Meet Samuel Bistrian. He’s the busy bee behind Roma Provisions, a hybrid company that combines fashion and charity. The company designs and sells Roma rain boots in the USA while its subsidiary, Roma for All, distributes boots and school supplies to impoverished children around the world, mainly in Central and Eastern Europe and in particular, Romania.
Samuel grew up in a small village in Romania and immigrated to the US when he was a young boy. Over the years, he’d visit his family in Romania during the frigid winter months and saw children walk to school in knee-deep snow wearing worn-out shoes. He recalls watching a young girl walking outside in the freezing cold, carrying a small stack of firewood and wearing only a pair of sandals. He decided he needed to do something to help.
“Being aware of the great need in my home country of Romania and other countries I had visited I had always wanted to combine my love of fashion and my desire to impact the world, thus Roma Provisions was born,” explains Samuel.
Samuel has ten years of experience in fashion. Eight of those years were spent working at a major US department store where he met the founder of TOMS shoes and was instantly inspired to create a BOGO company of his own. Ethical Ocean has questioned the BOGO (buy one, get one) model of business in a previous article.
Samuel agrees the article makes a good point, but also adds “that is why BOGO companies have a huge responsibility not only to jump on a trendy bandwagon, but to travel to and research the areas they are offering aid to. Moreover, Roma Provisions has never believed in only offering aid, but in assisting the children to get an education so that they may break the cycle of poverty. Otherwise, you treat the symptoms and never the root of the problem.”
Though the company has only been in business for three years, Samuel has already seen an impact on the children he’s set out to help. “During our first ‘boot drop’ in Romania on Christmas Eve 2010, there was a young man named Mihai who was helping us with all the tedious paperwork, getting the boots out of customs, coordinating the areas of distribution, and making sure a system was in place for us to have an effective boot drop. But only a few years earlier, Mihai lived on the streets like some of the kids we were going to give boots to. The local organization that we partnered with gave Mihai a chance, took him in, helped him get an education, and transformed Mihai’s life forever. As we went from village to village distributing boots to hundreds of children, I couldn’t help but imagine that the kids who received boots would become like Mihai one day.”
In the hopes of growing the number of boots sold here in North America, and in turn helping more impoverished children around the world, Samuel says we should expect to see new styles and colors for adult and children’s boots in 2013, as well as new products further down the road. With your support, Samuel’s vision will hopefully come true one day.