Backpack business aims to expand campus clubs

By Olivia Jones

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In the U.S., an average of $10,995 is spent per student for elementary and secondary educations.

Children in some developing countries only dream of receiving an education. In Haiti alone, there are nearly 3,000 of these unfulfilled wishes. For $75, students can help change that.

Considering the millions of children in this country, the dollar amount adds up to a lot.

One business aims to send more children to school through selling canvas backpacks and through one purchase, the company can send a child in Haiti to school for one year.

The business started in 2011 when Oliver Shuttlesworth, CEO and founder of Esperos, visited countries in Central America and the Dominican Republic.

While traveling, he noticed a recurring theme among the people he met — a strong desire for education.

After doing some research, Shuttlesworth discovered that it is inexpensive to send children to school in impoverished countries.

Amazed at the simplicity, he asked himself, “Why isn’t anyone doing anything this?”

Soon after, the backpack idea jumped at him and Esperos was established.

To reach more people, Esperos has begun Campus Clubs that specifically engage college students. The aims are to spread awareness throughout their communities on how to help give a child an education.

Eight colleges and universities have already started the program, and Esperos hopes UK will be the ninth.

Manufactured in the U.S., the backpacks score double points for their benefits by helping children in Haiti, as well as creating jobs domestically.

One of the company’s goals is to begin manufacturing in Haiti to create jobs there, helping the economic situation.

“We want to build communities — invest in people through every element,” Shuttlesworth said.

In June, Shuttlesworth was able to visit Haiti, meeting the children and families whose lives he had changed.

“It was heartbreaking seeing the levels of poverty, but it was a great experience,” Shuttlesworth said.

“There were lots of smiles and tears of appreciation.”

Esperos is planning to visit again in January to continue helping.

“Our basic goal is to grow,” said Cassie Recker, vice president of business operations at Esperos. “The more people we help, the better.”

Esperos is looking to expand the business to reach more customers, including tote bags for the fall and limited editions.

“We may even try to start selling them in boutiques,” Recker said.

Through social media such as Facebook, Twitter and blogs, Esperos has been able to reach various customers.

“We’re finding different outlets,” said Director of Social Media Jenna Hutchens. “Trendy moms, students, teens. … Pinterest actually brings lots of people to our website.”

To get involved or purchase a bag, visit