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Photo by: Tim Freed - Augusto "Goose" Lopez-Torres and Scott Miller founded a business the connects job seekers with potential employers through charity.
Winter Park / Maitland Observer Tuesday, Jul. 2, 2013 9 years ago

The one-shoe interview

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Networking and charity
by: Tim Freed Managing Editor

Orlando resident Augusto “Goose” Lopez-Torres could still picture the children’s faces from the shanty villages of the Dominican Republic in this head. The memory was still fresh from his mission trip weeks before, where he hoped his work in cleaning up the old children’s school had made a difference.

Lopez-Torres had seen a lot of poverty in the villages, but what struck him most were the children’s feet. Small feet that were worn down by the harsh and rocky terrain, which is often littered with cans and broken glass. Any shoes that a child did have were often mismatched and several sizes too big – stuffed with paper to fill the empty space.

As he returned to his job at a packaging company, Lopez-Torres had no idea that his next business venture would put the needy on a better footing.

Last May, Lopez-Torres and co-founder Scott Miller launched Complete the Pair, a business that connects job seekers with potential employers through meeting invitations in the form of shoes, which are donated to charity afterwards.

The Winter Park-based company is partnered with Soles4Souls, a Nashville-based charity that has donated more than 20 million pairs of shoes in more than 130 countries worldwide.

The partnership allows Complete the Pair to not only help make business connections, but provide shoes to people in need around the world.

“Because of our meeting, somebody in need would benefit from it,” Lopez-Torres said.

The process starts when a job seeker buys a pair of shoes from Complete the Pair, and sends one of them to a prospective employer. Marked with a redeemable online code, the shoe comes with directions to check the Complete the Pair website, where the code can be entered to reveal the prospect’s bio, resume and personalized message requesting a meeting.

Once the two meet, they can mail their shoes back to Complete the Pair with pre-paid mailer bags found inside the shoes. The shoes are then sent to Soles4Souls, who distribute them wherever they’re needed.

“We’re thrilled to partner with Complete the Pair,” said Buddy Teaster, chief executive officer of Soles4Souls. “This partnership will allow us to help even more people regain their dignity and break the cycle of poverty.”

The idea for Complete the Pair came to Lopez-Torres four years ago after his first mission trip to the Dominican Republic. Trying to get his foot in the door with a potential job prospect, Lopez-Torres had heard about the practice of giving an employer a “meeting enticer” to make a connection, but had never tried it himself. He decided to try it with a pair of shoes, buying a pair of $60 New Balance sneakers.

But before he sent off one of the shoes, Lopez-Torres had a change of heart. He remembered the countless children he saw without shoes, and felt guilty when he realized that these shoes might go to waste.

“I was literally wasting a pair of shoes to try and land a meeting, and it wasn’t certain I would get this meeting,” Lopez-Torres said. “At the end of the day, even if I got the meeting, what were they going to do with one shoe?”

Lopez-Torres never sent the shoe. Instead, he began to draft a business model around the idea of connecting people in the business world while contributing to a greater cause. The employer and the prospect could send their shoes off together as a donation, making the meeting significant whether business was conducted or not.

A first impression like this sends a better message and tells way more about an employee than a paper resume ever could, Miller said.

“There are hundreds of people that apply for that same job, so you’ve got to stand out,” Miller said. “Instead of just printing your resume in fancy paper, you’ve got to deliver, show that you think outside the box, that you’ve got a big heart and that there’s more where that came from if you’re hired.”

Even if the two shoes never come together, 5 percent of every sale goes to Soles4Souls either way, Miller said.

“The more successful we are, the more successful Soles4Souls is at distributing shoes to people in need,” Miller said. “That’s an important thing that we really want to hammer home in what we’re doing.”

The Complete the Pair founders said they’re hopeful that they’ll be able to connect business people who wish to make a bigger difference in world.

“It’s no longer exceptional just to be different,” Miller said. “You’ve got to be different in a way that makes a difference.”

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