Kfir Gavrieli: Well-Heeled Businessman Gives Back
Kfir Gavrieli’s footwear company, Tieks, boasts the tagline, “The ballet flat, reinvented.” But Gavrieli has done more than reinvent a women’s shoe; he has turned his profits into philanthropy.
The retail footwear company led by the 34-year-old Angeleno and Israeli native has found success since it launched in 2008, and Gavrieli has been trying to turn that success into mitzvah gold. Through the organization Kiva.org, which provides microloans to female entrepreneurs in the developing world, the Gavrieli Foundation has funded nearly 59,000 loans totaling more than $10 million.
“We are giving them access to capital, they are repaying us and then we can lend to somebody else,” Gavrieli said.
Tieks has been a family affair for much of its history. Gavrieli, who lives in Brentwood, co-founded the Los Angeles-based company with his sister, Dikla Gavrieli. The company sells casual ballet shoes made of Italian leather and textiles. The walking shoes are foldable so they can fit into a purse. They have won praise from the likes of Oprah Winfrey.
Recipients of the company’s philan-thropy live all over the world — in Peru, Mali, Indonesia and elsewhere. The Gavrieli Foundation website says the women who have received its loans through Kiva have used the money to pay for such things as their children’s tuition, feed for their farm animals and sacks of rice.
“Microlending has become intertwined with the meaning of our company and our product and our brand.”
“We can give a shoe to a woman,” Gavrieli said, “but how much more powerful is it when we give her a loan she can use to start a business?”
The Gavrielis’ commitment to Kiva began with a promotion on Facebook that involved them providing $1 to Kiva for every “like” their company received. As a result, they ended up with the fastest growing Facebook page in the world in the clothing category, Gavrieli said.
“[Microlending] has become intertwined with the meaning of our company and our product and our brand,” he said, “something we have doubled down on each year, something we have increased our commitment to.”
Gavrieli has extended giving to other areas of his life. The graduate of Stanford University — where he earned a bachelor’s degree in economics, a master’s of materials science and engineering, and a master’s of business administration — is deeply committed to supporting Israel. He is involved with the leadership of numerous pro-Israel organizations, including AIPAC, the Israeli American Council, American Friends of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra and 30 Years After.
“In terms of where I put my time and also my capital, it goes far beyond the microloans,” he said.
After college, he worked for venture capital companies and was attracted to e-commerce. He then decided he wanted to get into e-commerce by selling his own product through his own website.
“We were kind of able to demonstrate as a brand that you can sell stuff online — and your own stuff through your own website — as opposed to going through retail stores or Zappos [an online shoe and clothing store],” he said.
If shoes and microloans are his day job, Israel is his passion.
“I’m trying, over time,” he said, “to change the tide a little bit and make it cool and fun to support Israel rather than to bash it; help people reconnect with Judaism … and hopefully change the perception of Israel and help get to the point where the Jews aren’t as oppressed a minority as I perceive them to be.”