Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
My name is Jason Flores; my wife Sarah and I run The Laceez Company. We make no tie shoelaces for kids, adults, and seniors. We launched Laceez in 2015 as a solution for our daughter to get her shoes on easier and with less hassle.
We sell Laceez to anyone who wears shoes and who doesn’t enjoy tying, knots or bows. We started with $14,000 we had saved and have since generated over $1,000,000 in sales. As of today, Laceez is available at Nordstrom, Staples, Big 5, Target, Walmart.com and Dennis Uniform.
We’re looking to expand our distribution into more US and international chain stores starting in 2021 and increase our online direct to consumer presence.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
When our daughter Savannah was young and struggled with fine motor skills, tying shoes was a very time consuming and frustrating task. So Sarah got some elastic and made a homemade version for her shoes. When we realized how well they worked, Sarah made a pair for my Adidas and we saw that these are in fact very practical and we decided to turn it into a business.
At the time Shark Tank was a very hot new show, and although we thought about it, a competitor with a similar concept happened to beat us to it, so we went another route.
As far as background, we didn't have much experience with manufacturing, but I did have a background in business, wholesale and art design. We were able to build off of that enough to create a new business.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
In the beginning, Sarah bought some basic samples of elastic and tried different end tips by crimping metal tips to them...it worked functionally, but we obviously needed a legitimate factory.
On the first prototypes made for my shoes, I remember an instant thought of ‘people are going to love these' - and that created strong confidence in the product and how to push it.
We first searched locally around the US and Los Angeles, but when we discovered most of these factories in Los Angeles are getting fabrics and textiles from overseas already, we thought we should just go straight to the source. When we found a manufacturer overseas via Alibaba, they were very helpful in getting samples to us. Different colors, materials, pretty much anything we asked. We finally settled on the perfect aglet and lace material and placed a small order.
Since then we've changed manufactures and currently, work with a very successful company in China that was actually founded by an American citizen.
Describe the process of launching the business.
We started with our website and later branched out to try opportunities with Amazon and Zulily.com. We found that good marketing is key but with an accessory-like product, a much different strategy is needed. Upon launch of our site, we decided we would also try retail and planned our first traded show visit in Las Vegas - The Magic Show in February 2015.
There, we were fortunate enough to meet our first retailer, Nordstrom, and we have since been delivering Laceez to Nordstrom Kids Shoe Department every month.
Although that first show was a success, others haven’t been as fruitful. Trade shows are small risks that are often worth taking, however, in my opinion, they’re just not as significant or successful as they once were.
Approaching large retailers isn't easy but we've been successful in building relationships with companies such as Staples, Target, Nordstrom and Big 5.
Reaching them is one thing, but getting the buyers to get excited is a challenge that sometimes works and sometimes doesn't. Some retailers have actually found us, some worked by us just contacting them at the right time. As far as conditions we need to meet in order to be able to work with them, having inventory is 100% necessary, and oftentimes additional inventory, in case they need an immediate re-order. Because if the product sells through quickly you need to be able to replenish - that’s the end goal: consistent re-orders and replenishment. If you don’t have the product when they want to re-order, then it was all for nothing. And if they don’t reorder, you’re now sitting on a lot of extra inventory that you don’t want. But it’s always better to have to deal with the latter because you know you can move the inventory, even if it does take longer than projected.
We flew to Boston to meet with Staples in 2019 and had a great meeting. It was a nice business trip that turned out to be successful. It was 9 degrees and freezing but a memorable visit nonetheless.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
Quality. The customers know what they want and if you can’t provide it they already know who else can. It’s harder to impress people these days, but there’s also a lot more resources these days to still make it very possible. Our first customers were moms, parents, and schools. Since we started only with kids, back to school was a huge season for us. And still is. Back to School is like our holiday season - we love it.
Currently, 60% of our business is retail and the other 40% comes from Amazon, our website, walmart.com, etc. For us social media is great, but it’s tough getting people super excited about shoelaces - so we also have to make sure people see the practicality of them, too.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
Today we are expanding our business online with some special school partnerships for back to school, and some unique fundraisers. Given the uncertainty of employment and the economy, we will have to modify our planning and our goals a bit. Maybe this will be our first back to school season where no tie laces drop down on parent’s ‘items needed’ list, we don’t know for sure yet but are definitely looking to help in any way we can.
We have millions of more shoes to get Laceez on, and we don’t see any shortage of that any time soon. For 2020 we are looking to partner with another brand called Revelrys for a special new online marketplace opportunity where schools are the primary beneficiaries.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
We’ve learned a ton about online shopping, direct to consumer business, the important price points online, etc. In addition to that, we learned that approaching retailers would be a challenge but went for it anyway.
In e-commerce, the price needs to be higher, for the sake of covering our own operation and shipping costs. In retail, the price point needs to be lower not only in wholesale but the price point to the consumer needs to be low and competitive - so high volume is the only option for us on that side of the business.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
We really like Shipstation as the main hub for all our online orders. For our retail side, we work with Ezcom software for EDI management. That’s the system where orders for companies like Staples and Target and Nordstrom come directly in and are processed and invoiced back out through the same system - it’s pretty nice.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
Keep good people around, even if you’re on your own. Have smart people near that you can talk to, ask questions, etc. Plan for the best but prepare for the worst. What can happen, probably will happen, so the sooner you can get to a point where you can bounce back from complications or problems quickly the stronger your business will be.
I wrote that before the Coronavirus pandemic so now I’ll be seeing if we were doing what we were supposed to, and see if we can bounce back for the second half of 2020.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
Always looking to connect and build with people interested in doing the same. So yes.
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
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