Sara Irvani: She’s Got the World at Her Feet

October 3 - On The Dot
FIRST THOUGHT: If the Shoe Fits

Legos: They’re the must-have colorful and imaginative toys that kids have enjoyed for decades. And after compiling the results from my very unscientific survey, I’ve decided Legos are also the worst little thing to step on. Sure, a rusty nail or an angry wasp might trump these playful, sharp-edged weapons, but if you live anywhere in the vicinity of a kid, the likelihood is much higher that a Lego will annihilate you at least once. Long before these cunning plastic foes, shoes—perhaps one of the best inventions ever—made an appearance on the scene. But the first Lego-proof footwear didn’t pop up until thousands of years later, in the form of old-school flip-flops made from papyrus leaves, rawhide, rice straw or even wood. It kind of gives a whole new meaning to the phrase “As comfortable as an old shoe!”


Back in the 19th century, an American immigrant revolutionized shoe production as we know it. Building on this cobbler’s innovations, by the 1960s, the bulk of shoes sold in the U.S. were made in the U.S. But today, just a few decades later, only a measly 2 percent of shoes sold to Americans are made here.

WOMAN TO WATCH: Sara Irvani, CEO of Okabashi Brands

Thanks to today’s savvy Woman to Watch, you can own a pair of totally rockin’ American-made shoes that actually protect and support your feet for less than $25! For the last 30-plus years, Okabashi Brands, a family-owned and -operated business led by CEO Sara Irvani, has been manufacturing its entire quality-footwear collection for men and women in the U.S.—from start to finish. And since they’re American-made, Okabashi shoes, all of which come with a two-year warranty, travel about 10,000 miles less than imported shoes, which results in a much smaller carbon footprint.

Okabashi takes a totally different approach to footwear design. It’s all based on the idea that good health starts from the foot up. Here’s what I really like about Okabashi’s super-modern flip-flops: The company offers its flops in all the colors of the rainbow, with actual foot support, including reflexology-inspired massaging beads. Once you find a pair of comfy, non-slip flip-flops that massage your feet with every step, trust me, you’ll never, ever go back to those flimsy drugstore imports. Okabashi flip-flops are also dishwasher safe—yes, seriously—and completely recyclable.

Okabashi shoes, which range from flip-flops and sandals to clogs, are a total hit with shoe lovers, with the company selling more than 35 million pairs since 1984, and raking in annual revenues of more than $20 million per year. Much of that success can be attributed to Sara’s sage business acumen. When it comes to running the family company, Sara, like with everything she does, takes it on full force.

Before becoming CEO, Sara earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Virginia with high distinction, later adding a couple of master’s degrees to her list of accomplishments.

So, how does this hardworking boss lady boost her work productivity? Sara says it’s simple: She moves. Instead of staying glued to a computer in her office all day, she regularly visits Okabashi’s many other departments, witnessing firsthand what’s going on in her company. Plus, as Sara well knows, it’s a lot easier to bounce around the office all day when you’re donning a pair of comfortable shoes!


Thinking of Sara Irvani and how she’s shaking things up in the shoe world, I’ll leave you today with this quote from the co-founder of, Candice Carpenter Olson:

“If you are committed to creating value and if you aren’t afraid of hard times, obstacles become utterly unimportant—a nuisance, perhaps, but with no real power. The world respects creation. People will get out of your way.”

This is Melinda Garvey signing off until next time. Remember, ladies, empowered women empower other women. Share On the Dot so more women can have a voice. Thanks for getting ready with us.

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