In a country of over 300 million people, the United States has very few manufacturers making shoes for all of those feet. Most of those jobs have headed outside our boarders into countries with lower wages and lower environmental regulations, but not all have left. In fact, there are some companies that have started up and are thriving based on the idea of creating a niche product instead of trying to become overly diversified. One such company is Okabashi Brands, Inc. of Buford, GA. Their low-cost, environmentally friend shoes are 100% recyclable and are made in America.
Iranian born and a son of shoemakers, Bahman Irvani started Okabashi in 1984 after his family fled Iran during the 1979 revolution. They left behind the family shoe business, but it was not long before it was reborn. In his newly adapted country, Bahman started Okabashi in Georgia, growing it over the past 25 years into a company employing over 250 people.
The original Okabashi line of shoes, and the boutique brand OKA b, are all manufactured in Georgia using the same basic molded material called Microplast. That’s their niche – the use of this foam rubber like material that is recyclable, anti-slip, an anti-microbial agent and vegan-friendly. There are very few hands-on steps required once the shoes are molded, which helps lower the overall cost to manufacture. There are no Okabashi shoes over $20 and OKA b shoes over $40.
Not only is Okabashi helping our economy by employing American workers, they are helping our environment by keeping waste out of the landfills. Each pair of Okabashis contain up to 25-percent recycled material. This material is not just the scraps from the molding process of other shoes, but also worn out shoes mailed-in by customers. In 2009, the company launched a post-consumer recycling program which allows customers to send well-worn shoes back to the factory to be recycled. These shoes are checked for foreign debris, cleaned and chopped up into small pieces that are molded into a new pair of shoes. In return, those customers who sent in their old shoes will receive a discount coupon good for a new pair of Okabashis.
Each pair of Okabashi and OKA b shoes are endorsed by the American Chiropractic Association for the support they offer to the wear’s foot and backed by a 2-year guarantee. They are washable and the Okabashi line is even dishwasher safe. If you are looking for a new pair of shoes to wear at your local rec center, ballet practice, around town or even your wedding, Okabashi may just what the doctor or chiropractor ordered.