Wayne Elsey

Orlando, Florida

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I’ve spent my entire career in the footwear industry, starting as a retailer’s stockroom assistant when I was 15 years old. Since then, I’ve held nearly every job available in the world of shoes and can relate with the joys and challenges facing manufacturers, retailers, sales reps, marketers and yes, even stockroom assistants.

Before the 2004 Asian tsunami, I wasn’t directly involved with any charities on a regular basis. I considered monetary donations to be sufficient and concentrated 100% on “making the deal” happen in the for-profit world. That was my life before it changed dramatically.

Like you, I was horrified to witness the immense devastation of the tsunami in Indonesia. I was sitting on my couch watching the news reports replay the giant waves ripping through the towns, and I felt sick to my stomach. Then I saw an image of a single shoe, stranded on a decimated beach. I felt like donating everything I had, but I knew it wouldn’t be enough.

I was determined not to stand around with my hands in my pocket, so I made a number of calls to other footwear executives and was surprised—and humbled—that my colleagues and I had raised over 250,000 pairs of new shoes headed for the areas affected by the disaster.

One year later, Hurricane Katrina roared through our Gulf Coast, and I called the same people in our industry. This time we raised over million pairs of shoes to hand out to people in need. Soon after, we were encouraged by many members of the footwear industry to become a full-time charity, and we jumped at the chance.

Soles4Souls became one of the fastest-growing nonprofits in the country and resides in the top 1% of nonprofits in the US. The reason for this is clear: it’s a simple message that everyone can understand. We don’t need to draw complex diagrams in order to win you over. We just need you to look in your closet and find the extra pairs that could benefit people in need.

I was appointed CEO in 2006, and the movement continued to grow ever since. The need is so real and so immediate that it’s painful. From New Orleans to Nepal, Soles4Souls distributed more than 17 million pairs of shoes in more than 129 countries around the world. I went to work each day with the ultimate challenge of making someone’s life better – and I will always be incredibly grateful for that opportunity.

While shoes were and are a big part of my life, they aren’t my entire life. I love spending time with my beautiful daughter Melissa, hanging out with friends, and riding my jet ski as often (and as fast – it goes over 70 MPH) as possible. I enjoy traveling and make my home in sunny Orlando, FL.

As I embark on the next chapter of my life, I’m tremendously excited about the chance to teach the strategies and philosophies I developed that helped make Soles4Souls the nonprofit success it is today. I drew inspiration from my personal struggles and triumphs in creating the three-principle system that provided the framework for our mission. When you believe in yourself, truly understand the make-up of your brand, and effectively engage the principals, practices and people involved, I believe that the sky is the limit on what you can accomplish.

Now that I’ve stepped down as CEO of Soles4Souls, I can devote 100% of my work to initiating my webinar series, conferences, and seminars based on the 12 principals of my book Almost Isn’t Good Enough. Although it’s a slightly weird feeling now that my phone is not ringing around the clock with calls and emails related to daily operations, I realize I’m poised to make a real difference in helping individuals and corporations advance their incredible platforms. I can’t wait to be inspired by the amazing ideas from like-minded people who want to better the world.

I invite everyone with a vision and the passion to match, to join me in shaping the future and continuing the life-changing efforts of exciting organizations. By utilizing proven successful strategies and technology to stay on the cutting-edge of outreach, we can accomplish any goal we set.

You can follow my everyday activities on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. As I describe in Almost Isn’t Good Enough, I believe that the human connection is the ultimate key to change. With that in mind, please feel free to email me personally at wayne@wayneelsey.com with any questions or inquiries you may have. You can follow my everyday activities on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

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  1. Coastal Export