Hustle is the word of the day.
I see a lot of interviews on website & pod-casts of successful entrepreneurs, and they are great. But what you don’t see much of is interviews of guys like myself and millions of others who are in the hustle.
I stumbled across a company last week who is hard in the hustle. They are InSoul Footwear. A company started by Sean O’Shea and two other footwear professionals who are $5,000.00 away from reaching their kick-starter goal, and launching their premier product, The Dress Sneaker.
All after 6 years of pure hustle.
Here is their story.
What is Insole Footwear & who is Sean O’Shea?
InSoul footwear was started by 3 footwear professionals that have worked together throughout the years and have set out to achieve their dream of creating a style, brand & product that they LOVE and absolutely believe in.
Lead by one of footwear’s most sought after designers, Sean O’Shea, they have a strong front man. Sean has successfully designed for top notch companies such as Nike, Ralph Lauren, Adidas, Polo, Converse, and Diesel just to name a few. He recently left his VP of Men’s Design position with Mark Fisher Footwear (brands including: Tommy Hilfiger, Guess, etc…) to focus on the launch of InSoul.
O’Shea’s vision has yielded a timeless, classic, yet innovative style of footwear perfect for every man and every occasion….and one that is completely void in the marketplace. The dress sneaker.
InSoul Footwear’s “Dress Sneaker” aims to bridge the gap between expensive dress shoes and athletic sneakers. Striving to craft a new style of shoes, this Brand is parallel to no other. It’s not often when sneakers get better with age, but that is a feature woven into the construction of this product. The brand’s positioning is very unique and the footwear style is innovative with a rich and classic appeal. It’s a perfect marriage of style and quality. Where the style speaks to the internal athlete and fan of sports, but the quality is timeless and a little more mature. Quality and craftsmanship are deep rooted components in the product.
I was lucky enough to get a few words in with Sean via Skype.
With the promotion of the dress sneaker and the kick-starter being within 5K with 3 days left, Sean has been insanely busy with promotion. But I really wanted to contact him & managed to land 5 minutes to try to pick his brain and bring you some inside value.
The interview is transcribed below.
Me: Sean it’s good to chat with you. II love the shoes and what you are doing. I know you don’t have to long, but can you just give a background on how you started InSoul and went from just a guy to a guy with his own sneaker company?
Sean O’Shea: Thank you, Glad to help.
I started InSoul when I owned my footwear retail boutiques in Santa Barbara, CA a few years ago. I was also heading up design for a local multi-branded footwear company. I had…and still have…a great working and (more importantly) personal relationship with the owner of that company and he allowed me the freedom to pursue my own dreams. Don’t get me wrong, I worked full time and then some, but MADE time during nights, weekends and by squeezing a 25th hour out of the days to forge InSoul into a footwear brand.
I’ve saved, worked triple time, leveraged everything (and I mean everything) at times to make the next phase possible. I’ve also had the full support of some family and friends, even employees of my retail store at the time, who have gone above and beyond what you can even imagine.
Originally we took InSoul down the traditional brand launching path of trade shows, written orders and looking for financial factor groups, angel investors, etc…to help make it all happen. But in 2008 – 2010/11 the market place was rocky, making the difficult journey of being a start-up brand even more impossible than the normal odds.
Although we original wrote nearly $1,000,000 in orders at the 3 trade shows attended, we had completely run out of capital to pay for production costs. We thought we could leverage and negotiate written orders with our factory, but at the end of the day, money talks and paper orders are nothing more than paper orders. They don’t buy the raw material and labor costs needed to construct shoes and run a business. And as a new brand with no production history, factories do not stick their neck out to help you, they do not “front” you production and allow you to pay later.
At the same time, the company I was working for in Santa Barbara had made plans to re-locate to Singapore, which was not an option in my life. I was lucky to have a few other job offers on the table, so with a heavy hand, I put InSoul on HOLD and accepted another job.
Time goes by…in 2013 I personally experienced crowd-funding on Kickstarter by pre-ordering a product for myself. It didn’t hit me right way that this could be the way of raising capital for the initial round of production for InSoul. No…..I had just moved into a new apartment in October and while unpacking I opened the case of finished DRESS SNEAKER prototypes. Four…nearly five years had gone by and I still LOVED these shoes. We set them on a shelf in the living room like the beautiful art work they are to me.
After a few days of them staring me in the face, we knew we had to try again and it was then that the idea of running a Kickstarter campaign to make it all happen hit me
Me: That’s awesome Sean. I love your story. Before your go, do you have any advice for aspiring entrepreneurs starting out, & anyone who have an idea and would like to go the same path of Kick Starter?
Sean O’Shea: For the aspiring entrepreneur I suggest taking jobs based on what you can learn from them, don’t worry about the brand/company name, what other people (friends & family) think is “cool” or even how much you get paid…those are just temporary.
Beyond that…don’t allow yourself to get comfortable or complacent. Being “comfortable” makes taking the risks of starting something 100 times less likely to happen.
If anyone who has an idea and would like to go the same path of crowd-funding….truly believing in the product or project you are working on is KEY. Crowd-funding requires a lot of promotions reaching out to new audiences and finding your core supports…but me, I find it enjoyable because I’m proud of the product and LOVE where & how the brand will grow.
Me: Amazing advice. Amazing story. And amazing company. Thanks for giving us the time and I hope you hit your goal. Take care.
When I found out about Sean and InSoul I not only wanted to get in their and try to help out a fellow hustler, but I wanted to find out how he got to where he is, bring that information to you & spread the message of not giving up. I have crazy respect for a guy who started on a journey 6 years ago and is still putting in the work, and if you are thinking of quitting after 2 years, I hope this inspires you to press on.
Never stop hustling.
And if you want to support Sean & the InSoul footwear team or if you just really want some dress sneakers, the information for their kick-starter campaign is below.
Reason – To open our 1st round of production
Make your pledge (pre-order) on InSoul Footwear’s Kick-Starter site to get your Dress Sneaker. (https://www.kickstarter.