It’s not every day the words inspiring, stylish, innovative, and beautiful are used together, but that exactly what comes to mind when I think of Maria Luisa – founder of MaLu.
Maria is a high school teacher with a passion for community and humanity. Having seen first hand some of her students come to school hungry, she knew that it was no way to learn and she just had to do something about it. She started the “Start Me Up” breakfast program in her school. The program began with $500 and many local businesses eager to help, and grew to become the model school for the Toronto District School Board’s nutrition program, and resulting in a $100K grant from Sun Life Financial to help expand it.
Unfortunately the school where this initiative began had to close, which was “detrimental” since there was more work to be done. Not one to wallow, Maria took her passion and energy and devoted it wholeheartedly to MaLu where she continues to make a difference by donating 5% of all sales to local charities.
MaLu shoes are not only beautiful but also unique and make use of proprietary technology. The signature line consists of butterfly outsoles you won’t see anywhere else! Made with only the best leathers sourced from Italy, Brazil, and Columbia, all materials are tested and certified to provide the best quality. The flats are foldable, for convenience, and aside from being on trend are also super comfy! Each shoe is named after real and inspiring people from Maria’s life.
“They’re my inspiration. They represent transformation and change. My students are my monarch’s. They have taught me so much, and they continue to teach me everyday. This line is really a representation of my love, not just my name. Society is always on the move, but everyone needs love and support, and that’s what I hope to achieve with this line.”
As part of this desire Maria started the Global Messenger program where she travels to Colombia to meet kids living in Poverty at the highest most mountainous points of the country. She not only creates breakfast and lunch programs for them, serves ice cream and organizes activities, but she will be sending 400 pairs of shoes with customized messages of encouragement for each and every child for a great start to their upcoming new school year!
“It’s funny, because in Columbia the impoverished live on top of the mountain with a million dollar view. The ‘rich’ folks live in the valley with all the pollution. It sure makes you think where we place importance.” Maria adds.
So what’s next for the line?
“The goal is for every pair of shoes to have the butterfly outsoles – but it’s a process. We’ve expanded into men’s and children’s shoes, as well as custom jewellery. Recently we teamed up with my friend who designs for Cirque Du Soleil to create 3 clothing pieces (2 dresses and a coat), using beautiful Versace chiffon. These were made in Canada…I love Canada! It opens doors for people of all walks of life.”
You’re doing such great work in local communities everywhere. What’s the best way for someone to get involved in their own community?
Don’t wait for opportunities to come to you. Make your own opportunities. Make some sandwiches, hop in your car and go distribute them. Don’t wait for someone to ask for help, instead offer to help. Don’t be afraid to tell someone “you look nice today”, just be kind.
With so much passion and continuous drive to help others, we are very lucky that Maria founded MaLu right here in our Beautiful city, enabling us to contribute to our local communities with the simple purchase of a beautiful pair of shoes!