If anyone can make lemonade from lemons, it’s Christal Earle. In Earle’s case, the lemons are old car tires picked from landfills in the Dominican Republic. The lemonade? Brave Soles, her growing fashion company selling shoes hand-made of leather and upcycled rubber tire soles.
But this is not your typical upcycled product story because Earle is not your typical social entrepreneur. Hers is one of self-discovery and relentless vision despite monumental setbacks including a major earthquake, an orphan, a divorce, international bureaucracy, and her own financial woes.
In 2000, not long after the heartbreaking loss of her brother in an accident, Earle founded Live Different, a youth empowerment charity dedicated to creating positive social change through motivational presentations, humanitarian programs, and internships. As she led groups of volunteers in the Dominican Republic, she got to know the impoverished landfill workers living in the area.
Deeply disturbed by the working and living conditions, Earle was particularly touched by one mother and her baby Widlene. When she learned two years later that the child’s mother had died, she and her husband requested and received permission to adopt Widlene. The paperwork took months as Widlene’s mother had been considered an illegal Haitian immigrant in the Dominican Republic.