Two young entrepreneurs have partnered up to create a shoe line designed to benefit children in need of shoes and clean water.

Lauren Rundquist, a senior at the University of Missouri, founded LaQuist, a global online boutique and brand that specializes in custom hand-painted shoes.

Rundquist paints on a variety of canvas shoes, ranging from TOMS to Converse, and customizes each design to the customer’s request. When a customer places an order for one of the TOMS shoes, the TOMS One for One Movement matches the shoe and donates a pair to a child in need. Rundquist says that so far, TOMS has matched and donated more than 300 pairs of shoes that were sold through LaQuist.

Roughly 125 miles away, another young entrepreneur has been also working to make a difference. While in high school, Rachael Burchett, a current senior at St. Louis University, founded her own company that was dedicated to bringing clean water to indigenous countries in Panama. Her non-profit company, Water for Panama, led to a partnership with a larger non-profit, and the two now operate under the name Solea WaScreenshot 2015-02-13 10.47.14ter. Solea Water has a mission to improve the environment and provide life’s most basic need, clean drinking water, in ways that create jobs and bring hope to communities in Latin America.

Solea Water collects donated shoes that are then sold through a distributor who resells them to micro-enterprises in Latin America. A small percentage of shoes that are collected are also sold to local organizations in St. Louis that work in disadvantaged neighborhoods. 100 percent of profit raised through the donated shoes is then used to implement clean water projects such as developing water purification systems, hand pump repair and conducting health education programs.

When Solea Water heard about Rundquist’s blossoming shoe business in Columbia, they reached out to her with hopes of forming a partnership. Now, LaQuist and Solea Water have designed a shoe line that will benefit both companies’ missions.

 “I ultimately decided to partner with them (Solea Water) after learning about the global water crisis and what Solea Water is doing in response,” said Rundquist. “783 million people across the world do not have access to clean drinking water. That’s one out of every nine people who are lacking life’s most basic need. When you are faced with a global reality like that, you want to make a difference, and I believed that teaming up with Solea Water for a shoe line was one way I could do that.”

The LaQuist + Solea Water shoe line launched Feb. 1 and featured 12 new designs that incorporate the sun, water and earth and will be painted using Solea Water’s colors of orange and blue. The designs are painted on canvas TOMS shoes, and with every pair purchased not only are they matched and donated by TOMS One for One Movement, but also $15 of the profit goes towards Solea Water. Rundquist believes the LaQuist + Solea Water shoe line will ultimately benefit in three different ways.

 “First, they impact the person ordering the shoes, which when worn, allow them to tell the story of the global water crisis and to share the vision of a healthier planet and a world without water poverty,” said Rundquist. “Second, they impact the person in Latin America whose community is impacted through Solea Water’s introduction of sustainable clean water solutions and job creation. Third, they impact the child in a developing nation who will receive a new pair of shoes from the TOMS One for One Movement.”

Burchett is excited to be collaborating with LaQuist, and looks forward to extending Solea Water’s mission to Rundquist’s clients.

“It’s been cool working with Lauren because we are both young entrepreneurs,” said Burchett. “It doesn’t mater how old you are or what stage of life you’re in; if you have a passion for a cause, you can do something about it.”

The shoes can be purchased on the LaQuist website as well as at Elly’s Couture in downtown Columbia.


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