I love my iPhone case! Do you? How many cases have you gone through? Me, a few...but this one is it. My nice blue Mrked case is the brainchild of 3 kids - yup, kids. Just your average college kids yet again deciding it's their right to change the world. 15% of the revenues from Mrked goes to teach young girls in emerging markets how to read. Beauty & Benificence in one. Shahneel shares their story - read it and go get a case!
Three sets of parents migrated from South Asia in order to provide their future children an opportunity to access better education. The struggles our parents endured to make it in America motivated us to excel in our academic journeys. This as well as our want to provide an opportunity for people, like you, to better the world we live in developed into the driving force behind Mrked.
Mrked is a tech accessories company that not only offers quality, fashionable products, but also a chance for you to “Leave a Mrk” on the world. Fifteen percent of Mrked’s revenue helps support the works of Room to Read’s Girl Education Program. Educating girls is to most effective and powerful approach to fight global poverty. Educating women will lead to them educating their children, which results in ending the literacy cycle by one generation.
The idea of creating quality tech accessories came from fellow founder Safin Maknojia after he expressed his frustration with the accessories he saw in the market. Walking into the Apple store, you may have noticed the vast selection of iPhone snap cases and high-end fashionable cases that barely offered your $500 investment any protection. On the other end of the spectrum, there are cases on the market that offer great protection, from your waterproof cases to your extreme sports enthusiast cases, but took away from the aesthetics of the iPhone. Our goal was to create a case that would protect a smartphone from the everyday bumps and dings and allows consumers to express their style through our designs.
The idea of creating a philanthropic element to Mrked came from my background in international development studies and my desire to create a social enterprise like Warby Parker and Oliberté. I’ve spent hours and hours throughout my years at Brown University reading about the issues in the developing world – health, education, political, and social issues. All of which are elements that have led to today’s current state of global poverty. After researching about the positive impact a proper education can have on a girl’s life in an Asian and African country, we knew this is what we wanted to support. Finding Room to Read was just the cherry on top in our efforts to Leave a Mrk on the world.
“But Shahneel, how does combining tech accessories and educating even make sense?” Yes, Warby Parker’s partnership with Vision Spring does make sense. And yes, a company like TOMS donating pairs of shoes does make sense. But, who says everything we do in this world has to make obvious sense. We wanted to take a product that we use everyday and provide girls in Asian and African countries with a concept that we also use everyday, education. So is there a direction relationship between tech accessories and education? Maybe, maybe not, but that debate is what makes our company beautiful and the reason why we wanted to enter this market and cause some disruption.
After creating the idea of Mrked, we now had to bring it to life. After sketching out the basic structure of our case, we then started to finalize the materials for the two parts. We decided the outside layer should be made out of polycarbonate plastic because of its high-impact resistance and durability. The inner layer would be composed of thermoplastic polyurethane because of its shock absorption, smoothness, and its ability not to attract lint like silicone. After creating the 3-D rendering of our case, we now moved into designing the cases. One of our main goals was to offer consumers an array of designs from which they could pick at least one favorite. This idea led us to create five different categories: one color (Crayon Box), two color (Double Dutch), three color (Honor Roll), trendy designs (CLASSroom), and animal print (Jungle Gym). Since Safin and I have always been into sneakers and fashion, we started looking through blogs, magazines, and Instagrams to see which color combinations and patterns were popular and trendy. After creating the designs and getting the approval of our third founder Akil Momin, we finalized the 25 designs that currently comprise the 5 collections. The final and definitely the most difficult process of this all was finding a manufacturer. After months of conversations and samples, we were able to finalize our manufacturer. This was the most draining and scariest process of creating Mrked because we knew our selection would impact the quality of the cases.
If someone asked me, "Is Mrked worth all the late nights in the library trying to balance school and the company while sacrificing your 'normal' college experience?" I would undoubtedly smile and answer, "YES!" We were able to create a solution to a problem that your everyday smartphone owner struggles with and accomplish a philanthropic ambition, which will aid young girls in providing a better future for their families and themselves. My parents migrated to this country to provide me with a better education and give me the chance to do something great. Attending an Ivy League university was part one. Hopefully, the success of Mrked will help me take steps towards part two: accomplish something worthwhile and Leave a Mrk on the world.