DU Alumni

Tote bag company supports education of girls in need

“I believe in supporting these girls’ dreams because they will make a difference in their community and maybe even globally,” says EduKate founder Allison Grenney. Photo: Wayne Armstrong

Allison Grenney (BA ’10) believes in the power of girls. She also believes in the value of an education. Combining these two passions, Grenney has set out to make a positive change in the lives of young girls around the world through her socially conscious business, EduKate.

Founded in November 2012, EduKate sells American-made tote bags whose profits support the education of girls in areas of need. By partnering with the nonprofit Starfish One by One, EduKate is able to support the secondary education of Guatemalan girls living in poverty. Proceeds from the sale of the bags support a mentorship program for girls, a crucial component of the overall mission. A local mentor meets with 15 girls once a week, teaching them various life skills and providing encouragement.

“It’s a great balance between emotional support and personal development, as well as tangible skills that the girls are able to take back to their families,” Grenney says. “The mentor talks with them about everything from water filters to reproductive health. It’s really the No. 1 thing that keeps the girls in school.”

EduKate was born from two “epiphany moments” Grenney had while traveling in Cambodia and Vietnam. While in a floating village in Cambodia, she was struck by the country’s vastly different education system, giving her a new appreciation for the opportunities she had growing up in the United States. This attitude was furthered in Vietnam, where she witnessed the challenges faced by local women in rural areas. After talking to a tour guide who attributed his family’s success to his wife’s education, Grenney’s belief in the power of educating girls to break the cycle of poverty was confirmed.

“It was such a pivotal moment,” she says. “When I came home, I wanted to use the marketplace and create a business that can educate the American public on global education issues.”

The company’s slogan, “Empowerment Through Passion,” stemmed from Grenney’s own beliefs and personal experiences. “I always think, ‘How can I be empowered through my passions to make the world a better place?’” she says.

Though she has plans to expand into other countries, Grenney’s focus now is on Guatemala, one of the poorest nations in the world. Only 5 percent of girls there finish primary school, and one out of every two children is malnourished. Due to the lack of resources, families are not able to send all their children to school, giving priority to boys instead of girls, who are seen as a “lost investment” because the majority marry at a young age.

EduKate also is helping to employ low-income American women, who manufacture the bags in Colorado through an empowerment program. Grenney says she didn’t feel comfortable helping on a global scale unless she could make an impact in her immediate community, too.

Using her background as an environmental science major, Grenney made sure the bags were environmentally sensitive, using only local materials and an all-natural color-dyeing process. She also designed the bag with function in mind, combining features from her favorite bags to form a practical, everyday item.

Grenney was overwhelmed by the girls’ progress when she traveled to Guatemala in November, and she says she came home with 200 more heroes.

“Many of them are so young but have this tenacity and hard-working attitude that surpasses so many people I’ve met,” she says. “It’s incredible to see the dedication of the girls and their drive to pursue their dreams. They’re so committed to their education because they want to help their community and families. I believe in supporting these girls’ dreams because they will make a difference in their community and maybe even globally.”

Visit edukate.co to learn more and to purchase a tote bag.

–Kelsey Outman



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