Wayne Elsey

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Wayne Elsey
Born Arlington, Virginia
Known for Soles4Souls,Funds2Orgs, Wayne Elsey Enterprises

Wayne Elsey is the founder and former CEO of Soles4Souls, a Nashville-based nonprofit organization that has collected over 19 million pairs of shoes from footwear companies and shoe drives, distributing them to people in need in over 129 countries.[1] After leaving Soles4Souls, Elsey focused his attentions on founding Wayne Elsey Enterprises, a branding and marketing firm. From this parent company, he has since founded 501(c)(3) University,[2] and online education tool for nonprofits, and Funds2Orgs ,[3] a social enterprise geared towards helping nonprofit organizations raise funds while impacting the environment and micro-enterprises in developing countries. Elsey has won numerous awards stemming from his philanthropic work.[4][5]


In high school, Elsey struggled with his self-image and worth, and attributes his 11th grade teacher Mrs. Bush for helping him through a suicide attempt.[6] He cites this as a life-changing moment.[7]

Elsey started working in the footwear industry at 15 as stock boy for GallenKamp Shoes in Fredericksburg, Virginia. He worked full-time at the Gallenkamp shoe store in Fredericksburg before graduating from Stafford Senior High School in 1983.[8]

At 20, Elsey began employment at Stride Rite Corporation, working his way into various executive positions, including serving as the youngest regional vice president of Stride Rite at 25.[9] By age 25, Elsey was regional vice president of a national chain of shoe stores.[10]

From 1999 to June 2, 2004, Elsey worked for FSI as President/CEO and an equity partner. FSI grew over 400 percent during Elsey's tenure.[11] Elsey managed growth and development in the occupational footwear market with the Nautilus, Skidbuster, Third Watch, and Avenger brands.[12] In 2000, Elsey was promoted to CEO/president of the Nautilus Footwear company.[13] Prior to Nautilus, Elsey held senior positions at EJ Footwear, LLC (formerly known as the Endicott Johnson Corporation), Iron Age, Lake of the Woods and Stride Rite Corporation.[14]

On March 9, 2005, Elsey was named President of Kodiak-Terra USA Inc.[15]

On April 16, 2007, he stepped down from his post as president of Kodiak-Terra USA Inc. to devote time to Soles4Souls Inc., the nonprofit organization he founded.[16]

Elsey has since left Soles4Souls and has started a full-service branding and marketing company, Wayne Elsey Enterprises[17][18] He fulfills speaking engagements[19] detailing his story and strategies.[20] He founded 501(c)(3) University, an online education for the nonprofit community,[21] and has traveled for charitable causes.[22][23] In April 2013, Elsey founded Funds2Orgs, a social enterprise geared at helping nonprofits, schools, churches, and civic groups fundraise while impacting micro-enterprises in developing nations and the environment.[24]


Before the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, Elsey wasn't involved with any charities on a regular basis. According to Elsey, he considered monetary donations to organizations to be sufficient and "concentrated 100% on 'making the deal' happen in the for-profit world."[25] Elsey says that he got the idea for his charity, Soles4Souls, when watching footage of the 2004 tsunami in Indonesia. He writes in his biography, "I was sitting on my couch watching the news reports replay the giant waves ripping through the towns, and I felt sick to my stomach. Then I saw an image of a single shoe, stranded on a decimated beach."[26] Elsey and colleagues gathered over 250,000 pairs of new shoes to give to people involved in the tsunami areas. The next year when Hurricane Katrina hit the United States, Elsey raised nearly one million pairs of shoes.[26]

Elsey went on to found Soles4Souls a year later, formally incorporated as a 501(c)(3) charity organization in 2005.[27] As the founder and CEO of Soles4Souls, Elsey oversaw the donation of over 19 million pairs of shoes since its inception.[28]

On April 3, 2011, Elsey announced he was expanding the Soles4Souls brand with the addition of Hope4Souls. According to the charity's website, "Hope4Souls will be a general product division of Soles4Souls, providing various supplies like medical materials, toys, non-perishable food and other provisions to individuals and organizations in need." Hope4Souls is the second division related to Soles4Souls that has been created, including the apparel division called Clothes4Souls that launched in 2010.[29]

Elsey launched Funds2Orgs, a solution for nonprofits, churches, and schools in 2013.[30][31] This for-profit social enterprise helps nonprofit organizations achieve financial sustainability through shoe drive fundraisers and other fundraising events.[32] The organization also seeks to eliminate shoes, clothing, and purses from being discarded in landfills by repurposing them in developing nations within the secondary markets.[33]


Elsey has one daughter, Melissa Elsey, who coordinated her own shoe drive at her school, Mary Baldwin College.[34] In 2013, Elsey welcomed a granddaughter, Aubree Pitts.


The New York charity Kids In Distressed Situations (K.I.D.S) awarded Wayne Elsey the Humanitarian of the Year award for his partnership and support of the organization in 2010.[4][5]

Elsey received the 2010 Philanthropist of the Year award in New York City at the 24th annual Footwear News Achievement Awards (FNAA) for his charity work with the organization Soles4Souls.[35][36]


  1. ^ [1] About Soles4Souls
  2. ^ [2]
  3. ^ [3]
  4. ^ a b [4] KidsDonations.org
  5. ^ a b [5] GlobalShoes.net
  6. ^ Lehmann, Tyler. "How One Small Act of Kindness Sent Millions of Shoes Around the World". 
  7. ^ Elsey, Wayne. Almost Isn't Good Enough. Changing the World Publishing; 1st Edition (2010). Print.
  8. ^ [6] Fredericksburg.com
  9. ^ [7] BigIsTheNewsMall
  10. ^ [8] Soles4Souls
  11. ^ [9] TheFreeLibrary.com
  12. ^ [10] HighBeam.com
  13. ^ [11] JustStyle.com
  14. ^ [12] TheFreeLibrary.com
  15. ^ [13] DMNews.com
  16. ^ [14] BizJournals.com
  17. ^ Reisinger, Brian. "Wayne Elsey resigns from Soles4Souls". Nashville Business Journal. Retrieved 7 August 2013. 
  18. ^ [15] WayneElsey.com
  19. ^ [16] Vanderbilt.edu
  20. ^ [17] Elsey website
  21. ^ [18] 501c3u website
  22. ^ "PRNewswire". Retrieved 7 August 2013. 
  23. ^ Elsey, Wayne. "A Note from My Flight Attendant". Retrieved 7 August 2013. 
  24. ^ http://funds2orgs.com/how-does-this-work/
  25. ^ [19] LinkedIn.com
  26. ^ a b [20] Soles4Souls.org
  27. ^ [21] SimplicityWrecked.org
  28. ^ [22] Soles4Souls.com]
  29. ^ [23] Soles4souls.com
  30. ^ "Funds2Orgs Helps Non-Profits". Retrieved 7 August 2013. 
  31. ^ [24] Forbes.com
  32. ^ "Funds2Orgs Appoints Chief Fundraising Strategist". Retrieved 7 August 2013. 
  33. ^ Connolly, Chris. "Best foot forward". LI Herald. Retrieved 17 September 2013. 
  34. ^ [25] Silvana Clark
  35. ^ [26] Wwd.com
  36. ^ [27] PRNewswire.com