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Meet Mendias Rikki of Hav A Sole in Downtown

Today we’d like to introduce you to Mendias Rikki.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
To fully understand the scope of my story, I’d have to take you back to the early nineties when I was living in a shelter with my mother. It was a really challenging time because my parents had just separated, my brother was living with one of his friends, and my mother was trying to get sober. What I remember most about that time was having huge holes in the bottom of my Payless shoes and having to go to school embarrassed of how I looked.

Since we were on welfare, my mom couldn’t afford to buy me a new pair. Until one day a former resident by the name of Becky noticed my shoes were torn up and asked my mother if she could buy me some new ones. Within minutes we were piling into her car as she took us and bought me two brand new pairs of Vans. I loved everything about having new sneakers. The fresh smell. The confidence they gave me when I went to school. But what I didn’t see coming was the insatiable need they created in me to want even more sneakers, until, by the time I was in my early thirties, I had a collection of over 150 pairs of shoes that lined an entire wall of my bedroom.

As a photographer, I was growing increasingly unhappy with my profession. Friendships and relationships seemed to be going downhill. I guess you could say I was having a mid-life crisis. Accumulating ‘stuff’ started to seem pointless. My life felt like it had absolutely no meaning or purpose. One night, my brain wouldn’t stop thinking. And when I looked over at all the boxes of shoes against the wall, I had an epiphany. I asked myself, “Why do I have so many shoes that I don’t even wear? There are people out there that don’t have any at all.” I thought all the back to Becky’s kindness. At that moment I decided to give my shoe collection away to someone who could use them more than me.

The next day, I loaded up by Ford Explorer and drove around L.A. until I found a man asleep on the street. When I approached him and asked him his size, he said, he was a size 13. I was disappointed because all my shoes were 10 ½. At that point, I knew I had to reach out for help to get more shoes in different sizes. Before I knew it, people were donating their shoes from all over the country, and I had a variety of sneakers to choose from. That was nearly five years ago and since then, with the help of many supporters, including Nike and the Pacers, Hav A Sole has been able to give out over 15,000 pairs of quality tennis shoes to the homeless and underserved youth.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Have a Sole has always seemed like a simple enough idea. We take new or gently worn sneaker donations, and we give them out to people who could use them. Just like any venture, there have been victories and challenges along the way. I remember at the beginning having less than two hundred dollars in the bank when an angel made a cash donation that kept our mission alive.

What I started to witness were these magical moments when support would arrive from the universe just in the nick of time. As I saw this happen over and over again, I realized that I had found my purpose in life, and that’s what still keeps me moving forward today.

Hav A Sole – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
Hav A Sole is a life-transforming non-profit whose mission is to touch the lives of the displaced and less fortunate by giving out quality footwear. We are committed to contributing toward the broader social initiative of helping to change the direction of the lives of those in need in genuine and meaningful ways.

Hav A Sole believes we are all human-beings, having human experiences. We all have a story to tell. Our stories connect us to our humanity. They reveal to us that we are more alike than we are different. Hav A Sole is driven by its desire to create human connections, to educate and to provide support, comfort, and stability through kindness and compassion.

What is “success” or “successful” for you?
After my family split up I felt like I lost everything. When we moved into the shelter we were dirt poor and I hated it. For the next 20 years of my life, I tried to compensate for my feelings of lack by accumulating stuff.

I had the mindset that told me success comes from image and material possessions. I no longer believe that. Today, I define success by the positive impact I’m making on my community and the people around me.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Rikki Mendias

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