Crazy F'in Retail

The Hav A Sole Story with Rikki Mendias

May 03, 2020 Brennan Decker / Alice Fontanos Season 1 Episode 11
Crazy F'in Retail
The Hav A Sole Story with Rikki Mendias
Crazy F'in Retail
The Hav A Sole Story with Rikki Mendias
May 03, 2020 Season 1 Episode 11
Brennan Decker / Alice Fontanos

This is a very special episode for us as we interview an incredible human, Rikki Mendias, Founder of Hav A Sole. 

Hav A Sole is a Los Angeles based Non Profit Organization that has given out over $1.5 MILLION worth of quality footwear to the homeless and at-risk youth both at home in California and across the country through the Hav A Soleful Trip program. 

Join us as we hear about this amazing organization and how retail leaders can have an impact beyond their four walls by partnering with local Non Profits in their community. 

Check out the links below to learn more about Hav A Sole:
Youtube: @havasole
Instagram: @havasole

Support the show (

Show Notes Transcript

This is a very special episode for us as we interview an incredible human, Rikki Mendias, Founder of Hav A Sole. 

Hav A Sole is a Los Angeles based Non Profit Organization that has given out over $1.5 MILLION worth of quality footwear to the homeless and at-risk youth both at home in California and across the country through the Hav A Soleful Trip program. 

Join us as we hear about this amazing organization and how retail leaders can have an impact beyond their four walls by partnering with local Non Profits in their community. 

Check out the links below to learn more about Hav A Sole:
Youtube: @havasole
Instagram: @havasole

Support the show (

spk_1:   0:02
retail is crazy. Your leadership doesn't have to. This'll is crazy. F in retail with Brennan and Alice.

spk_2:   0:20
Welcome to another episode of crazy fuckin retail. The podcast. Today we have a very special guest with us. Ricky Mendy is, um, founder of have a soul amazing nonprofit organization out of Los Angeles. So welcome, Ricky. Welcome to the podcast.

spk_0:   0:39
Thank you both for having me. This is Ah, this is great. I used to work at Costco. So retail I know a little bit about it.

spk_2:   0:48
And Nice. Nice. Yeah. You know, Ah, you know, it's such a blessing for me to be able to be involved with the organization. So I think that that there's a lot of overlap with what you do and what we do. So thank you for joining us real quick. Do you want to tell us a little bit about yourself? And maybe some of the have a soul story for the listeners for the two listeners that don't know about have a soul?

spk_0:   1:12
Yeah, I have a soul is a nonprofit organization, but much, much more than that to me. We're 5.5 years old. We give out sneakers to communities that might need them. Um, in that 5.5 years, we we realized pretty, uh, right off the bat that it wasn't about the sneakers. It was actually about the one on one connection that we made with people. My love for sneakers goes back to when I was nine years old. Early 19. Submit 1991. Um, my mom should went to jail. We lost the apartment, I was homeless. And, um, she got out. A year later, we moved into a shelter. She couldn't afford to buy me shoes. This woman that lived at the shelter before us named Becky. She noticed that I had big holes in my shoes and she offered to take us to the band store and buy me a pair shoes. And it was my lucky day because it was buy one, get 1/2 off. So I actually got two pairs that day, and I was 10 years old and fell in love with sneakers that moment. Um, I grew up as a troubled youth. I had a lot of trauma, you know, I didn't graduate from high school. I never went to college. Uh, later, that job at Costco had Toys R us. I had a pet store job. All these jobs that really were just passing time for me in my eyes, um, got fired from Costco and then landed into commercial production as a production assistant. I found photography. And, um, yeah, I was just kind of just making my way in life. And And I thought that photography once I found that I thought that's what I was supposed to do with my life. And it was, um it was something special to me. But then, you know, as I'm still collected shoes Throughout the years, I had 100 50 pairs. My career as a photographer wasn't really meaningful. Or, you know, I wasn't making any money at it. And, you know, I was just disappointed in and then a sad place. So one night I couldn't sleep. I decided to give away my sneakers and ah, that was the birth of have a soul

spk_1:   3:27
that you never give us. Amazing. And I know a few months ago when I first met you, I was introduced to you, and I heard that story is very heartwarming. And for us, toe have you here to share that with our Lindus dinners. It makes me feel really, really, really good, because it's not just about leadership, but just about your story and what you've been doing to give back to the community. So, um, Brennan actually told me recently that you had a road trip from coast to coast and you dedicate to a special someone. So, do you mind sharing with our listeners what that road trip was And what that really meant for you?

spk_0:   4:03
Yeah, right off the jump. You know, when when have also first started. I know that I know that I wanted to give away shoes in other communities. So we launched a program called Have a Soulful Trip where we would pick, you know, some large cities that needed some extra love. And we would go, um, yeah, I would go city to city in a minivan. So this year, 2020 this is road trip number eight, and, you know, we've been planning it since 2019. You know this there's a lot of planning that goes into it. Um, and then, unfortunately, Kobe, it passed in, um, january late January. And you know the numbers just meant that we needed to dedicate it to him. You know him wearing eight on his jersey. And this being our eighth road trip, we decided to extend it past Chicago and visit his hometown, Philadelphia. So we spent 22 days on the road in February and gave out over 350 pairs of shoes, and we took eight pairs of Kobe's to his city of Philadelphia. And it was just something that I would never forget. You know, there was a lot of love and support in each city, and it just it was, ah away that we couldn't, you know, honor him.

spk_1:   5:24
Thank you for that. And I think you heard it before we started shooting this podcast. I'm from Los Angeles as well, and I know you are. And I have tried to avoid every, um, any, any clip about his tribute. And when I was watching that video, I was just overwhelmed that I called right on Michael. My got a movie, her crying, And I know that Kobe had a big impact on the L A community. Can you kind of share how Kobe has really impacted your life as well? Cause for all that time. He's done so much for the community, and I wasn't a big Lakers fan. But you can't get away from that, you know? So you're submerging it in in Southern California. So can you kind of share how Kobe's been influenced to you?

spk_0:   6:07
Yeah. I mean, for me, I was more of a shock fan, and, you know, I loved I loved the Lakers at that time and more so, you know, my best friend, Dash. He's been a Kobe fan, his old life. And to be transparent like it was something special that we can do for dashes. Well, his birthday is a 24. As you know, that's eight and 24 on his jersey. Um, I think Kobe's birthday is one day before dashes, and, um, it's just just meant so much. And for me, I wanted to work with Kobe on Vanessa just in the community because, you know, they have ah foundation that is geared towards lifting up the homeless community. And, you know, we do a lot of work with the homeless community as well. Um, and it just seemed so right. Uh, the 1st 2 people I thought about when I heard the news was my brother and dash, you know, because then being huge, huge Kobe fans, I was more of a fan of, you know, the father, that he was the philanthropist that he was. And I was just impressed with, you know, him supporting women's sports and lifting up the younger players in the n b. A. Just like the mentor figure that he had become. That's what I was really impressed by when I thought about Kobe.

spk_1:   7:29
Oh, Ricky, I I think I remember you telling me about Dash, but not too long ago when I first met you. Funny thing is just like you. I'm a big Shaquille O'Neal fan since I was a little kid. I think that was my first jersey back in the day. Funny thing is, Dash nice share the same birthday, which is Mamma Day, August 24. So that's that's kind of crazy. So if we ever to a Kobe podcast, we have to definitely invite you and dash onto that podcast as

spk_0:   7:53
well. That is crazy.

spk_1:   7:56
That is crazy. So So with that, uh, I wanted to ask you, I know our podcast is really around retail leaders in the retail industry and bread and I come from the footwear industry. So can you kind of share how retail leaders could benefit a nonprofit organization like yours?

spk_0:   8:15
Um, I mean, yeah, from the footwear. Um, standpoint, it would be, you know, donating new and very gently worn sneakers. Um, but what I think about when you ask me, that question is like how related the two industries are, especially with have a soul. And it would, let's say a finish line or, you know, a Nike brand. Um, you know, you think about the ability to make someone's day in store. I think about that all the times that we put shoes on feet and I know that you know, the employees are doing the same thing. They're doing the exact same thing where they can brighten up someone's day. Um, with the pair of sneakers, you know, it's just because they're paying for it doesn't mean you can't make someone's day a little more special, you know, with your energy. So, um, Rito is is ah is what you make of it. You know, I know that there is not easy, you know? I know the customer is not always right. I've been there. I seen that, um, and it's just but it's still an opportunity to lift somebody up if they're having a hard day. You know, maybe you can make it a little more special, but if people want to support us, they can just, you know, donate towards the mission.

spk_2:   9:32
Yeah, I love that. You said that, um, Ricky relating the relating the two industries because, you know, both of them are just just about service, and it makes me remember the have a soul, the habit, soul experience, the try on experience. Um, you know, that's something we haven't shared with the listeners yet. Can you? Kind of. I've obviously seen the shoe walls I've been in have asshole events, Um, and seen the receipts and just the in person, the one on one service that we provide through have a soul like, how

spk_1:   10:03
did you land on that? I just

spk_0:   10:05
knew that I wanted somebody to have a choice. You know that the simplest thing was choice. So how do we break that down and make it more creative, make it more fun and inspiring for, you know, people of all ages, so it really just grew. It grew, too, you know, driving around in my Ford Explorer in the 1st 6 months and having, ah, variety of sneakers in people sizes. And what would happen with that? That asked for some change, and I'd say, Well, I don't have any change, but I do have an extra pair of sneakers for you. What size are you? And then he'd say, You know, 11 or she would say a nine, and then I would dive into the to the Explorer and say, OK, this is what I have been your size, you know? You know, feel free to choose and it just it makes all the difference in the world, I think. And from there it would be like, OK, cool. Let's let's elevate the experience. Lett's create a pop up store. So, you know, with some of our local partners, you know, the Covenant House we are first ever. We called it Covenant Con, You know, treating it like a convention slash festival for some of the homeless youth there. Um, and just give them experience. We had Nike there. We had Jason work there. We had, uh, tacos there and, you know, alive D. J. And it was just really inexperienced for them to enjoy. Ah, that retail, because everything we've done, you know, is modeled after you know what the retail shoe industry is. You know, we're trying to give them, um, the customer service that they need and that they don't get to experience too often.

spk_2:   11:46
Yeah, we have. Ah, amazing blogged post on the on a vessel dot com I think about about cuff con. So if you don't, If you want to find out more, I think that viewers should definitely check out. Have a soul dot com to learn more about that. But like the evolution piece, man. So, you know, at what point in your mind did this become, like, really like, when did you decide that you were ready to start growing, have a soul and and kind of scaling the impact from the driving around the explorer?

spk_0:   12:16
I mean, from the moment I said it, um, you know, that night I couldn't sleep, and I went on, went searching for more purpose with my life. And the answer was, give away my sneaker collection. And, you know, I jumped on a phone call with a friend and, you know, they're like, I don't know if that's a good idea. It's You're not gonna do it. I was okay. And you know what happens when you know, somebody tells you you're not gonna do something. You usually end up doing it. So in that conversation, was I Oh, wow. I know what I'm gonna call it. And he's like, What? I'm call it, have a soul. And then when I said those words, I just hung up the phone. I grab the social media, I grabbed the website No go, Daddy. And just the domain and all that. And I just knew that I was gonna be on something special. Um, but it did start out of passion project. Um, but right off the jump, I don't know. It was like the perfect storm of events. You know, I had low rent. I was working a freelance job, which allowed me if I got two of those free nines days a month, that would pay my rent. So I had very low rent. I had a lot of time to work on my new passion project, getting shoes out to the people documented it with my photography. Um, from there, it just it just started to grow. And I knew that, Um, I just knew we had to get more serious about this. You know, get a board of directors that, you know, and who are amazing and shout out to Brennan, who is one of our board. I don't know if they know that, but Brennan Decker is on our board. So thank you for all the work that you've done for us. And it's just, you know, like I said, I still don't have ah, high school diploma. Soto have all this, um, business knowledge that I'm learning each day with the amazing team that we have. It's It's really special. Ah, and it just makes me feel like anybody can do anything they want. Um, just you just got it. You got to go for it.

spk_2:   14:21
That's amazing. And then and then dashes involved. Tell us a little bit about about dash on dash. His involvement. Dash

spk_0:   14:28
and I met at a taco Tuesday party, maybe 2011 and, um, it was just, like, cool, you know, revive me. And how you doing? Cool. How you doing? Know What do you do? He does clothing. I I'm doing my photography oak. Okay, um, we didn't exchange numbers that night, but we, uh I think Dash found me on instagram and took Took a look at my photography was like, Man, I love your work. We should do something together. Yeah, what you have in mind? You know, let's shoot you Shoot the clothing line that he had going I was like, Man, I'm down, Let's go. So we had lunch kind of brainstormed, and then we, uh we knocked out that photo shoot. And it's just like something about dash. There was just, like, gentle, loving in, like, kind. Um, you know, great sense of humor, like, you know, people that you want to be around. So we just connected on so many different levels early on and, you know, became best friends, you know, years before, have a soul and then have a soul hits. And I tell him about the idea is that you know, I got 20 pairs for you here. So from there, he's just like, yeah, from day one. It was out there giving out pairs of shoes. I think that the third or fourth pair that everyone out was a Nike Blazer as B that was donated by Dash. And we threw that on social media. And, you know, it's don't to see that, you know, your donation ends up on somebody that might need it. Um, so I do remember that his nickname was barefoot and, uh, yeah, he's been with this has Day one. He's now the operations manager. He has a salary and, you know, it's just is tough right now because, ah, you know Kobe 19 is currently happening throughout the world, and it's this huge pandemic, and it's tough for a lot of people. But, you know, we're very fortunate enough to take a salary during this time and still do the work. We have a program called Stay Home and Stay Active, where we challenge some of our our youth, um, partners to work out and do a reading program. And you know, when they are finished with their workout program will deliver a pair of shoes to their doorstep. And that's just ah, it's been a way for us toe still be engaged with the community because I feel like Dash and I are similar where we need the human connection and even though we're not, you know, hugging them like we used to Or, you know, shaking hands like we used to and were wearing gloves and a mask. It's still there, you know, You you can still see the joy behind the mask in their eyes when you know we deliver a pair of shoes. So, you know, we're still staying creative with how we help the community.

spk_1:   17:10
You know, I actually have a question for you. I was just digging through your website the other day, and it seems like you guys go on your road trips together a lot. And do you have a favorite memory? Be of dash during one of your have a soul big trips that you want to kind of share with your listeners?

spk_0:   17:28
Yeah, you know it. One. My favorite moments from would be from road trip number one way back in 2014. It's crazy to say way back but 2014 we're going to go to San Francisco. Um, we're going to pour Lynn, Seattle, Salt Lake City in Vegas, and we admit, one of our biggest supporters, Steve Simon. He's based in San Francisco. He's the co owner of the Indiana Pacers. And we Yeah, we just wanted to talk to him. We shared one of the videos that we had, and he wanted to meet what we wanted to meet. And, you know, we just had a great casual meeting, and he was, like, our records or let me know, because I know you're gonna be important and cool. He's like the Pacers airplay in Portland in a couple of days. Cool. That's that's Ah, let me see if I get your tickets. Great. So that was going to mean that we had the Sorry. Excuse me. That means that we have to skip Seattle because, you know, the game was in Portland a few days, um, later than what we expected, and we wanted to keep on a quick timeline. Um, so Well, okay, cool. Let's skip Seattle, and we'll just go from Portland to Salt Lake City. Ah. Then Steve calls me as I Hey, sorry, wasn't to get tickets. They're all tied up. Okay, cool. So let's put Seattle back on the map. No, no, be, You know, was it's not a big deal, but, um, I remember we were just at the California Oregon border and we're the shell station and Dash and I are getting gassed with a minivan and this guy walks up. He was like, You got $5 iconic around like, Where'd that come from? And I was like No, man. Sorry Then, like five minutes later, he's like, Hey, you got some weed and was from a different direction was like, What the hell? Same voice, but no man. Sorry, I don't I don't, um And then he comes up and he starts talking to Dash. But he's rhyming all of his words in mid conversation and dashes I Oh, that's a cool freestyle like manna My freestyling I'm just talking to you And we asked his name and he's like, my name is Harlan as a Harlem man and I looked down at his feet cause you know, a lot of people. That's the first thing you go to is you look at somebody shoes. So I looked down and they're all muddy. His socks are all muddy and we like Arlen, we ah, we might have an extra pair of shoes for you if you could use him he's like, Yeah, man, I would be cool. So we, uh we pulled out a pair of ah Jordan's. I think some Jordan Sixes in a size 11 way lace him up. And I was like, Hey, can we grab a photo like, Yeah, of course. And this photo I can still remember. You know, he's kind of looking up to the sky. Both hands are out, like, kind of towards the sky is looking up, And it's just this great photo. And and, uh, he says by and we're like, we had this great moment and we you know, we got in the band, and then we're about to pull off and knocks on the window, and, uh, we look over really on the window. He says, Hey, man, Jesus told me, Don't go to Seattle. All right? Okay. Okay. Peace, man. We roll up the window, dash looks at me as I hated you. Tell him where we were going. I said no, man, did you? He was like, No. And then in that moment, we both agreed that, um, we had toe skips Seattle again. Um, and it was just something crazy. You know, those little moments that Ah, you never know are there unless you pay close attention. And, uh, that's that. That's one of the moments that was like, Wow, this is This is really crazy. And, you know, but what is it crazy? And I don't think so. Sorry. Back and forth with that. But it was It was while,

spk_2:   21:15
Yeah, I mean, there's there's so many moments that you guys have that are just I mean, there's only way to expect Explain. It is just magical. I mean, there's so many things that just happened, just that just happen where people come inside or decisions are made. I mean, it's just it's crazy. All the stuff that happens around have a soul, man. So now fast forward. So that was the road trip back in 2014 road trip one. And now fast forward. What is it? 60 on cost six years later, and one point 5/1 1.0.5 million dollars worth of shoes given to the communities across the country. You adapted to cove it like, How did you How

spk_0:   21:54
did you

spk_2:   21:54
figure that piece out? Because that's really become Stay home, misty act. Stay active. And then you guys just did an event yesterday, I think. Right?

spk_0:   22:02
Yeah. Yeah.

spk_2:   22:03
Like, how are you figuring these things out? I mean, because really, the world has stopped, but you can pull up Instagram and like the smiles air there the love is being shared And you guys just like super connected and inspiring the community. Still during Cove it like, How did you come up with those? The how you're doing it.

spk_0:   22:26
I mean, that's a good question. It's It's the the passion. I mean, you you have to I still love one another and find a way to do it. Even though I can't hug my mom or, you know, I can't see all my other friends and you know it Xjak Lin Jing. But you still have to find a way to lift people up. And I think that it was just a natural thing for us to say. Ok, cool. You know, the kids were having a tough time right now they're all out of school. How can we uplift them as well and keep them inspired and motivated? Because I know for me, I'm really not feeling that motivated right now, So maybe me trying to motivate them will actually motivate myself. And I feel like it just was a natural fit to say Okay. All right, kids, you work out, you read a book, will deliver a pair of shoes straight to your doorstep. And then we had an event yesterday where we delivered, you know, 40 pairs to the staff at simply wholesome, which is ah, local L a mom and pop grocery store slash restaurant. You know, just to let them know that we know that you're staying open for this community and providing a safe place for people to grab their essential items. We see you and we just want toe lift you up and say, Hey, we appreciate the work that you're doing remaining open even though it's dangerous. Here's some sneakers and we were able to partner with Foot Locker on that program. And I think that, you know, I think that's great thing, you know, Foot locker, and have so come together to be able to put shoes on on some of the essential workers out there that are working every day, you know, and the crazy thing is that they're short staffed, you know? I mean, so they can only have so many people because their numbers are hurting. And so this means the, you know, the shorter amount of people still need to put in the hours and more. So they're working overtime. And, you know, for us to come by and drop off some cool sneakers, I think was the highlight. And I look forward Teoh hitting up some more grocery stores to just let them know that. Thank you.

spk_2:   24:37
Yeah, the pictures that you shared, we're just We're just beautiful, you know, Earlier you said, like I think he says, I'm like anyone can do anything and like you talked about not not not finishing high school or whatever, but still, being a Bhutto have this amazing impact. And I think sometimes, um, in retail, I think it's really easy to, you know, say to kind of reflect on like, say, you know, what else can I do? I might not have a college degree. I might not. I might have a g d like, how else can I help the community? And in our conversations that we have Ricky, I mean, it's really just vision. I think like when we talk like I'm trying to think about how other retail managers can can maybe help a local nonprofit and if if their paths crossed with, have a soul, I mean, that's amazing. Like if they can come to come to an event or I know we've got giving Tuesday coming up and we've got multiple ways to impact have a soul, but really just impacting any non profit. Is there any? Is there any things retail managers, retail leaders, really anyone can can think about if they want to, kind of have a bigger impact on Maybe like a local nonprofit?

spk_0:   25:50
I mean, I think it starts with their team in store, really like the way they communicate, that the way they motivate their team, It has to start there. They have to be willing to want to lift up their team. From there, it can dive into the community. There's there's millions of great organizations out there, and I mean, there are a lot. So, you know, you pick what you're passionate about. If it's saving the planet, go save the planet. You just gotta do it. You've got to get out there and and make it happen. Talk to the people. Um, even that we're, you know, we're supposed to be divided right now, like still, try to find a way to stay connected. You know, hop on your your face time and you're, you know, just dive into the community because there's there's a lot of people still doing the work, and when this is all over, you know we can you know it's gonna be a new normal. But, you know, there's still work to be done. You know, there's still a lot of sadness out there, and we gotta just counter that with kindness. So, you know, my advice would be Start with your team in store and then motivate your team to dive into the community.

spk_2:   26:57
That's a really good point. I mean, in retail, we all have have teams and they could be five people in store. They could be 100 200 people in a district. And I think for the managers, retail leaders, listening to this right now, it's really about just like what he said. Just it's about your team and your team can have an impact on the community. And then just growing from there, Um, what else you got going on this year. You have any other events this year? Any other programs going on that you want to talk about?

spk_0:   27:30
I mean, really, we're just play by play, you know, one day at a time. 11 activation at a time, One sneaker at a time. It's just everything is slowed down. Um, unfortunately, the bills still need to be paid, so we are constantly fundraising. You know, if you find that this is ah, cause that's dear to your heart, then, you know, feel free toe drop. I have a soul dot com. That's h a v a s o l e dot com. Um, we're just Yeah, we need Teoh, pay the bills and we want to keep the mission going. And we want to keep inspiring people and keep the kids active at home. And when we get out of this for, we'll celebrate with a have a soul fund raiser.

spk_2:   28:17
Nice. And then I think you touched on it a little bit. But we have given Tuesday coming up, um, a few days from now on Tuesday, May 5th. How can people join have a soul on on Tuesday, May 5th, Maybe support the organization helps spread the message.

spk_0:   28:34
Yeah, we have. Ah, we have a goal of raising $5000. And what we want to do with that go is match each dollar with one ripped from the have a soul stay home and stay active Workout program. So what we're gonna do is with whatever number we'd raise. So we raised $5000. We're gonna have teams from all over the United States posted their social media attack, have a soul with their workout, and then we're gonna just tally it up to the number that we raise. So what? That means that you can either donate towards the monetary goal or you can donate towards the match goal with your exercise and intact half a soul, and we'll repost to share. Um, and that's what we have for giving Tuesday.

spk_2:   29:19
That's what's up. Yeah, I know. It's gonna be a fun day on on instagram fund week next week on instagram. So, um, definitely follow. Have a soul. Definitely. If you're out there doing push ups, if you're gonna make your own team and pledge some money towards have a salon, help raise the money, I mean, be creative and just just tagged, have a soul account. I think we all want to see everyone participate. So, um, Alice, do you have anything? Anything you want to add?

spk_1:   29:46
Um, no, I think you guys hit everything. And yeah, I don't really have anything left, but thank you so much, Ricky, for joining us today.

spk_0:   29:54
We are very grateful for you guys. And you know the work you guys are doing. I know you will be opening up soon. And and, Ah, let's jump on a, um, call next time with Dash.

spk_1:   30:09
That be absolutely amazing. I know to be Ah, fun podcast. Thank you for listening to another episode of crazy F in retail. Like what you heard today. Subscribe and leave us a review on the podcast platform of your choice.