Germantown High wins shoe design contest with focus on breast cancer awareness

On January 18, Germantown High School won the 2020 Shelby County Schools shoe design charrette held in partnership with local nonprofit shoe manufacturer SoGiv. 

The winning shoes will soon be available on SoGiv’s website with proceeds benefiting Shelby County Schools.

According to founder Edward Bogard, SoGiv is the first nonprofit shoe company that produces shoes specifically to support philanthropic, community, and charitable causes.

Bogard's goals for the competition were to introduce teenagers to the footwear industry and design process, help them identify and support issues that are important to them, and provide hands-on experience in what may be a future career for some.

Teams chose an issue or cause they felt was important and incorporated it into their design. Those causes included gun violence, pollution, and the decline in bee populations.

“Our cause is to help people who immigrate into our country and are treated unfairly," said Overton High sophomore Cody McNeal of his team's shoe design. "If you're not a legal citizen in America, even a misdemeanor offense or arrest without grounds can get you kicked out."

Germantown's winning design focused on breast cancer awareness. Overton came in second by a one-point margin.

Twenty-seven schools began the competition with only five teams advancing to the final three-day charrette.

Each team had five students chosen based on interest, academics, and attendance. Each team member had a specialized role including strategist, marketer, and public speaker.

The charrette began on January 13 with Southwind, East, Germantown, Overton and Bolton high schools. Students presented their designs and research on their causes on January 15. Bolton, Germantown, and Overton then advanced to the final round.

On January 18, those three teams went before a "Shark Tank" style panel of judges who asked more in-depth questions on marketing strategies, research, causes, and design.

“It was awesome how they actually did all that research and it was accurate,” said judge Sable Otey. “These kids got some good stuff going on."

A SoGiv shoe design and marketing campaign benefiting the Down Syndrome Association of the Mid-South. SoGiv is a nonprofit shoe manufacturer and has worked to elevate well over a dozen different important causes. (SoGiv)

The judges included Otey, CEO of Millionaire Millenium Movement, and Kinyah Bean, the 11 year-old CEO of B Chill Lemonade. Bogard chose Bean for her business savvy and age.

“Bean can relate to the kids,” said Bogard. “They can see a judge who isn’t an adult.”

Bogard is a Memphis native. He said that, as a child, his mother taught him the value of giving when she gave the clothes he'd outgrown to struggling families throughout the school year.

Bogard also played high school basketball in the late 1990s and dreamed of becoming the next Michael Jordan with his own signature shoe. 

“I would study Tinker Hatfield, who was the designer of all the Air Jordans,” he said.

He later earned a scholarship to the Savannah College of Art and Design.

SoGiv is a coming together of Bogard's interest in philanthropy, shoes, and design. 

SoGiv is Memphis-based and launched in 2009. Bogard's first partnership was with the Mid-South Food Bank in 2011. He designed custom shoes, and with every purchase, the food bank receives proceeds that cover 150 meals. He's since added many more partnerships and causes.

SoGiv hosted a similar design charrette last year for the MLK50 celebration in partnership with the National Civil Rights Museum and BRIDGES USA.

“We have plans of doing this throughout the year across the U.S. to continue to introduce kids to the footwear industry in a creative, philanthropic way,” said Bogard of the charrette. “Throughout all of our initiatives, this has been hands down our most important initiative to date.”

Read more articles by A. J. Dugger III.

A.J. Dugger III is an award-winning journalist and native Memphian who joined High Ground as lead writer for its signature series, On the Ground, in August 2019. Previously, he wrote for numerous publications in West Tennessee and authored two books, “Southern Terror” and “The Dealers: Then and Now.” He has also appeared as a guest expert on the true-crime series, “For My Man.” For more information, visit ajdugger.net. (Photo by April Stilwell)
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