In war-ravaged Afghanistan, one Berkeley MBA student
is accomplishing what economic development advisors
dream about—bringing socially responsible economic
development opportunities to war-torn Afghanistan.
Combining traditional crafts with Western business
savvy, Berkeley MBA student Sarah Takesh, MBA 03, is
creating a socially conscious, upscale apparel and accessories
company that aims to distribute its wares to the finest
boutiques in New York, Paris, London, and Rome.
Tarsian & Blinkley, the new venture, harnesses
Afghans’ ethnic crafts of sewing, embroidery,
and leather and metal work in return for equitable compensation:
wages well above the local norm, training, childcare,
and health benefits. The venture works with Afghan people
in the capital Kabul, with future plans for Herat, West
Afghanistan, the rural northern regions of the country,
and possibly Peshawar, Pakistan.
Her passion for adventure travel lured Takesh to the
far reaches of Central Asia along the Silk Road three
years ago. The beauty of this region and the charm and
nobility of its tribal societies, Afghans in particular,
inspired Takesh to her venture.
A native of Iran, she not only speaks Dari, the Afghan
language, but also has a penchant for fashion. She earned
her chops working in production and design for several
apparel startups in New York before going to b-school.
Now, as CEO of Tarsian & Blinkley, she designs the
clothes, buys the fabrics, and manages the relationships
with her Afghan partners.
“What affected me so much was noticing how a
little economic development assistance makes the tribespeople
so much more friendly to us as outsiders,” she
Tarsian & Blinkley also recruited key management
talent, including a buyer of European designer sportswear
for Bloomingdale’s and a former vice president
at Banana Republic, as well as classmate Matthew Upton,
MBA 03, who has finance and budgeting experience with
firms like Nike, The Gap, Victoria’s Secret, and
Johnson & Johnson.
One of venture’s goals is to improve the plight
of Afghan women, who have suffered much under the oppression
of the Taliban regime. “Everyone is still scared,”
she says. “No native woman dares to take her burka
off.” She sees her venture as “a subtle
and subversive statement to celebrate feminine beauty
right in the heart of the place where it was almost
The company’s potential for profitability combined
with its significant social impact has earned this venture
the top prize of the National Social Venture Competition,
a partnership between the Haas School of Business, Columbia
Business School, and The Goldman Sachs Foundation. The
$25,000 prize for Best Blended Value was presented at
the final awards ceremony at Columbia Business School
in New York on April 12, 2003.
On April 19, it also won a second prize at the Carrot
Capital Business Plan Challenge in New York.
For more information on Tarsian & Blinkley, please
visit the company’s web site at http://www.tarsianandblinkley.com.
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