Darden Community, Student Profile or Feature

Darden Student ‘Builds Bridges, Not Borders’ with Artisan Footwear

By Maggie Dodson-
bridges-not-borders

Darden is consistently ranked as one of the best business schools for entrepreneurship, and we’re proud to share that our students have done (and are doing) some pretty incredible things! One such student is Sophie Eckrich (Class of 2021), who founded Teysha, an artisan footwear company, leading it for several years before deciding to pursue her MBA at Darden. Eckrich’s venture was propelled by the tremendous growth in e-commerce and trends that focused on sustainable fashion. Teysha eventually established its own shoe factory in Guatemala, connecting U.S. consumers with the products through retail partners like Nordstrom and Whole Foods.

Eckrich is a Batten Scholarship recipient, which supports full or partial tuition for selected entrepreneurial students, as well as other benefits that allow students to pursue their entrepreneurial talents.

In Austin at the University of Texas, Eckrich’s studies focused on international development, sociology and nonprofit management. She learned about microfinance and eventually took an internship with the Whole Planet Foundation and the Grameen Bank in Guatamela, a pioneer in micro-lending

“I saw amazing women, who, if they just got a $150 loan, they could actually do something with it,” said Eckrich. “So that was very inspiring to see how a relatively small amount of money could actually lead to a lot of big changes.”

The Darden community has been a great landing place for Eckrich, who created her successful business on a bit of intuition.

The early days of Darden have challenged and stretched her, Eckrich said, and she said she’s enjoyed retroactively applying what she’s learning in class to her previous business decisions, which were often guided by little more than intuition.

For a socially minded entrepreneur, Eckrich said she’s been pleased to find herself surrounded by students and faculty who are concerned with business practices beyond the bottom line. Her finance professor wants to talk about societal impact alongside investing returns, Eckrich said, and while everyone wants a great job, “there’s a sense of purpose and passion running through them.”

Though Eckrich decided to step away from the company once she began her MBA, the company is still going strong. Many of the artisans are still involved with the organization, and others have used their profits to pursue educational opportunities or branch out into other ventures.

Read the full story on The Darden Report.

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