Jack and Alley

“Through social media, we’ve followed your totin’ journeys across the world–up Machu Picchu in Peru, over mountains in Switzerland and through savannas in Uganda. And you’ve joined our adventures hunting for the world’s wackiest fabrics. Together, we’ve carried more than just backpacks–we’ve Carried Countries,” said the founders of Taaluma Totes, Alley Heffern and Jack Dufour, two Virginia Tech alumni who have made a huge splash in the entrepreneurial scene in more ways than one.

The duo began their entrepreneurial journey just 18 short months ago with a big idea and a desire to give back. Taaluma Totes, Taaluma meaning culture in Swahili, is built around a cycle of sustainability. Each tote is handmade in the United States by adults with disabilities using traditional fabrics from countries including Mali, Indonesia, Vietnam, and Uganda to name a few. Then, 20% of the profits from each tote are microloaned to farmers and small business owners in the fabric’s country of origin. The loans are repaid when the locals are able and that money is then used to buy more fabric for the next tote—starting the cycle anew.

Today, Taaluma Totes is a dream realized, with thousands of supporters across the globe. “We started with 50 totes on 50 toters with 50 tote-ally massive hearts that believed in Taaluma. And in 18 months, YOU spread the movement to thousands.” We can be sure we’ll be seeing more of Taaluma Totes in the future—the very near future actually. In fact, you can see them for yourself on Friday, February 20 at 9/8c on ABC’s critically acclaimed reality show Shark Tank! The pair of Hokie entrepreneurs will be pitching Taaluma Totes to the Sharks in the hopes of making an investment deal of a lifetime. “We’re heading into Shark Tank to convince the sharks that there’s a whole world outside their profit-driven tank. An awesome world, filled with awesome people, and awesome places, who can all be connected through a single backpack.”

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