Social Entrepreneur Provides Comfort & Improves the Community One Sandal at a Time
3 years ago co-founder Prem Thomas thought of an idea for a more comfortable and environmentally sustainable sandal and today his vision is now on the feet of hundreds of people. Thomas founded Gurus sandals when he was visiting his family. He went to an antique furniture store and saw a pair of ancient wooden sandals (methiyedi) that had a wooden sole and wooden post between the toes. These same type of sandals were worn by Mohotma Ghandi. Thomas ended up showing the ancient design to a friend and eventual partner and they decided to create Guru sandals, an improvement to existing sandals or the traditional flip-flop. Gurus are biodegradable and much better for the environment.
There are other sandals on the market but Thomas decided to bring in a designer that was able to make the sandals more comfortable than anything else. This is due in large part to the natural rubber which makes Gurus softer. The co-founder also explains that the design is eye-catching and so unique people usually stare and are bound to come up and ask about the sandals and how they stay on.
Thomas and his team started the company through a Kickstarter campaign and raised $12,000. Thomas estimates that about 40% of those initial Kickstarter backers were family and friends and the rest were people that heard about it through Kickstarter or any coverage on blogs or social media they received. During the process, Thomas really listened to the feedback from buyers and even asked for their help in everything from design to even finalizing the different colors. Once it was clear after selling 450-500 pairs of Gurus that they had reach their goal, they knew that they had a viable business.
Thomas worked as an investment banker in New York with his co-founder and used to do micro-financing to small and early growth stage businesses. He saw firsthand the impact that help from entrepreneurs could have on businesses and while he worked with entrepreneurs he knew that he wanted to start something.
However, it wasn’t just about running a successful business that was important to the Gurus co-founder, it was launching a business that helped the community. Thomas explained that “if you have a successful business, it’s nice to be able to give back in some way.”
Gurus sandals has partnered with a Washington D.C. non-profit called Trees for the Future which plants hundreds of thousands of trees. The organization plants trees and also educates and promotes agroforestry in developing countries like India and Hati. Trees for the Future works with local communities and teaches them how to care and use the trees planted in their local community. For Gurus it was an opportunity to give back to the community and specifically where Gurus was started. For every pair of Gurus sandals sold, there will be a tree planted by in India. In addition, Gurus sandals and Trees for the Future are able to give GPS coordinates so that customers can see exactly where the tree they helped to plant is growing. Thomas knew that since the product started from the tree, they wanted to “complete the cycle and plant a tree for every pair of sandals that’s sold.”
Look for Gurus Sandals to start showing up in retail stores. For those that don’t want to wait, Guru Sandals can be purchased for $35 on their website. For a limited time for CEO Blog Nation readers, if you would like to order a pair use the coupon code Gandhi to save 10% off.