Get to Know... Leiho

Get to Know... Leiho

An interview with maker Leiho as part of our 'Get to Know...' series.

 

Tell us a little about yourself and your business…

Leiho is a social enterprise on a mission to better the lives of vulnerable communities through smiley bamboo socks, eco-conscious gifts and everyday products. Every purchase helps us fund impact projects and donations of essentials to those without a home. We believe that by providing underserved communities with basic essentials and opportunities for them to regain independence, we are also giving them the dignity and hope they deserve.


Where are you based?

London


Tell us a secret about you?

We both have a secret snack drawer locked up with a key to get us through the hard days!


How do you make your work?

Leiho means 'how are you' in Cantonese and sometimes that's all you need to ask someone to show that you care. We design all of our products in-house but sometimes working collaboratively with our community for any feedback to ensure we are creating products that they love! Our designs also feature our distinctive smiley face logo, reflecting our values of instilling happiness, kindness, and care in all of our products. We also work with a lot of boutique and ethical suppliers to ensure that our products not only give back to people but are also kind and conscious to the environment.


Describe your studio…

Our studio is our bedroom, the office and anywhere/everywhere around the world. We work remotely and take a lot of inspiration from the impact outreach and projects that we do. Having lived in South East Asia, a lot of our intentions are stemmed from our upbringing and culture.


Tell us about your materials - where do you source them from and are they important to you?

Materials are very important to us. We feel if people are paying a premium price to make a difference in this world, we need to make sure that the quality reflects that. We typically go for comfort and cosiness and that has meant opting for materials like bamboo, organic cotton and more!


Why is it important to you that your work is made as responsibly and sustainably as possible?

As a brand that dedicates and commits all of our business decisions around our community and people in need, it is without question that making sure our work and products are kind to the planet too. We believe that both people and the planet go hand in hand, so to make a positive difference in people's lives, you also need to be consciously mindful of our environmental impact.


How and why did you start your small business?

Joey Li and Thuta Khin, co-founders of our business, met during their masters at City University and discovered a shared passion for creating a business that inspires positive impact. Recognizing the high demand for clean socks in homeless shelters, they initiated a 'buy one, give one' model, where every purchase results in a donated pair.

Within six months, Leiho evolved beyond a simple sock donation initiative. The founders aimed to make a lasting impact by offering employment, training, and essential donations to support individuals in need. This approach ensures that we provide vulnerable communities with opportunities for personal development and second chances.

 

Any fun facts about your business, or achievements you want to shout about?

We've won a fair few awards! Our top 3 that we love are:

1) We were nominated as Top 100 in the Startups 100 2024 index for the Top 5 social impact brands category

2) Our co-founder Joey got nominated as Top 100 Women in Social Enterprise by Euclid Network and the European Commission

3) Both our co-founders Joey and Thuta got listed as Top 10 Heroes of 2022 by Smiley Movement


What do you love most about your small business and do you have a favourite piece of work?

Our community is what we love most! Through all the highs and lows we've faced over the past 4 years, our community has proven time and time again that generosity, compassion, and resilience can overcome even the toughest of circumstances.


What do you think are the benefits of people supporting independent business?

Supporting local independent shops or gift shops offers 2 main things that we truly believe tops any other purchase out there! Firstly, that community connection you get from supporting a small business. There is just a whole different level of how these local independent shops connect with their customers whether it's on a sustainability level, a personal story, hosting a local event or even just the distinct character of a brand. The second thing would be just the uniqueness of what they are offering! Whether it is something hand crafted or designed by a local artist.


Tell us about your favourite purchase from a fellow maker. What is it and who made it?

We are in love with the brand Maria Callisto, a refugee led handmade luxury lingerie and loungewear founded by Maria Igwebuike. Slow fashion is at the heart of this brand. Maria uses off cut fabrics and pieces from vintage clothing items that would otherwise go to waste and turn it into beautiful pieces!


What are your favourite things about PRIOR - both as a customer and a supplier?

PRIOR really does their due diligence with the brands they stock! We absolutely love the brand and what it stands for. The brands are also a great mix of crafty, sustainable, ethical and local. As a supplier, PRIOR has really helped us get a lot of exposure in Bristol and as a small business based in London, it really is a huge milestone!


Do you have a goal for where you’d love your business to be in the future?

It's a secret for now but definitely continuing to be a brand that puts people at the forefront of what we do. We truly believe that purpose driven brands can make a huge difference in this world, not only by their product offering but just by educating their community about the causes they support and continuing to create identities of kindness and care.

 View Leiho's handmade collection at Prior Shop here

(Interview date: 23rd January 2024)
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