How I Started A $50K/Month Business Customizing Sneakers

$50,000
revenue/mo
1
Founders
6
Employees
product
B Street Shoes
from Tampa, Florida, United States
started
$50,000
revenue/mo
1
Founders
6
Employees
821K
alexa rank
466
followers
338
subs
market size
$468B
avg revenue (monthly)
$50K
starting costs
$14.9K
gross margin
40%
time to build
4 months
average product price
$150
growth channels
Advertising on social media
business model
E-Commerce
best tools
Upwork, Fiverr, Google Adwords
time investment
Side project
pros & cons
35 Pros & Cons
tips
1 Tips
Discover what tools Blake reccommends to grow your business!
Discover what books Blake reccommends to grow your business!
Start A Shoe Designing Business

Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?

My name is Blake Barash, owner of B Street Shoes. I’m a custom shoe painter located in Orange County, CA. People know me for my custom painted Nikes, Jordans, and football cleats for NFL players.

My business has grown from painting shoes in my bedroom to have a 1,500 sq ft Studio Warehouse and employ 6 people.

Below you’ll see pictures of where I started painting at a table in my house. Another picture shows where I am in my warehouse today.

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how-i-started-a-50k-month-business-customizing-sneakers The above picture shows Nike in my “Shoedio” filming a segment

What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?

Originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, I was exposed to street culture and sneaker culture. I was a skateboarder and immersed in skater culture. I used to take the subway (B.A.R.T.) and discover different cities and skate sports around me. Riding on the train showed me lots of graffiti art on the walls and it ultimately inspired me to pick up a spray can.

Street art was my first love. I loved the concept of creating a piece of art for everyone in the community. I went to college and got a Bachelors in International Business.

Painting custom shoes in exchange for “exposure” or underpricing my artwork are things I would consider mistakes in the past. You must have pride in your work. If customers are not willing to pay full price, you probably don’t want them as a customer anyway.

When I graduated I moved to Southern California I slept on my friend’s couch while a found a job. I eventually found a job and got an apartment. The position was a Junior Underwriter at a large commercial bank. I sat in a cubicle all day staring at Microsoft Excel sheets. It was super boring and I hated it. The Senior Underwriters were such boring people and I knew I never wanted to be like them. After my 4th anniversary of working there, I walked into my boss’s office and quit.

It was scary but felt like a relief to be moving onto a new chapter in my life. My wife who was my girlfriend at the time was fully supportive at the time and told me she wanted to see me happy.

Since I needed to make some extra money to pay rent I got a job as a server at an Italian food restaurant. I would paint for fun during the day and serve food at night. I was painting on trucker hats for fun and decided to sell them online. This was before Instagram was widely used and Etsy didn’t exist at the time.

My friend who lived in Los Angeles contacted me saying TOMS shoes was looking for an artist that could paint on shoes live at events. I sent TOMS my customized hat portfolio and they hired me. TOMS sent me around the state of California traveling from San Francisco to San Diego painting shoes for customers at events. It was a lot of fun and a great experience. I was taking pictures of all the custom shoes I had painted and decided to create a website listing the best shoes for sale. People loved the shoes and they began to sell!

I started getting emails from potential clients asking if I could paint on Nike, Adidas, Jordans, etc. Even though I wasn’t fully educated on how to best paint those shoes, I said yes! I then began practicing on my own shoes watching whatever YouTube Videos I could find talking about how to paint shoes. After practicing I felt confident with what I was doing.

Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.

When you are in the business of selling something custom, working closely with the client is a big part of the job. If you don’t like interfacing with people and customer service, a custom-made business is probably not the industry what you should be.

Originally I wouldn’t even make mock-ups for customers. I asked them to just trust me that the shoes would turn out great. As time went on and I got good at Adobe Photoshop, I started making customers accurate mock-ups of what they could expect. This allowed me to raise my prices and be more corporate-friendly. Big companies were now able to see exactly what they would be getting and felt more comfortable paying large sums of money.

Often when I’m designing a pair of custom shoes, I like to create a story behind them. Once I made a pair of Nikes look like a fish for an avid fisherman. Another time I made Jordans look like space for astronomer. Incorporating elements from the shoe into the design is something I try to do with every pair. An example would be if I’m painting a Ninja, I would make the Nike Swoosh into a Ninja sword.

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Describe the process of launching the business.

Luckily I had graduated with a Bachelors in Business so I was a step ahead. When starting a business, I knew I wanted to go all in. I had quit my good-paying bank job with benefits, so I knew I needed to make it work.

The steps I made in creating a new business were getting my business license and seller’s permit. Then I got the website URL bstreetshoes.com and filed a Fictitious Business Name Statement with the county clerk-recorder. Other things later followed as my sales and business grew.

Some of those things were new business insurances, hiring staff to help with customer service and shipping, renting out a studio, and incorporating new technology for efficiencies.

To get customers quickly, I priced my custom-painted shoes lower than other artists. I opened up an Etsy store and started social media accounts. In the first year, I was painting shoes full time, my gross sales were $60,000. That felt good at the time, but the truth is my profit margin was almost none. Pricing my products accurately has been my biggest learning lesson over the course of my career.

Lucky for me, there was a low cost of entry into the custom painting business. Similar to tattooing, all you need to start is your paint and paintbrushes. The expensive stuff like a website theme, shipping programs, adobe subscriptions, rent, insurance all came later.

Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?

The way to attract customers is by showing what you do. Lots of people message me on social media asking me for advice on how to build their art careers. When I visit their Instagram page I see that none of their artwork has been posted. No one knows they are an artist. Once you start posting your work, people will see what you do.

Retaining customers is where lots of businesses fail. Since I am running a custom business, customers usually have to wait a few weeks to get their product. It’s important to set expectations and make the waiting period a pleasant process for them. That includes keeping them in the loop. Showing them progress pictures. Making it the full experience for them. You want them to get an exciting feeling that will cause them to come back in the future.

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How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

Guessing how long a custom order will take to complete is a lifelong learning curve. This can change the profit margin on each pair of shoes we ship. I now have a better gauge of how long a pair takes to complete. Now when I customer asks for a certain design like a portrait on the outside of each shoe, I’m able to quote them a price that I know will be profitable. I plan on continuing what I’m doing working with celebrities and brands that I want to align myself with.

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Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

Painting custom shoes in exchange for “exposure” or underpricing my artwork are things I would consider mistakes in the past. You must have pride in your work. If customers are not willing to pay full price, you probably don’t want them as a customer anyway.

Same with giving discounts. Once you give a discount, customers expect a discount in the future. These are all practices that have long-term consequences.

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?

I’ve been inspired by many books and podcasts over the year. My wife Megan Kelly has been a huge inspiration for me. She is a Physical Therapist who used to work at a PT clinic working with amateur and professional athletes. She left 5 years ago and started her own wellness clinic. She had to study extremely hard to get her doctorate and get board certified. Then to advance her own career, she got a Masters in Holistic Nutrition. Megan’s work ethic and drive to become the best have inspired me to get up in the morning and give each day 100%. Follow her on Instagram @mkrootswellness to get a behind-the-scenes look at someone inspirational who started their own business in the wellness industry.

Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting?

My advice for entrepreneurs out there is just to start! Many people overthink the details like copyright and trademark. Don’t get caught up in the small things. Keep the wheels moving and focus on sales. Once sales start coming in, you’ll have the cash flow to tackle the other small issues.

Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?

We are hiring! Follow us on Instagram to find out more information.

Where can we go to learn more?

If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!

-  
Blake Barash,   Founder of B Street Shoes

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