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Passion and Knowledge of the Apparel Industry Leads to the Creation of Dhakai in DSM

Dhakai Startup

October 5, 2023


During the latest Small Business & Startup Stories DSM podcast, Russel Karim, Founder of Dhakai, shares about connecting fashion brands to ethical apparel vendors utilizing a worldwide team while living in Iowa. With headquarters in Des Moines, Iowa, Los Angeles, California and Dhaka, Bangladesh, Dhakai partners with manufacturers and brands by integrating technology into the apparel process.

About Dhakai

Growing up, Karim saw his family building relationships in Dhaka, Bangladesh, and has carried that through his entrepreneurial journey. When he moved to the U.S. at 18 years old, he ended up in Iowa where he attended the University of Northern Iowa. He went on to co-found FanFood Inc. and found other startups, including 4axiz IT Solutions and Cedar Valley Food Runner prior to Dhakai. In 2020, he also took part in the Techstars Iowa inaugural cohort, one of 10 startups to be included.

Dhakai, as a backend technology platform, works with customers like HALO Branded Solutions, which carries licensing for sports teams, in the promotional space. As a marketplace, Dhakai makes its profit by taking a percentage of sales as revenue and charges a set fee for automating the design and sampling process for their brands.

Recently, Dhakai has focused on the phygital market, combining a digital experience with fashion items like hats. Currently, phygital tags might allow sports fans and to engage digitally through clothing items for food menus or other game-day specials. Dhakai is also focused on sustainability technology. The company is working to showcase how and where their clothing is made as this is what customers want to know, and publicly sharing this information will become more the norm in the future.

Advice for Success in Greater Des Moines (DSM)

Karim’s advice for other business owners and entrepreneurs is to always be willing to change the business model. As a founder his goal is to continue to reshape and improve the business model, looking at new opportunities and scalability.

Entrepreneurship is difficult. When you are passionate about solving a problem, it requires a lot of work, and a lot of times that looks like working night and day. For this reason, support from the community is essential. Reach out to the people and organizations willing to help you. Don’t be embarrassed to seek this help. It’s okay to be vulnerable and put out there what you need. There are people in DSM who might be the missing puzzle for your business.

Want to know more about what makes Dhakai a great company? Check out the most recent articles on the blog, or follow Dhakai on Facebook or Instagram.

Inspired by this Startup Story? Subscribe to the Small Business & Startup Stories DSM podcast and check out upcoming events, videos and other free resources dedicated to helping startups and small businesses accelerate success in Greater Des Moines (DSM).

Startup Stories DSM

Startup Stories DSM is a podcast featuring conversations with entrepreneurs who share both their victories and failures on their paths to success. It is produced by the Greater Des Moines Partnership.