FORT WORTH, Texas – Nike has grabbed world headlines in recent weeks for hiring former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick — the man at the center of the debate over kneeling during the national anthem — to appear in its advertisements.
But what about local impact?
During his four years working at Nike, Fort Worth native Gabe Williams says he always wanted the company to be more connected to the local communities where its shoes are sold.
About a year ago, Williams left the Oregon-based sports fashion giant and moved back to Fort Worth, where he is now launching his own shoe company named davi (with a lowercase D).
Williams, who said he oversaw $100 million in investment capital when he was with Nike, hopes davi becomes known not only for its simply-designed, everyday sneakers for men and women, but also for its philanthropy.
He hopes to launch online sales early next year, and plans to donate 5 percent of revenue to charities in the local communities where customers live.
“I noticed we were selling sneakers to certain types of communities, and the communities reminded me of where I grew up on the south side of Fort Worth,” Williams said, recalling his days at Nike. “What I started to ask myself is, ‘What is the brand doing for the south side of Fort Worth, and other communities like it?’ The answer is very little. There is a giant resource gap. What I hope to do is close the resource gap, and have a brand that actually builds people up.”
For now, the graduate of North Crowley High School — who also has a master’s degree in business administration from Texas Christian University — has identified three Fort Worth nonprofits that will receive proceeds from his initial sales. They are Hope Farm, Young Women’s Leadership Academy and I.M. Terrell Academy’s music program.
He said he has already sold more than 460 pair of sneakers online through his Kickstarter campaign, which he launched recently to raise initial funds.
Kickstarter participants who donated $99 or more will be sent a pair of the company’s first shoe model — the Trinidad, a low-cut sneaker available in subtle colors, and with the conspicuous absence of a brand logo.
Williams hopes to have a full selection of footwear available for purchase online by early next year. He hasn’t made a final decision on the retail price for his Trinidad model of shoes, but estimates it will be in the $120 to $165 range.
He plans to use a manufacturer in Vietnam. The shoes cost about $42 per pair to make, he said.
“We wanted to pick something that could be long-term. In China, the labor costs are becoming prohibitive for small brands. Vietnam is a place where labor costs are yet to increase too dramatically. We can get in now, and have a pretty long run of 10 to 15 years.”
Williams and his davi staff of three are doing much of their business from a Fort Worth co-working space. He hasn’t ruled out opening a brick-and-mortar store somewhere in Fort Worth in the near future.
In the mean time, he and his wife have moved into his grandmother’s home on the south side.
So where did he come up with the name davi?
Williams says the name Davi is Portuguese for David — as in the Biblical story of David and Goliath. He views his company as the underdog — David.
“I wanted something representative of people second-guessing you,” he said, “and not thinking you have what it takes to step into an impossible moment.”