This 'dada' takes parenting seriously

Bobby Barzi has his sons' initials tattooed on his wrist.

The father of two, ages 4 and 7, said being a father really shaped him.

"When I became a dad, it changed my life," said the Newport Beach resident. "It made me understand the value of not only what that child is getting from that interaction but what I was getting from it. That was the biggest eye-opener. I think we're usually raised in the sense of you give to your child. What I found was how much I was getting from them."

Inspired by his children, Barzi founded Fodada, a predominantly online clothing company, in May 2012. The business uses funds generated from sales to support programs geared toward fostering relationships between fathers and their children.

Fodada regularly hosts three different programs: Dad and Me, red beanies for newborns and a self-defense class for women.

Barzi, who worked in the technology field before taking on the for-profit business full time, said his main focus is providing support for these programs. He added that business has grown significantly every year since Fodada's opening.

Barzi said he chose to work with clothing because it is something that everybody buys. His "leisure wear," as Barzi described the T-shirts, hats and hoodies, ranges in price from $20 to $45.

"We've been lucky enough that what we're trying to accomplish resonates with people, that they want to support our cause and our product," he said. "I didn't want to just tell people I care about this cause and ask for money. I wanted an open-ended dialogue.

"Every time you wear our clothing, you get reconnected to what we stand for. And every time you meet someone while wearing our clothing, it's a conversation starter. There's this continual discussion. I didn't start this to have a clothing line. That wasn't my dream in life."

The Dad and Me program offers activities that fathers can do with their kids, like building LED pumpkins during the Halloween season with the help of UC Irvine's engineering department.

Barzi, who said he grew up with a strong father figure in his life, said Fodada is looking to team up with other colleges in the country, such as UC Berkeley and Arizona State University, to offer similar activities.

"It's sometimes hard for men to come up with things to do with their kids besides the stereotype of sports," he said. "We want them to do educational activities too. We want these colleges to open their doors, put on a program for the community, and kids and dads can come onto campus and have fun together and learn under the umbrella of higher education. It also gets kids familiar with the colleges and takes down the intimidation factor."

Fathers who participate with their kids in activities sponsored by Fodada earn a free T-shirt.

Fodada's red beanie program, held in conjunction with the American Heart Assn., donates 3,000 red beanies for newborns to participating hospitals in February. The red represents healthy hearts. Fathers can also get their own beanies.

"When the baby comes back with this bright red beanie, it gets your attention," Barzi said. "The nurses then tell the parents, 'We want you to make simple adjustments in your behavior so you can be with this child for many, many years.' "

A free self-defense class is also held every Nov. 21 for women around the world with volunteer instructors. His efforts to get this massive endeavor going resulted this year in the inclusion of 18 cities in 14 countries.

"Women are incredibly important to fathers and their children," Barzi said. "To have them be protected, it just shows what a man's position should be in society, in taking a stance against violence against women and empowering them."

Barzi said he believes his mission is simple.

"If I can save one woman from violence, if we can have more one dad be there for their daughter's wedding because we did something about heart disease, if we can get one child to do something in life because their dad inspired them, that's a win," he said. "That's what we're trying to do."

Copyright © 2017, Weekend
A version of this article appeared in print on November 29, 2015, in the Local section of the Los Angeles Times with the headline "This `dada' takes parenting seriously - Newport man aims to use his clothing company to fund programs like Dad and Me and red beanies for newborns." — Today's paperToday's paper | Subscribe
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