Starting a shoe business can be very lucrative - you can make money by selling shoes, but you can also make money by buying shoes and then reselling them at a higher price.
It's an industry that's been around for hundreds of years, so it's well-established and has plenty of room for growth—especially if you can get in at the ground level. It's also easy to start with minimal investment: even if you only have enough money for two months' worth of inventory, you can still get started right away.
Here are some real life success stories of starting a shoe brand:
1. KASA ($960K/year)
Kartik Gurmule (from Nagpur, Maharashtra, India) started KASA almost 4 years ago.
I am Kartik Gurmule, Founder at KASA, and Co-Founder at Dropshyp. KASA is an online luxury shoe and accessory boutique with over 270 luxury shoes in the collection.
We specialize in brogue designed footwear. All of our products are designed in the United Kingdom and made in Milan, Italy, by our partnered manufacturer. All of the KASA collection is hand-painted and handmade using Blake-stitching techniques. With insoles and outsoles entirely in leather, our shoes are ever long-lasting. Each shoe showcases the brand’s signature style and bears witness to the luxury lifestyle. We are actively marketing our products to our potential customers in the USA, the UK, Australia, and other parts of Europe using a variety of marketing techniques.
2. Xero Shoes ($48M/year)
Steven Sashen (from Broomfield, Colorado, USA) started Xero Shoes almost 13 years ago.
Hi, I’m Steven Sashen and I’m the co-founder (with my wife, Lena Phoenix) and CEO of Xero Shoes.
We’re one of 2018’s 50 Colorado Companies To Watch, repeatedly in the INC. 5000, the 2nd fastest growing company in the Biz West Magazine Mercury 100, and we’ve grown at 80-102%/year since 2014 with 2017 sales of $5.53M.
3. Boomerangz Footwear ($480K/year)
Brad Munro (from Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia) started Boomerangz Footwear over 8 years ago.
Hello, my name is Brad Munro and I am the founder of Boomerangz Interchangeable Thongs… or Flip-Flops or Sandals or Jandals or whatever you call them!
Fast forward a few years and our Boomerangz Thongs are stocked in over 40 independent surf and streetwear stores around Australia plus some of Australia’s best known retail giants such as City Beach, and now Boomerangz Footwear is also available in the USA, Canada, The Caribbean, India and the U.K.
4. CODDI ($24K/year)
Matthew Walters (from Chicago, Illinois, USA) started CODDI over 3 years ago.
Hey guys! My name is Matthew Walters and I’m the founder of CODDI™, a boot company based in Chicago. We launched on Kickstarter in January of this year and raised just over 61K, doubling our goal of 30K. After 4 months of building and shipping the boots to the states, we finally launched our website this June.
This summer we have only utilized free marketing (Instagram/Facebook/Reddit posts). We have not done any paid advertising yet as we are waiting for fall to hit as that is peak purchasing season for boots.
5. zapato FEROZ ($6M/year)
Laura Garcia Perdomo (from Paterna, España) started zapato FEROZ about 6 years ago.
Hello, my name is Lau García and I am the shoemaker, co-founder, and CEO of Zapato FEROZ, a children's footwear company that respects children's feet. I and my partner Héctor, are at the forefront of this brand that seeks to offer the best footwear for babies and children so that their feet are protected, healthy and at the same time enjoying the sensation of going barefoot.
6. B Street Shoes ($720K/year)
Blake Barash (from Newport Beach, CA, USA) started B Street Shoes 11 years ago.
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.
7. Stonz ($3M/year)
Lisa Will (from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada) started Stonz over 18 years ago.
My name is Lisa Will and I am the founder of Stonz, a baby and children vegan footwear and accessories brand. I live in and love Vancouver, BC. I am called a Mompreneur but really I was a person always wanting my own business but having a child kickstarted my entrepreneurial journey for me. I’m good at just being an entrepreneur!.
My story is one that considers these three finite factors everyday and trying to be as successful as I could within them. My judgment for myself is my kids, my relationships, and my mental and physical health. So far I’m winning overall but it’s a long game. Play it knowing it’s a marathon.
8. the DIFFERENCE ($150K/year)
Olguy Songolo (from Leominster, MA, USA) started the DIFFERENCE over 6 years ago.
Hello everyone! My name is Olguy Songolo. I am the co-founder and CEO of the DIFFERENCE, the very first heelless running shoe brand. Why heelless? Extensive research by the original designer, Etienne Penka, has determined that heel strikes are one of the leading causes of injury for runners, causing a host of negative health consequences in the heels, back, knees, and other impact absorption points. We discovered a simple and elegant solution: remove the heel.
As a Black-owned business, we’ve also seen a great deal of interest from the Black community. Another large segment of customers includes medical professionals such as nurses, who have found that wearing our shoes prevents the pain they are accustomed to the feeling after spending all day on their feet. Over the last two months, we’ve seen our revenue dramatically increase, grossing an average of $12,500 each month.
9. TANYA HEATH Paris ($120K/year)
Tanya Heath (from Paris, Ile-de-France, France) started TANYA HEATH Paris over 12 years ago.
My name, as the brand would suggest, is Tanya Heath. I’m something you almost never hear about; a generation X entrepreneur who left a classic career path to follow a dream. My company, TANYA HEATH Paris created the world’s first multi-height shoe with removable heels for professional women who don’t want to be held back by their footwear.
10. Creative Souls ($12K/year)
Drew McNamara (from Chicago, Illinois, USA) started Creative Souls over 4 years ago.
I am Drew McNamara, the founder of Creative Souls. We print designs created by individuals with disabilities onto canvas shoes and apparel. Our artists earn money every time their design sells on one of our products. Our customers are people who want to make a difference in style!
Since August of 2019, we have paid our artists over $1,000 and are looking to make a greater impact in 2020! Today, we average about $1,000 a month from our sales.
11. Atlantis Shoes ($300K/year)
Tom Guo (from Sydney, New South Wales, Australia) started Atlantis Shoes almost 5 years ago.
My name is Tom Guo and I launched Atlantis Shoes, an ethically-made footwear brand inspired by the slow fashion movement and Australian coastal lifestyle.
12. TOMS ($391M/year)
Blake Mycoskie is the Founder of TOMS and he started the business in 2006 after his trip to Argentina where he witnessed the hardships faced by children without shoes.
TOMS offers a variety of new shoe styles for men, women, kids, and gear. Their classic alpargatas and slip-ons are designed with durable traction pads for ultimate comfort on all the adventures life brings you.
Blake Mycoskie (from Los Angeles, CA, USA) started TOMS over 16 years ago.
TOMS was established by Blake Mycoskie as a designer footwear business selling trendy shoes for both men and women.
Blake is a best-selling author, philanthropist, and serial entrepreneur best known for founding TOMS Shoes. He also developed the concept of One for One®, a business model that donates money to a charity for each item bought.
They donate one-third of their earnings to local products. Over 100,000,000 lives have been improved by TOMS since they first launched.
They have always aimed to make people's lives better through their business.
Read the full story on successpodcast.com ➜
13. Nike ($1B/year)
Nike is a champion brand builder. Its advertising slogans—“Bo Knows,” “Just Do It,” “There Is No Finish Line”—have moved beyond advertising into popular expression. Its athletic footwear and clothing have become a piece of Americana. Its brand name is as well-known around the world as IBM and Coke. So it may come as a surprise […]
Phil Knight and Bill Bowerman (from Beaverton, OR, USA) started Nike over 58 years ago.
On January 25, 1964, Bill Bowerman and Phil Knight founded the premium athletic footwear brand Nike.
The company was initially named 'Blue Ribbon Sports. They later changed the name to Nike on May 30, 1971.
Headquartered in Beaverton, OR, Nike is now one of the world's top manufacturers of athletic apparel and footwear.
It all started with a shoe and a t-shirt. Today, it is a complex and diversified multinational corporation.
The brand sells products under the Nike and Jordan names and through its Converse and Jordan Brand divisions.
Read the full story on startuptalky.com ➜
14. Rothy's ($132M/year)
Rothy's is an environmentally-focused women's shoe startup worth over $1 Billion. See how they scaled with SAP Business ByDesign.
Stephen Hawthornthwaite and Roth Martin (from San Francisco, California, USA) started Rothy's over 10 years ago.
Stephen Hawthornthwaite and Roth Martin founded Rothy's, a sustainable lifestyle company selling fashionable shoes and accessories for everyone out of recycled materials.
To set industry-leading standards for sustainable manufacturing, Stephen and Roth opened a fully owned and operated factory in China in 2016.
Additionally, they created a waste-reduction 3D knitting production process. They consider sustainability at every stage of creating their products and running their enterprise.
Rothy's transforms environmentally friendly materials into stunning, long-lasting product designs that their customers absolutely love.
Read the full story on nbs-us.com ➜
15. Fuchsia Shoes ($7.2M/year)
So, you want to start your own shoe line brand. With our detailed business plan and marketing approach, creating your own shoe line has never been easier.
Afshan Abbas (from Seattle, WA, USA) started ** Fuchsia Shoes** over 6 years ago.
Afshan is the co-founder and CEO of Fuchsia, a sustainable footwear company headquartered in Seattle.
Before starting her business, Afshan worked for Microsoft for six years as a senior product manager in the company's global OEM division. She received a Master of Science in Information Management from the University of Washington.
Fuchsia sells South Asian-made, artisanal shoes to customers all over the world. It is a direct-to-consumer fashion company that sells handmade women's footwear, pouches, masks, and so on. They do a very transparent job of selling expensive fashion accessories.
Their shoes are made with inaccessible premium quality raw materials and offer comfort without compromising on style. The brand also offers a dedicated vegan range.
Read the full story on upflip.com ➜
16. Smoove Creations ($40K/year)
What happens when you take a product that everyone knows and already owns, and customize it to match or fit individual styles and aesthetics?
Isaiah Kelly (from Newport, Kentucky, USA) started Smoove Creations over 3 years ago.
Isaiah Kelly is the founder and CEO of Smoove Creations, a Newport-based startup that caters to people who are "sneakerheads" or fans of athletic footwear.
He and his eight-member team serve customers who want unique, personalized sneakers that match their personal style.
Kelly's first experience with business ownership came while working for his father, who ran a landscaping business in LaGrange. Unexpectedly, Kelly didn't care about sneakers until he started working at a Shoe Carnival during the summer.
In 2020, Smoove Creations generated revenue of about $40,000 despite the pandemic.
Read the full story on nkytribune.com ➜
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