Alum quits Facebook job, turns philanthropist

The Mercury- Oct. 8, 2012

After spending part of his youth in Saudi Arabia, UTD alumnus Farhad Rizvi would sometimes wear the traditional Arabian sandal called Madas Sharqi when he came home to visit Texas.

Friends would often comment on the unique design and ask where he had bought them. It was during his junior year at UTD that Rizvi said his vision for Shamak Sandals — a Madas Sharqi sandal company that also gives back to impoverished children — began to form.

“We partnered with the Clinton Global Initiative and The Citizen’s Foundation, so for every pair (of sandals) someone buys online, he or she either has the choice to donate a scholarship, a textbook or a uniform to a child in need,” Rizvi said. “I didn’t want to just make a sandal company, I wanted to get experience in the developing world and give back as well.”

While at UTD, Rizvi played on the soccer team and participated in the UTD chapter of the American Marketing Association. After graduating in fall 2011 in business administration, Rizvi moved to Austin to take a job at Facebook but left to devote his time and energy towards developing Shamak, which means “to make peace” in Hindi.

Shamak Sandals officially launched this year on Sept. 18. Rizvi said he plans to launch world-wide within the next month or two.

One of the biggest challenges for Rizvi was to oversee every aspect of starting the company and form partnerships with non-governmental organizations, or NGOs, who could distribute the donations.

“When you start a company, you have to have your hands in everything,” Rizvi said. “I actually had to take trips out to parts of India (where the NGOs were located) and actually negotiate and convince them that our plan and our vision will work and help build schools. That was definitely a challenge.”

Rizvi also worked to refine the design of the sandals to be suitable for a Western market.

“The Arabian sandal taken off the street is very raw; it doesn’t have an outer sole and it’s not very comfortable,” Rizvi said. “So we had to go out to factories in China and adapt them in way that people could wear it here and it would be very comfortable.”

Shamak Sandals are currently sold in the same basic design and in a variety of colors and embellishments.

Rizvi plans to expand the company to include more merchandise in the future.

“We’re starting off with sandals now, and we’re helping kids go to school. Eventually we’d like to move into other products like T-shirts and shoes and actually make a difference in the lives of people,” Rizvi said.

Rizvi credits his experience at UTD with helping him launch his vision and hopes that other students will follow their passions.

“The education and support I received from my soccer coaches and professors while at UTD really motivated me to take a risk and start my own business,” Rizvi said. “I think the way school is right now is you get an internship, graduate and work a 9 to 5 job. You should really find what you’re passionate about … so the advice I would give is to go for it, take a risk.”

Click here to read the article on The Mercury website

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