704
10 min 47 sec

Shoe Designer Runs After $1 Million Challenge

“Why can’t dress shoes look great and perform well at the same time?” This runner and industrial designer was irritated, so he set out to find the sole solution.
High Profit Manufacturing Power of Observation Retail

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What It's About

An industrial designer steps up, delivering comfortable dress shoes that cross the finish line.

Business Model
Manufacturing
Skills Required
Industrial Design & Manufacturing
Complexity
Medium
Profit Potential
High

Words of Wisdom

Justin wanted a fresh take on shoe marketing, so he focused on the innovations and technology that make his shoes unique. And it worked. Press inquiries starting arriving, friends of those first pre-order customers began to order, and retail stores starting calling to ask about supplying the brand. By February of 2016, Wolf & Shepherd made its one millionth dollar. Always remember to look for ways to set you and what you're offering apart from the pack!

Fun Fact

Justin recently put his own product to the test and wore his dress shoes in the running of the bulls in Pamplona, Spain. He then made a new shoe to commemorate the experience—and it sold like wildfire. Maybe next year there will be some more runners in Wolf & Shepherd dress shoes!

Notes from Chris

Episode 704

Growing up, Justin Schneider spent a lot of time running. In high school, he was a natural track star. He then ran for Notre Dame and won a handful of awards, including setting the school record for the Heptathlon.

While in college, many of the projects for his industrial design degree came back to the same thing: athletic shoes. He loved dreaming up ways to improve shoes and sketched designs he hoped to turn into reality someday.

But he didn’t want to just dream, so he called up the Adidas customer service line and asked about a summer internship. Then he called again... And again. After a few weeks, he finally got through to the Senior Designer of Cleated Sports (real title!) who he convinced to give him a spot in the internship.

After graduating, he spent a few years working in the industry—but he was never fully satisfied. He wanted to do something more exciting and unconventional. He eventually stepped away from the shoe world for a few months to sketch newly discovered plant species in Madagascar for National Geographic. He needed a break and was starting to burn out, and it was here that his hustle idea came to him.

A friend from back home called up. “I just bought an expensive pair of handmade English dress shoes, but they’re killing my feet,” his friend said. “Why can’t my dress shoes feel good?”

It was just the type of challenge Justin was looking for—and he threw himself into it. He gave himself 90 days to dream up a design, find a manufacturer, and create a prototype. Since he was already somewhat connected in the industry, it wasn’t hard to find a manufacturing partner. He went to the shoe capital of Mexico: Leon.

Somehow, he had a prototype in his hands 90 days later—and it was just what he had imagined.

Wolf and Shepherd to convey the ambition of the brand (the wolf), as well as its mission to guide and protect the foot (the shepherd).

The problem was, Justin only had about $15,000 to his name to invest, but the minimum manufacturing cost was $60,000. He needed to raise money, and a lot of it.

It wasn't easy convincing people to buy a pair of shoes before trying them on, but somehow, after four grueling weeks of calling and emailing and selling and selling some more, he had 600 pre-orders.

It certainly wasn't always easy, and Justin faced many challenges along the way, but to date, Wolf and Shepherd has sold over 200,000 pairs of shoes and has retail partners all over the country. And Justin still isn’t done yet. He’s thrilled about a brand new product launch next year and a big-time brand ambassador that’s going to lead the marketing. We’ll put our feet to the floor and tread lightly!



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Inspiration is good; inspiration combined with action is better. Now get back to work!

Yours in the revolution,

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Quote of the Day
"I don't feel I was timid when starting Wolf & Shepherd, and if anything, it was completely the opposite. I firmly believe that confidence and perhaps a bit of naivety that 'this will work out' helped me push through all the unpredictable variables and roadblocks that typically KO a startup."
—Justin Schneider #SideHustleSchool

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To infinity and beyond,

Chris Guillebeau