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Sneaker philanthropy: Fort Worth based shoe company wants more than a good fit

🕐 4 min read


Winning the race of life takes a lot more than a great pair of sneakers.

Gabe Williams has found a way to help people get both. As a former director at Nike and a Fort Worth native, he has founded davi as not only a shoe but also a way to transform the sneaker industry in the name of social justice and good.

Davi is a community-impact sneaker with a hyperlocal model. Every time a customer buys a pair of davi shoes, about 5 percent of the price will go to an initiative in the city where it was purchased. The programs will be unique to each city.

Williams, 35, is a graduate of North Crowley High School, the University of North Texas and Texas Christian University’s M.J. Neeley School of Business. He founded davi after seeing the resource and access gap in art, music and sport programs. A former coach, he fundamentally believes businesses should play an integral role in developing the communities that support them.

And in the name of transparency he plans to make all costs and creation methods public. The company will release costs, salaries, markups, etc.

Davi expects to officially launch on Aug. 29 with a Kickstarter campaign. The first three initiatives will be in Fort Worth with three local organizations — Hope Farm, Young Women’s Leadership Academy and I.M. Terrell Academy for STEM and Visual and Performing Arts. YMLA and Terrell are part of the Fort Worth Independent School District; Hope Farm is a nonprofit that focuses on boys without male role models.

Though his project is nationwide, and perhaps could go worldwide, Williams’s heart will always be in Fort Worth. He lives in the Southside with his 91-year-old grandmother, in the same house and room he grew up in.

Where did the idea for davi come from?

The idea came from an intersection of many ideas or “whys.” But I’d have to say the most defining moment for the genesis of davi came from my time as a coach at Polytechnic High School, where a player of mine compared his inner-city situation to that of a suburban school. He said, “Coach, why don’t we have what they have?”

That sentence stuck with me and developed into a cognitive dissonance of sorts when I was at Nike. I had a hard time believing a logo made you. What if there was a sneaker company that invested in the individual by supporting them through art, music and sport programs?

How did you arrive at the name davi?

The name hit me late a night, as all great ideas do. I jumped out of bed and immediately wrote it down. It turns out it is Portuguese for David. I wanted to develop a brand that represented people stepping into impossible moments, much like David did against Goliath. Outsiders looking in thought David had no chance, that it was impossible. But David knew. He saw the unthinkable. He saw the future differently. He was sure of self. That’s what davi stands for, when you step into those impossible moments and you see the future differently.

Davi is spelled with a lowercase d. We do this as a reminder to ourselves, that our brand is not about highlighting itself, it is about highlighting the individual.

Why did you choose Hope Farm, YWLA and I.M. Terrell Elementary as the Fort Worth initiatives?

We wanted three institutions that support sport, art and music for communities in need. We felt like sport at Hope Farm would be perfect for those young men. I.M. Terrell and music felt right, considering the long history there. And YWLA was perfect for art. More importantly, there is an epidemic of young black and Hispanic women living in poverty in Fort Worth. With davi we believe in the power a young woman can have on community and we can’t let that type of [statistic] continue in the city of Fort Worth, or anywhere.

In regards to duration, the proceeds will begin flowing first of the year, and we expect our partnership to continue with these institutions far into the future. Finally, as davi grows, the organizations we work with will grow, too.

Why be completely transparent with costs, salaries, markups, etc.?

Why not be? We have nothing to hide, and we strongly believe this is the future of business. We really want to raise the bar. We re-imagined business. We believe a business should form a symbiotic relationship with the communities that support it. We believe money is a derivative of time, and time is the most important thing we have. As a company, we want to respect that, so we will show you where every dollar goes.

What will be the cost for a pair of davi sneakers?

Our current manufacturing cost is roughly $42 a pair. Our target retail for this first silhouette is $140, but current mark-up math puts us at $165. When we launch we will offer a limited number of pairs at $99. We are working hard to bring this number down in addition to developing an $80 to $90 sneaker to release in the spring of next year.

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