Esperos hopes to provide education to children in Haiti through a line of fashionable backpacks

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Esperos is a company that sells backpacks to help send children to school in Haiti. For every backpack sold, one child goes to school for one year. (Photo courtesy of Esperos)

Esperar means “to hope” in Spanish, an emotion Esperos is built on.

Esperos, which launched officially this past July, is an organization that sells canvas backpacks to raise money to send children in Haiti to school. The organization’s name is derived from the Spanish verb “esperar.” Every bag purchased sends one child to school for a year, and hope is the organization’s motto.

Oliver Shuttlesworth, the company’s CEO and founder, said he got the inspiration to build the company after returning from a trip to Central America in the fall of 2011, where he witnessed the effects of poverty.

“I heard from parents; they had this desire for their children to be educated so they could make better lives for themselves and then for their children,” Shuttlesworth said.

At that point, Shuttlesworth said he began to look into how much it takes to send a child to school for a year. His findings surprised him.

“It was really shocking that in some instances it costs as little as $20 to send a child to school for a year,” Shuttlesworth said. “From that point on, I started thinking of ways to reach a lot of people and do some good, and because I’ve always been thinking about education I launched Esperos.”

So, for Shuttlesworth, the next logical step was clear: backpacks.

“At that point, it made the most sense to me to tie it into backpacks,” Shuttlesworth said. “Backpacks and education go hand in hand.”

The backpacks are made to appeal to a wide audience, Shuttlesworth said.

“I wanted it to be something that kids in middle school would feel comfortable carrying, kids in high school and college would be comfortable carrying and even something adults would want to carry,” Shuttlesworth said.

Since launching in July, Shuttlesworth said the company has been successful. They got a boost in sales earlier when the “Today” show featured Esperos as one of the best backpacks to buy going back to school this year.

One of Esperos’ means of distribution is reaching out to college campuses and getting clubs on campus to help sell the bags. Cassie Recker, vice president of business operations, said Esperos is working to launch a campus club on UT’s campus.

“Our campus clubs have two angles,” Recker said. “We want them to spread the word about our company and other socially conscious businesses. We also want them to be able to educate others on the importance of access to education.”

She said examples of businesses such as Esperos and Toms, a shoe company, show that this generation likes to give back.

“This generation right now really wants to buy a product that is not just fashionable, but also provides a social good,” Recker said.

Shuttlesworth said Esperos are launching a new line of tote bags Monday. As the company continues to grow and expand, Shuttlesworth said he hopes to get Esperos bags into retail stores. The canvas backpack prices are currently $70, but Shuttlesworth said he is working to lower the price.

Printed on Monday, October 22, 2012 as: Bags provide aid to Haiti