Washing away dust from the sole

After being laid off from his job in New York City as an architect in 2008, Griffinite Brian Keith Miller decided to change directions and become a social entrepreneur.

In August of the next year, Miller took what money he had in his accounts and bought shoes. Not for himself, but for those less fortunate.

Combining four of his passions – shoes, art, youth and philanthropy, he developed the Sole Plus brand with the tagline “Art washes away from the [sole] the dust of everyday life,” an adaptation of a Pablo Picasso quote.

“Shoes, art, youth, philanthripy – I knew I was going to use those four things to change the world,” said Miller.

Miller took his idea to Converse and they went for it and now, Miller doesn’t have to purchase the shoes because Converse donates them.

The general idea is that underprivileged children get to first design a pair of shoes on paper as practice, then actually paint their own design on a pair of Converse All Star shoes, which they get to keep.

“The shoe acts as a conduit,” said Miller; he uses shoes as a medium to connect children to art, to philanthropy and to their own ideas and creativity.

“It’s all about connections for us – that ‘plus’ is an open-ended statement and an intersection between the shoe and the cause,” said Miller.

Partnering with Converse allowed Miller to take Soul Plus well beyond Griffin and Atlanta, into New York City, Chicago, Boston, Puerto Rico and Philadelphia through their Open Gym program, where children play basketball, receive free haircuts, and now, paint their own pair of shoes.

Sole Plus will undertake its first international project this fall with its “Sneaker Pals” program, where 600 children from Atlanta will design shoes for 600 children in Uganda, and vice versa.

“I’ve been asked so many times [to take Sole Plus projects outside the U.S.] but I wasn’t ready until after we had spread to six cities and my home bases have been covered.”

Miller also pointed out that this is a domestic as well as international project – the children in Uganda and Atlanta will be like pen pals, only with sneakers.  “It will allow them to see another person’s point of view from somewhere else in the world,” said Miller.

After the shoe swap, the children will have a Skype video call to see the realization of their efforts.  “I call it direct artists’ philanthropy,” said Milller.  “If a kid designs a shoe that kid can deliver those shoes directly to someone who needs it.”

Though Miller has lived in many places, his hometown of Griffin is very important to him and though Sole Plus is now on an international level, he makes sure to remember to give back here.  He has attended seven career days in Spalding County alone this year, and donated new shoes to the Spalding County Lady Jags basketball team.

“It’s not about what Griffin has to offer me, it’s what I have to offer my city,” said Miller.

Miller is currently assembling a team and fund raising for the Uganda trip that will happen in October of this year.  Sole Plus and local business ‘stache studio will be hosting a fund raiser sometime in the summer where Griffinites will have a chance to paint their own pair of shoes while donating to a great cause.  Check stachestudio.net regularly for more details.  Ω

For more information about Sole Plus (and there’s much more to know) visit http://www.soleplus.com. 

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