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Class Notes May 2007: Volume 4, Number 2

Natural Sole
Thomas Morris, Marshall 99

Have you founded a company? Worked at a company started by a UCSD alum? We want to know.
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When corporate life begins to grind down the soul, some ­people turn to another kind of sole—shoes.

Although Thomas Morris, Marshall ’99, had a position at HP that allowed him to travel the world, he was craving human interaction—something more personal and fulfilling than giving Powerpoint presentations for businesses in India. His solution? He left his job to start myCATS, an eco-friendly shoe company that uses the proceeds from each purchase to plant 10 trees in rural, needy communities.

“Planting just a few trees can make a huge positive impact—from attracting bees to controlling soil erosion and improving its fertility,” Morris says. “More importantly, it allows the people in those areas to create self-sustaining communities.”

The shoes have chic European styling and are handmade in Spain, from natural materials. With jute or natural rubber soles and blended cotton and linen uppers, they are casually comfortable. The styles reflect the trendy Catalan heritage of Barcelona, Spain—hence the name, myCAT or my Catalonia shoes. The company was launched in mid 2009, with $75,000, two co-founders, one designer, and three sales people in the United States and in Europe. They estimate that sales for 2010 will be approximately $250,000.

The product and cause caught the eye of British designer Simon Spurr, who approached Morris when he was looking for men’s espadrilles for his Spring 2010 line. On the runway, during September 2009’s New York Fashion Week, the shoes were praised for their versatility as well as comfort and durability.

Jessica Kiuhan, Muir ’99, had also had her fair share of ­corporate life having worked for 14 years in sales. When Morris sent out a mass Facebook message announcing his new business, she tried them, was amazed at how comfortable they are, and is now the national sales director of myCAT shoes.

“I feel very fortunate to have been able to develop a business model that includes tree planting,” Morris says. “It not only helps clean the air we all breathe, but directly helps the rural communities who do the planting by raising their standard of living.”

Sarah Alaoui, Sixth 12