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Alee Pingol

In the e-commerce business, the best ideas often come out of nowhere. While some dedicate years to searching for the perfect niche, others obtain their ideas from personal experiences or memories …

At least that’s how it was for Cornell student Steven Izen.

At a young age, Izen and his beloved grandfather formed a close bond. However, in his freshman year of college, Izen learned of his grandfather’s diagnosis with Alzheimer’s. Conflicted with his feelings of hopelessness, Izen was sitting on the beach accompanied by friends and family when he suddenly realized all he had to be thankful for.

And that’s when the idea hit him: if only there were a way to capture such contrasting emotions — feeling what he described at his “highest and lowest point” — into physical objects that could be worn, shared, and remembered.

Izen’s entrepreneurial spirit kicked in, and he immediately got to work. He sought to incorporate elements from earth’s highest and lowest points to represent life’s never-ending cycle of highs and lows.

In 2013, Izen founded his sustainable bracelet company, Lokai. Each bracelet includes silicon beads infused with mud from the bottom of the Dead Sea and water from the icy peaks of Mount Everest, which serves as a reminder to stay humble and hopeful.

Since then, celebrities and athletes have grown fond of Lokai’s products. As part of their giving back mission, Lokai donates 10% of net profits to charities that advocate sustainability. Some of Lokai’s accomplishments include rescuing homeless animals, funding mental health hotlines, and building schools. In 2017, Izen was named among Forbes’ 30 Under 30 list

And it all started with a single sentimental moment.

The Story Behind Lokai

In attributes part of Lokai’s quick rise to success to his studies at Cornell University.

He graduated in 2013 from the undergraduate business program where he learned “there are no shortcuts to success.” Izen started Lokai during his senior year, but he continued his studies, taking full advantage of Cornell’s entrepreneurship courses. While college certainly helped with things’ business side, Izen’s inspiration for Lokai came from real-life experiences.

In an interview with Huffington Post, Izen talks about his mindset as he struggled with a personal loss. “The feelings of helplessness towards my grandfather’s diagnosis were in stark contrast to the happiness and gratitude for my life that I felt that day on the beach,” he says. “I realized that life is a cycle of highs and lows, and it’s important to remain humble and grateful at the same time as you’re experiencing everything.”

Izen decided to take these contrasting feelings and transfer them into a real-life product: bracelets — an object small enough to fit around your wrist but important enough to be a daily reminder.

Izen reached out to local organizations and community members to collect resources for his bracelet. The bracelet contains silicon beads, with two beads at either end of the bracelet: one injected with mud from the Dead Sea, and the other injected with water from Mount Everest’s base camp.

The bracelet’s unique design succinctly expresses Lokai’s optimistic motto: “Sometimes you’re on top of the world. Stay humble. Sometimes you’ve hit a low. Stay hopeful.”

Spreading the Word

When Lokai first launched, getting the message out to the community wasn’t easy. In initially spread the word through friends and family, hoping his business’s story would catch wind.

Then, he sought out retail stores, pitching to business owners with a display explaining his product. But it was much more challenging than he expected; only one out of every 30 stores agreed to sell his product.

Despite the challenges he faces, Izen didn’t give up. “If I didn’t believe in Lokai, it would have been easy to let the discouragement get the best of me. It was the passion that kept me going,” says Izen. His passion for his product motivated him to push forward with his business.

One of the biggest things that helped Izen with his business start-up was reaching out to others for help and advice. “I think one of the smartest things you can do is to recognize the areas you’re not well-versed in and be able to ask for help when needed,” he says.

After securing connections and deals with retail stores, Lokai experienced unexpected and rapid growth. The company gained attention from high-end celebrities and athletes, which led to a spontaneous rise in consumer traffic.

From social media gurus like the Kardashians to NFL stars like Richard Sherman, Lokai’s products were suddenly sporting on the wrists of public figures all over the world.

Giving Back to the Community

As part of their mission to give back, Lokai donates 10% of their profits to various charities. But Izen is very selective with the causes he chooses to partner with, specifically charities that “really move the needle” in their search for solutions.

Some of Lokai’s supported charities include Charity Water, No Kid Hungry, The Nature Conservancy, the Humane Society, Alzheimer’s Association, and the World Wildlife Fund.

For each cause, Lokai designs a custom bracelet associated with the charity the proceeds support, also known as the Cause Collection. When someone makes a purchase, Lokai donates $1 to the associated charity of your choice.

The Cause Collection has been a hit, particularly among celebrities. Musician Joe Jonas and model Kendall Jenner can be seen sporting their Breast Cancer Lokai bracelets on their social media accounts. Lokai attributes much of its growth to its social media success.

Since its founding, Lokai has been able to expand to 160 countries and 300 U.S. stores. The company hopes to continue building the brand while staying true to its core values.

Staying True to Lokai’s Roots

Despite facing challenges in the beginning, Izen pushed forward with his business and quickly turned it into a booming e-commerce success. Since then, Lokai’s unprecedented rise to fame has gained attention from people of all walks of life.

But their emphasis on authenticity and dedication to their original mission sets them apart from other retail and e-commerce businesses. Izen was determined to create a brand that stood out from the crowd — something many entrepreneurs struggle to accomplish.

Izen’s personal journey with the company has led him to inspire others who struggle with life’s day-to-day challenges. In a moment of loss, Izen saw the potential to create a product that speaks volumes today. With an emphasis on quality and sustainability, Lokai’s products continue to impact people and support various honorable causes.

On Lokai’s “Our Story” page, Izen encapsulates the mission of his brand with a simple quote: “Life is a journey. Lokai exists to help you find balance between the highs and lows.”

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