Roma Boots: Taking Steps to Grow Their Business & Help Children

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Roma Boots: Taking Steps to Grow Their Business & Help Children

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.@roma_boots is a #smallbiz #givingpovertytheboot in 25 countries. Learn how they got started: http://bit.ly/2q5UqhE @PayPal
Thursday, April 27, 2017 - 5:40pm

CONTENT: Blog

Next week is National Small Business Week, and PayPal is excited to celebrate the millions of inspiring small businesses we work with globally. We’re interviewing small businesses to find out what inspired them to start their business, the challenges they have faced, and the advice they have for other aspiring business owners. We sat down with Samuel Bistrian, the founder and CEO, and Beatrice Pitocco, the Vice President of Sales and Marketing, of Roma Boots.
 
What inspired you to start your business and how did you guys come up with the idea for it.
I was born in a small village in Romania and I got my first pair of rain boots when I was six years old. They were handed down from older siblings. When I was eight, communism fell and we had the opportunity to migrate to the U.S. We came here as refugees, and lived in Chicago. It was overwhelming, coming from a village of a hundred to the third largest city in the United States.
 
Early on, we knew that we were given an opportunity that many people risked their lives to have. And, we promised ourselves that we’d do something to help the people left behind. And, so my mom built in us from a young age to have a sense of gratitude and giving back.
 
After college, I did volunteer work and knew that I wanted to do that full time. I took trips back to Romania, and I realized that there was a big need to be served in Eastern Europe. I noticed that there was a big lack of proper footwear. At that time, rain boots were becoming very popular, so I decided to sell and donate boots. In 2010, I started Roma.
 
How do you build social consciousness into picking your products—and your partners?
Our slogan is “giving poverty the boot.” We want to donate boots to the most impoverished, educate them and create jobs. So, in addition to the donations, 10% of our proceeds go to educational initiatives to help kids. We also produce our products in Romania, where it all started. We just produced 10,000 boots in Romania that we donated to Bosnia and to Romania.
 
Little did I know that seven years later, we would be donating in 25 countries and on five continents, and the story just keeps getting bigger and bigger.
 
What were some of the challenges you faced when you started Roma Boots?
When I started Roma, I didn’t really know a whole about manufacturing or about building a business at all.  I simply had a lot of passion and I was determined to succeed. To raise capital, I basically had to borrow money from siblings, sell my car, and sell things online.
 
I reached out to factories in Romania and, you know, Brazil, all over, and in China. And I so happened to have a friend in China that I went to college with, so I flew to Shanghai and I visited all these factories. After six or seven factories, I felt completely discouraged, but I reached out to one more supplier in China—and we’ve been working together ever since.        
 
How does Roma Boots use PayPal today?
PayPal has been with us since the beginning. All of our wholesale business gets processed via PayPal. We discovered that we get the best rates for our business through PayPal. We also accept PayPal on our website. I think it’s the preferred choice of many of our customers. About 50-55% of our annual sales are paid using PayPal.
 
We’re looking at expanding beyond the U.S. and Canada. Partnering with PayPal is interesting because PayPal is a global name, and is well known.  And it obviously lends credibility.
 
What advice would you give other entrepreneurs about starting their own business?
I'd say to start with passion. Your passion is the most important thing. I think if your motivation is good, it's going to succeed no matter what. Even though, initially it may look challenging and as though you aren't where you want to be. Keep that passion, even if there are challenging times.
 
Also, if you’re a visionary, recognize where you need some help. That’s what a leader does. When you're starting a business, at first you will wear many hats. You'll have to take on different roles as you scale and grow. You will gain a lot of knowledge in many different areas, but it is important to recognize both your strengths and weaknesses as a leader, so that you can bring people to the team who are just as passionate and can help you to grow and scale, faster than you would on your own.
 
Finally, when picking partners, align yourself, personally and professionally, with people who are congruent to you and to your passion.

PayPal Stories Staff 

 
Keywords: Social Impact & Volunteering | Business Ethics | Education | PayPal | Philanthropy & Cause Initiatives | Roma Boots | Supply Chain & the Circular Economy | Sustainable Development Goals | small business week | social enterprise | social innovation

CONTENT: Blog