There typically isn’t a day that goes by when Seton Catholic senior point guard Isabella DiGiovanni finds much free time for herself.
That’s mostly by choice.
On top of navigating a difficult course load at Seton Catholic and playing for arguably one of the best – and sometimes toughest – high school basketball coaches in the state and country in Karen Self, DiGiovanni has found time to run a business she started with a friend in the attic of her family’s home in Scottsdale.
And if that still isn’t enough, she’s using her business and platform to empower women across the world in India to pursue their dreams and not have to work in poor conditions.
“I was really overwhelmed with the poverty and hardships I really had never seen before in the United States,” said DiGiovanni, who visited India four years ago with her parents on a business trip. “For an American girl, I felt really fortunate to live where I live. I don’t have to deal with that population and pollution and unsanitary conditions they all have to deal with over there.
“I saw some things that really never left my mind.”
DiGiovanni and her longtime friend Connor Nannen started Sand Custom Designs with the idea of donating a portion of the company’s sales on custom tote bags to local schools in India to support young women in their quest for an education.
While she wishes to help the women already working in the unsafe conditions in factories across the country, DiGiovanni realizes they wouldn’t be able to support their families if pulled from the factories. So, she and Nannen have focused on the children of those women who may want to pursue a degree in the medical field.
DiGiovanni said India is experiencing a shortage of about one million doctors and two million nurses compared to the over one billion population. She added that for 72,000 rupees – India’s currency – a woman in India can attend a two-year nursing program. That equates to roughly $1,000 in the United States.
“Our goal for the first year is to get $5,000 raised to send five women to a two-year nursing program,” DiGiovanni said. “This will start to fill that gap of those shortages within the country.”
Juggling Sand Custom Designs, school and basketball hasn’t necessarily been easy, but it’s something DiGiovanni is passionate about.
She’s played a key role at the varsity level as a point guard for Seton Catholic since her freshman season. Her court awareness and ball-handling skills have helped the Lady Sentinels win two state titles in the last three years and as of Monday, Feb. 8, are the top-ranked team in the 4A Conference with a 7-0 record during the pandemic-delayed 2021 season.
Her accolades on the court and personal drive in the classroom led to a full-ride scholarship to Dartmouth of the Ivy League, where she will continue her basketball career next year while attending the Tuck Business School.
“Dartmouth has one of the best business schools in the country, so I look forward to getting my MBA there after graduating,” DiGiovanni said. “When I look back on my decision to go to Seton Catholic, I would not want to go to any other school or play for any other basketball program. (Self) has helped me so much in my basketball journey and as a person, too.
“An Ivy League education is unbeatable, and I think that will only help me in the future in with pursuing women empowerment and pursuing Sand and growing it as much as we can.”
DiGiovanni’s drive to empower women in another country comes during a time in which females are gaining more respect and notoriety in professional environment, including sports.
There have been active conversations over the course of the last couple of years to improve pay and the overall respect for women in the WNBA. In December, Becky Hammon made history as the first woman to serve as head coach of an NBA team, when she filled in for San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich after he was ejected during a game.
Sarah Thomas became the first female to referee a Super Bowl, as she officiated Super Bowl LV between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Kansas City Chiefs last Sunday in Tampa, Florida.
DiGiovanni hopes to continue on with her own mission to empower women with her business and platform as a high-level collegiate athlete when she heads off to Dartmouth.
“I think women empowerment is something all girls should take into consideration and if all women come together to support it, it will only increase,” DiGiovanni said. “I think doing this with Sand, it shows women that no matter where you come from or how old you are you can always help to make a difference in whatever you have a passion about.”
For more information on Sand Custom Designs and DiGiovanni's mission, visit sandcustomdesigns.com.