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Alley Heffern & Jack Dufour

    Jack and Alley are two Hokie alumni who began their entrepreneurial journey 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. “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.

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    Headshot of Richard Hunt, assistant professor in Virginia Tech's Pamplin College of BusinessDoug Dooley headshot