Daily Herald
Algonquin man steps into customizable sandal business
By Kim Mikus | Daily Herald Columnist
Published: 7/8/2010 12:16 PM | Updated: 7/8/2010 6:25 PM

An Algonquin man recently left the corporate world to see if the small business scene fits.

Using his eye for fashion and a desire for efficiency, Rishi Bhati launched a new customized sandal. The concept for Plattoes involves attaching interchangeable uppers, or ribbons, to the sole of the shoe through a variety of rings.

The idea behind the sandal is to help women customize their style.

"Instead of buying five pairs of shoes, you can have one that can be reused with many different looks," said Bhati, who runs the business with his wife, Priti.

There are two styles for the platform of the shoe. The 3.5-inch platform sells for $65 and is covered with a natural cork. The 5-inch heel covered in raffia fabric sells for $80, Rishi said. The shopper then chooses from about 25 different designs for the ribbon, or upper. The regular upper sells for $5 while the reversible ribbon is $11.

The upper is a ribbon that has to be tied and twisted through the rings on the sole of the shoe. The ribbon passes through the rings and then can be tied around the ankle, Rishi explained.

"With various ribbons and tying methods, there are endless possibilities to how one can wear these sandals," he said. The double rings in the sandal base help "lock" the ribbon in position and help create the sandal upper.

The shoe was featured on NBC's Today Show last week.

The owners, originally from India, operate the business from their Algonquin home where they are raising two daughters. The shoes can be purchased online at plattoes.com and are featured in boutiques including City Soles in Chicago and Shoes To You in Miami.

The entrepreneur is working on expanding the shoe styles as well marketing to additional shoe retailers.

Rishi, who worked as a project manager in the past, runs the day-to-day operations of the business while his wife works as a physician anesthesiologist.

The couple says the shoes are stylish, fashionable, fun, sustainable and eco-friendly. Rishi added that his wife's cluttered closet filled with shoes also helped him in developing the prototype that he sent to China to have made.

Before Rishi, 37, left his corporate job, he did a great deal of research into the Plattoes concept.

He believes small business is essential to turning the economy around. "That's where the potential is," he said.

The entrepreneur added that a challenging aspect of getting the business going has been marketing the product, adding that he designed his own website and has been doing his own photography.