Changemaker: Kyle Berner
Changemaker is our series that highlights some really amazing work that is fueled by a passion and desire to change the world through sustainable efforts. As Feelgoodz are ‘for the traveler, the game-changer, the risk-taker, the doer’, I couldn’t see a better fit than Kyle Berner, the Founder and CEO of Feelgoodz.
Kyle grew up in New Orleans where he earned a degree in business/marketing and went on to travel and complete The Pail List i.e. the bucket list for his 20′s. This included: create something from scratch- he worked as a record producer; work for corporate America- held a position at Dell; and work outside- bought and operated 3 hot dog carts. He believes that in pursuing our interests we will find our passion and that is how he founded Feelgoodz in 2008. It was during his second trip to Thailand that Kyle’s only piece of footwear broke and, consequently, changed his life. The need for a replacement caused the discovery of the flip-flops made from rubber trees- which are the root of his business today.
Feelgoodz is a conscious-casual lifestyle brand that pays fair wages to co-ops in developing countries. Their products, predominantly flip-flops, are all natural, recyclable, and most importantly- you can feel good about wearing them. Not only does this social enterprise make comfortable footwear, they also run upcycling campaigns, education campaigns and eco-tourism adventures. Their mission? Human empowerment. Their call to action? Feelgoodz is their call to action.
I was fortunate enough to meet the ever-enthusiastic, gut-trusting, easy-stepper-of-a-man himself in Raleigh, North Carolina (where the company is now based). Here is some of our exchange from and since then.
Of all the places, what took you to backpacking in Thailand?
I was selling hot dogs in Austin, and I met a backpacker who had just spent 8 months practicing Muay Thai kickboxing on an island in Thailand. He said it was his favorite country in the world. That was it.
Feelgoodz works with cooperatives in Thailand, Vietnam and Guatemala, can you explain the impact your company has on these communities and why it is important to you?
As for the impact we have on our co-ops, just think of it this way. If you were paid a fair wage for your work and if you were to provide for yourself- would that drive you into poverty or empower you? We feel it’s the latter and that’s what we do.
How did you end up in Raleigh?
Feelgoodz merged with another sandal company that was based here in Raleigh called Kinder Soles. After the merger, it made the most sense to move here as it became our operational headquarters.
You say reading The Alchemist changed your life, why did you write your recently published book: From Backpacker to CEO?
Advice for those wanting to bring about change and aren’t sure how?
I think it just boils down to life experience and passion. With passion, you can definitely bring about change.
Hopes and dreams for the future?
To make a mark. Somehow, someway.