Sseko Designs. Sseko Designs is an international ethical fashion brand that works to educate and empower women by providing employment and educational opportunities to women and East Africa and by using a direct sales model to enable impact entrepreneurs here in the U.S. to start run and scale their own impact enterprises. Beyond Mom Liz lives in Portland, Oregon where she runs Sseko and raises her toddler son, Theo with her husband and company co-founder Ben.
What makes you a Beyond Mom?
I am a builder! I am building a company (Sseko Designs), a community and a family. I see all these things not as silos of my life to be “balanced” but rather integrated into one life of purpose and passion!
What are the parts of you that have grown and expanded since becoming a mom?
Becoming a mom has inspired me towards patience, fresh ways of thinking, laughter and an awe-inducing amount of creative hacks to increase my efficiently and productivity! I am absolutely a leader, CEO and colleague since entering into motherhood. And bonus: Considering that the majority of both the impact entrepreneurs that sell our product and the customers who purchase are mothers, you could say, being a mom has given me incredible consumer and employee insight!
Do you have a Beyond dream that you are pursuing?
When I started my company, my BIG DREAM was to grow enough to provide employment to every single girl in Uganda who was graduating from the secondary school I was volunteering at. We are SO close. We just launched the #everygirl campaign which is aimed at achieving this goal. It is all possible with the help of our amazing Sseko Fellows, impact entrepreneurs here in the U.S. who share the Sseko story, style their friends and earn an income! If we continue on the trajectory that we are currently on, by 2019 we’ll be able to offer employment (and a college scholarship) to #everygirl! Want to join us as a Fellow? Click here!
What relationships and activities help you stay connected to yourself?
I am crazy about community! Within my business, my goal is to create true sisterhood and community for women here in the U.S. and for women in East Africa. And the best part? I even get the privilege of connecting those two communities to create a truly global sisterhood.
Outside of building my company, I am equally as committed to living in authentic and committed community. In fact, I live on a bit of an “urban commune” in Portland, Oregon with my best friends. (It’s not as weird or as “Portland-y” as it sounds! We share property where we each have our own homes within about 5 feet of one another. In addition to sharing property, we share life, finances, meals and responsibilities. Knowing that I don’t always have to “have it all together” and that both our joys and burdens will be shared with others truly enables me to take risks and dream in ways I wouldn’t be able to otherwise.
Do you have a favorite quote or mantra that you live by?
A step in any direction is better than being paralyzed by the fear of making the wrong move! You’ve got to keep moving and experimenting and trying and failing. It’s all part of the journey.
What causes and topics are you most passionate about right now?
Ethical Fashion: Our choices as consumers truly are one of the loudest and most powerful “votes” we have for how we want the world to work. And supporting companies and wearing beautiful products that have beautiful stories behind them, truly is FUN!
Women and girls: This is on us! Our generation will be the one to significantly close the global gender gap and it’s the best bet we have on making the world a little brighter: From extreme poverty to war to human trafficking, when you give a girl the opportunity she can (and will) make a brighter future for herself, her community and our world.
How do you think we can change our culture from one in which a woman is expected to be a “perfect mother” to one in which she is encouraged to discover and explore her evolving self?
We can each start by being transparent and open with our journeys. For women who are leading companies and are in the “public eye”, it has to start with us. I am really intentionally both in personal relationships and publicly to share my journey with all the mess involved in hopes that it inspires and gives permission to other women to come out of hiding away in an attempt to not be found out for being “imperfect” and instead join us in the flash mob in the light! It’s messy and chaotic but there is so much freedom and joy.
Favorite go-to’s for:
Beyond Food (what do you cook & where do you go?)
Speaking of transparency, I am the LAST person you’d want food recs from. If it were up to me, I’d stop by the little locally owned tienda by our house and grab tacos on fresh made corn tortillas with perfectly seasoned shredded chicken and the freshest cilantro and limes. I’d be happy as a clam.
Beyond Content (Books & Podcasts)
I am an absolute audiobook nut! At any given time, I am listening to at least one fiction and one non-fiction. Here is a list of the top five books I think every leader needs on her bookshelf!
Sseko Designs, of course! From apparel to footwear to jewelry and premium leather goods, we’ve got you covered from head to toe! (Literally!)
Well, right now, I am just entering into my third trimester and my workouts are pretty basic! I’m lucky enough to live in such a beautiful place that my favorite thing is an early morning brisk walk with a stop near my favorite scenic overlook of my city to do a little stretching. My husband and I switch off every other morning who stays home and gets our son ready for school and who goes and works out so we are both able to get our workout time in each week!