March 17, 2016
People of Impact: Hannah Davis
Within about 10 minutes of meeting with Hannah Davis, the under-30 founder of BANGS, a brand of canvas shoes that uses a portion of its proceeds to help fund entrepreneurs, I knew I was in for a lesson. I just didn’t know what it was going to be.
I quickly learned that lesson would be about resolve. Hannah Davis has that quality, like a pitbull famous (or infamous) for never letting go, no matter what.
She started out by telling me what she did that weekend, an 8-mile adventure, hiking a part of the Appalachian Trail outside of Gatlinburg, TN. And she ended our conversation flippantly mentioning that she was going to make a move some 2,300 miles west. When I inquired where, she shrugged and said, “I’m not sure,” not the least bit worried where she was going to wind up. And I believed her.
She hasn’t always been this resolute. As a dreamy-eyed poly-sci major at Clemson University, she wanted nothing to do with the “evils” of business, but she wanted to save the world. She joined a sorority, but I detected that really wasn’t her thing, though one of her best friends came from her sorority. Her world was slightly rocked when the Great Recession sent a tremor through her family. Her parents encouraged her to question traditional routes to a career and start figuring things out on her own.
Heroes Still Exist
At the encouragement of her father, Hannah enrolled in a Mandarin class at Clemson. Sure, let’s learn some Mandarin. Hannah, standing at 6’2”, would never have imagined that a 5’1” native Mandarin speaker could rock her life. Her instructor’s courage, bravery, and willingness to indoctrinate herself in a foreign culture inspired Hannah to such a depth, she didn’t fully understand it. Learning from her instructor was practically a spiritual experience. This life-changing experience formed the foundations of what would eventually become BANGS. Inspired to learn more, Hannah headed to China to teach English for one year.
Good Luck with a Little Destiny Mixed In
Fast forward to 2009, Hannah is back in the states, bartending in Charleston, SC. Once a poli-sci major with pre-med on her mind, she finds herself behind the bar crafting cocktails (and if you know Hannah, she doesn’t think of this as a step back, just another adventure). She tells how a “lucky” meeting turned quickly to destiny in this TEDx Georgetown video:
She ended up taking a table in the bar that wasn’t even hers, and ended up running into George and his wife. They asked her what she was up to, just making small talk. For some reason, Hannah chose to share the dream of BANGS with them. They asked a bunch of pointed questions, and Hannah began to feel that maybe she was sharing too much. Soon, the wife said, “Listen. George can help you. Trust him, he knows what he’s talking about.” Little did Hannah know George was a seasoned businessman in the shoe business.
The Mission Coming to Life
Through the “luck” of meeting George and his wife, who saw the potential in Hannah (as everyone who breathes should), BANGS came to life. George is every entrepreneur’s dream. Smart money. He knew the business and like anyone who breathes, could see the potential in Hannah. He invested and became her business partner, her friend and confidant.
Brands Have Soul
BANGS means “help” in Mandarin. George gave Hannah the help she needed. Now BANGS mission is to help start businesses. BANGS has partnered with KIVA, the international non-profit that crowdfunds entrepreneurs around the world.
Sometimes Impact Finds You
When I asked Hannah about the impact BANGS is having, she turned towards her ambassadors. It was intriguing to watch the lights in her eyes shine when she talked about her ambassadors. What really thrills Hannah is empowering almost 1,000 BANGS ambassadors to live their adventures. BANGS has created an ambassador network that encourages them to live and share their adventures.
These ambassadors are truly living life. Hannah’s mission is to inspire people to live their adventures so that they will inspire others to do the same. BANGS is not only funding entrepreneurs in underdeveloped countries, but it’s inspiring them through a network of ambassadors living life to the fullest.
Always An Adventure
As we were wrapping up, Hannah told me, “Who doesn’t want to be inspired by someone?” These days in the land of private equity and public companies, BANGS is a refreshing and rare brand with a soul. It has the the soul of Hannah Davis, who inspires thousands to live their adventures.The brand is about kindness and encouragement. Truth be told, as an experienced entrepreneur, I came to encourage Hannah in her entrepreneurial adventure, and ironically, she ended up encouraging me in mine.