Monday, April 11, 2011

Curious Business–Zipzshoes + Interview

Zipzshoes is a good example of a company that noticed a tendency among a certain market and created a way to capitalize off of it. In this instance, John Stefani and his father started talking about the frequency in which teenagers change their shoes, and soon after Zipzshoes was born.

A general rule as an entrepreneur: stay alert, observe, and constantly question if there are ways to do things betters. In John’s instant, he and his father observed the habits created out of a consumerism society. They isolated the importance of style for teenagers and the flexibility needed to change shoes wherever and whenever they want. They realized that there is an untapped market available, and they just need to create it.

Be an entrepreneur, and observe.

My interview with John Stefani can be found below.

How long have you known traditional style shoes just wouldn’t cut it. When did this idea germinate and how did you take the first step in turning it into an actionable business? I’m not sure traditional shoes won’t cut it but we did see a unique opportunity to completely revolutionize the way people buy and wear shoes which was really the spark for starting Zipz.  The idea was formed at a family BBQ after some observations my father made about kids changing their shoes all the time.  Being we are both serial entrepreneurs we discussed ways to accomplish an interchangeable shoe.  After a few weeks of deciding a zipper was the best fastening system we immediately moved to do a patent search to see if the idea was in fact available.  Once we had a green light on the patent being available we immediately filed for it and began the ground work with setting up the company and heading into R&D to build prototypes.  That was 2004 so it took quite a bit longer to get the idea from concept to market than expected but there are always challenges.

What kind of previous back-ground did you have that enabled you to develop the concept? We actually had no experience in apparel going into the project.  What we did have was a long track record of previous start-up’s that had been successful and from that a great knowledge of how to bring concepts to market.  We immediately sought to surround ourselves with solid people in the apparel business and we did a lot of focus groups to help point the product in the correct direction during development.  Sure we made some mistakes along the way but again that’s all part of the process.

Do you design the shoes yourself? No, we sought the services of an experienced footwear designer to help with that process.  We knew what we wanted but needed someone to translate that idea into a factory file to be manufactured.  We can do the pattern and color work ourselves no problem but the actual “style” of the shoe was beyond our skill sets.

Who is your target audience? We’re squarely focused on teenagers 13-19 years old as our core segement.

What has been the most difficult stage for zipzshoes? Well nothing is ever easy that’s for sure.  I wouldn’t know what “easy” looked like.  I think for this project the fact you manufacture overseas is really the most difficult thing to tackle.  You have limited control and you have to depend on a lot of people you can’t manage to bring you to market.  Conditions can change quickly so anything with manufacturing is just a pain in the butt.

How long have you been an entrepreneur? I’ve been working for myself since I graduated college so 19 years now I’ve been an entrepreneur.  My dad used to say, “There’s no security working for someone else so remember that” and I always did. do you have other ventures? Zipz is actually my 6th start-up venture of my career.  The early stages are always the most challenging but also the most fun when you look back.

“I’m Scared every day”

Have you ever been scared? I’m scared every day.  I think any business owner can’t afford not to be scared, especially in today’s world.  Being in business for yourself is the scariest thing you can do and that never goes away when you’re a business owner.  If it does go away there is a problem someplace or you’ve sold the business and can relax for a minute until something else grabs you.

What are you most curious about?  I’m curious about everything, especially if someone is talking about it with passion behind it.  I’m smart enough to know what I don’t know which is a lot.  Pay attention to people with passion for what they know and do and you can always learn something useful that in most cases you probably didn’t know before.

Favorite Book? I’m still partial to The Great Gatsby and The Great Santini so I guess anything with “Great” in the title is good.  I also love anything by James Patterson. Talk about a guy who can create amazing stuff from his mind.  Wow.