Tarsian & Blinkley
Building a business from scratch is usually enough of a challenge for most entrepreneurs, but Sarah Takesh decided to take on the extra challenge of launching her company, Tarsian & Blinkley, in war-torn Afghanistan.
Amidst an atmosphere of poverty and political corruption, Takesh persisted in bringing a modicum of economic sanity to the lives of hundreds of women in Kabul and beyond through Tarsian & Blinkley, the apparel and accessories company she founded in 2002. Tarsian & Blinkley pays local women above-market wages to sew, embroider, and bead the "European minimalist" women's clothing she designed using fabrics gathered from all over Asia.
Takesh's dream of working in Central Asia, a region she fell in love with as a traveler, was nurtured by the Haas School early on. "I vaguely mentioned the idea in my application, and before I knew it the school was actively courting me on it," she says. She found a mentor in Will Rosenzweig, lecturer in responsible business, who encouraged her to research possibilities in Afghanistan the summer after her first year in the MBA program. Drawing on her previous experience in production and design with apparel startups in New York, Takesh developed a business plan for Tarsian & Blinkley with several other classmates. They entered their plan in the National Social Venture Competition in 2003 and took first place.
Currently, Tarsian & Blinkley designs are only available via the Internet and select boutiques (see http://www.tarsian.com). Takesh has received a good deal of national press coverage — her designs were featured in Oprah Winfrey's magazine. "We only sell to people who understand what we're all about," says Takesh. Meanwhile, the company has expanded to make clothing for new customers, including the Afghani military, and has begun construction on a sewing factory in Kabul.
Takesh sold Tarsian & Blinkley to a local Afghan partner and continues to consult for the company.