The Meraki Sole: One Toronto woman’s mission to commemorate a traditional South Asian shoe

Eman Bachani is the Founder of Meraki Design House, a globally inspired fashion and lifestyle e-commerce brand that launched on July 29, 2016. After returning to Toronto from a trip home to Pakistan, Eman began searching for the best way to celebrate the artisan-made, handcrafted flats she grew up wearing.

Empowered to showcase these traditional shoes to the rest of the world, Eman now sources, designs and produces similar products, selling to audiences across the world. Along with accessories and other unique goods, Eman is also sharing her findings, lessons and experiences with like-minded entrepreneurs at the 2018 G20 Young Entrepreneurs Summit.

We connect with Eman to learn more about the history and culture behind Meraki Design House and her hopes for the upcoming summit. Read our full interview below for more:

  1. What is the inspiration behind the name, “Meraki?” What does this word mean?

The term “Meraki” is an ancient Greek expression best explained as, “To do something with so much love and passion that you leave a piece of yourself in what you do.” It took me upwards of four-months to find [a word] that encapsulates the spirit of our brand as well as “Meraki” does.

  1. Tell us about the products that Meraki Design House sells. Why are sourcing and selling handcrafted goods so important to you?

I grew up moving from one place to another and I was never about the big brands – but I was definitely all about wearing things that you couldn’t commonly find. I got to appreciate culture through craft and wanted others to find unique, truly wonderful, high quality yet affordable products, just like I did.

One of my best friends constantly reminds me of the fact that I used to be the only 13-year-old wearing traditional South Asian leather flats to school instead of TOMS or Converse like everyone else.  Today, we redesign these same leather flats into the best quality, most comfortable, modern, everyday shoes.

  1. Why don’t you focus on sourcing products locally?

To be honest, the way I see it, society supports local because they want to support makers they see, [along with] their hard work, their passion. We do the same, but we don’t believe in supporting makers in any one place. We support “the local” in different corners of the world. We want to showcase one-of-a-kind products, with history and a story. Such products come from every corner of the world. We want to be able to support makers and crafts that may otherwise never be found by consumers here in North America.

  1. How much prep work goes into sourcing the perfect item to sell?

It’s more serendipity than anything else! Finding something we love and want to work on is luck – perfecting the quality and redesigning it to fit the needs of our consumers is where the hard work comes in.  Sometimes, items are an instant fit. Sometimes, even after a ton of prep, the items don’t look exactly the way we want them to.

  1. Spending time looking for unique pieces from all over the world, you must meet so many interesting people. What’s the most efficient way for you to stay connected with your vendors and partners?

WhatsApp!! It’s somehow, universally, every vendor’s number one choice.

  1. Meraki ships worldwide. Where is the farthest place you’ve sent a package?

We’ve sent a lot of packages to Australia so technically there. But, we’ve got orders from countries like Mauritius and Poland, too.

  1. Before Meraki, where had your journey taken you?

I studied Political Science and Human Resources at the University of Toronto, with the intent of getting into corporate recruiting. I started working with the Pan Am Games as soon as classes ended and the idea of Meraki was already brewing. Shortly thereafter, I went back to Pakistan to work on what Meraki could be. It took about six-months to make the most comfortable, handcrafted shoe we could, and here we are!

Photo by: Tanvi M Photography.
  1. You were born in Pakistan. How old were you when you came to Canada?

I actually lived in the Philippines before moving to Canada at 18, to start at the University of Toronto.

  1. Later this year, you’re taking part in the G20 Young Entrepreneurs Summit in Argentina. When is this happening?

The Canadian delegation is in Buenos Aires from Sept. 18 to 23, 2018, but the work has already begun! We’ve been training for a couple of months and figuring out how to best use this opportunity to learn from worldly entrepreneurs.

  1. How long will you be in Buenos Aires? What do you hope the summit will leave you with?

We will be in Buenos Aires for about six days. The summit is only a couple of days, but we’re spending some extra time understanding the innovation clusters in that city and meeting with startups and local business, aiming to gain insights and learnings, while building our own business networks and evaluating the potential of doing business in Latin America.

  1. Is this your first time attending the G20 Young Entrepreneurs Summit? How did you secure your spot?

It is indeed my first time! Futurpreneur handles the Canadian delegation. I encourage fellow entrepreneurs to follow the organization and their updates, if interested in joining future G20 Young Entrepreneurs Alliance (G20 YEA) events. In 2019, the summit will be in Japan.

  1. Which world leaders and business professionals do you hope to connect with and learn from while at the summit?

I am literally always looking to learn from everyone, everywhere I go! Just within the Canadian delegation itself, there are so many talented and accomplished entrepreneurs. I am so excited to get to know them better.

  1. Where can our readers go to follow along with your Meraki and G20 journeys?

While I am not the biggest fan of social media – I will be covering the G20 (and more adventures) on my instagram via @emansbachani. You can get your Meraki fix at @merakidesignhouse.

  1. Do you have any advice for other entrepreneurs?

Always remember the power of a back-up plan and know that sometimes, your Plan B can be way better than your Plan A. Also, entrepreneurship can be very lonely, so find people who will not only understand the struggle, but also remind you why you began!

Photo by: Tanvi M Photography.

Eman, thank you for sharing your story with us. Congratulations on all of your Meraki-lous success. We can’t to hear how the G20 Young Entrepreneurs Summit goes and hope you will share your key learnings with us in the months to come.

Sending you the best of vibes for creative inspiration and fresh finds.

The feature photo is by Tanvi M Photography.

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