Starting a New Shoe Company : FAQ

What does it take to really start a shoe company?Shoe Company FAQ’s

At the Sneaker Factory, we are often asked for advice on how to start a new shoe company.  Here we will answer the most common questions from people around the world.

How to start a shoe business with no money?

Well, this is a tough one. The answer is – you can’t.  Just about everything you need to get started is going to cost some money.  Selling permits, trademark registration, shoe designs, and samples all cost money. Maybe a better question would be – How much money do I need to put into my shoe company to attract investors or launch a Kickstarter™ campaign? You can try to launch a Kickstarter campaign without any actual sample shoes but this will make funding very difficult.

So, how much will it cost to get samples made for a Kickstarter campaign?  If you have your own designs and are using an existing outsole from the factory, $1,000 to $2,500.  If you need an outsole tool made you can add $2,000 to $4,000 depending on the complexity of the molds required. Add another $2,000 to $3,000 if you need professional designs.

(This process and more detailed cost information are covered in full detail in chapter six of our book How to Start Your Own Shoe Company.)

How much does it cost to start a shoe company?

The cost depends on the complexity of your product line. The minimum cost can be only $1,000 to $2,000 if you buy “off the shelf” shoe designs and use stock outsoles and materials. In this case, the start-up costs will include the cost of buying the shoes from the factory and importing them.  Also, you can assume the factory will require a minimum order of 500 pairs.

(This is covered in more detail in chapter six of our book, How to Start Your Own Shoe Company. )

Can I start a shoe business online?

Many people ask me if it is possible to have a factory in China make custom shoes, one-by-one, and have the shoes shipped directly to the customers. Yes, this is possible but very difficult. Factories charge close to double the price for a “one-off shoe”, then there’s the extra expense for air shipping one pair of shoes from China to the USA or Europe which makes the shoes very expensive.  Also, a customer color picker internet interface will be fairly expensive to develop.

What about buying shoes in bulk and selling them online? Yes, this is a fine idea. If you can get paying customers to your website it is possible to make good profit margins this way.

(In the book How to Start Your Own Shoe Company we discuss in detail the costing models and distribution models for internet shoe businesses.)

Can you help me make my shoe business plan?

You will need a detailed business plan and Sneaker Factory is here to assist.  Without a solid plan, your shoe company dream will become a nightmare! Your master plan needs many smaller plans. It is easier to make a comprehensive plan by breaking it down into many smaller parts. Your plan needs to include your brand identity, product plan, financial calculations, sourcing supply chain, sales plan, distribution plan, and marketing plans.

(Shoe company business plans are discussed in chapter 1 of How to Start Your Own Shoe Company and the entire book is your guide to making a complete plan.)

How to start a shoe line from scratch

While this relates to the question “How to start a shoe business without any money?”  The most important idea is to make a shoe LINE.  The work required to make your shoe company is wasted if you only make one shoe design and it fails to sell. You should start with a small product line, 2 or 3 styles in a few colors.  Making more shoes will increase your startup expenses but it will also increase your chance for success. In the trade, we call this small line a merchandise assortment.

(In the book How to Start Your Own Shoe Company we discuss designing your product line in chapter 3.)

Can I start a shoe business from home?

Yes! You can run your small shoe brand entirely from your home. You can have a business selling thousands of shoes without renting office space. This is a fully “virtual” operations plan. Hire out all the services your company requires: design, marketing, warehousing, etc. These can all be done by someone else, someplace else.

(Operational models from traditional to hybrid to virtual are all reviewed in chapter 9 of the book How to Start Your Own Shoe Company.)

How to start a shoe manufacturing company

Many people think Nike™ makes millions of pairs of shoes. The truth is that Nike itself does not make the shoes. Nike, along with the majority of other mega brands, does not own the shoe factories they use. The shoes are developed by Nike in partnership with the factory and Nike lets the factory manufacture the shoes. Nike sets the standards and has an army of inspectors and technicians, but Nike employees do not actually MAKE the shoes.

Starting a shoe manufacturing factory is a totally different question. A new factory requires space, equipment, and workers. Space and equipment are easy to find and buy. Staffing a factory with experienced pattern makers, developers, technicians, and stitchers is a huge challenge.

How much money do I need to start my own shoe brand?

This one is easy. ZERO. Get your brand started with just a pencil and a pad of paper. Write down your ideas, draw your shoes, and sketch your logos. Solve a footwear problem that no one else has solved. Create a design that no one has ever seen.  Build a sneaker which will increase performance on the field, court, or workplace. Your new shoe brand starts in your mind and once you put your ideas down on paper you can begin to build and share them with others.

How To Start Your Own Shoe Company PDFYour next steps:

Check out our book:  How to Start Your Own Shoe Company
Read these articles:  Can I start a shoe company and Finding a Shoe Sourcing Agent. 
Please visit our: Online School School. 

Learn more about making shoes:

Footwear design book Free PFD Shoe Design Book DownloadDo you want to learn how big brands make shoes?  Now you can!  How Shoes are Made will show you how modern shoes come to life! More than just a tour through a sneaker factory and more than your average shoe making book!  From drawing shoe designs to sample development and footwear manufacturing, you will learn how it is all done. Written by veteran shoemaking pros, How Shoes are Made will give you a look inside the REAL world of shoe design, development, and mass production. 220 pages with over 400 color photos and drawings. 26 chapters explaining shoe design, footwear pattern making, sample development, footwear materials selection, upper stitching, outsole and tooling design, shoe lasts, shoe costing, quality inspections, starting you own shoe brand, and much more!  A must read for young shoe designers, sneaker heads, or any footwear fanatic! Over 2500 copies sold! Read in 60 Countries! See Preview Video On YouTube

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Table of Contents:

The Design Process, Shoe Development, Shoe Patterns, Shoe Specifications, Outsole Tooling, Development Process, Pre-Production, Material Preparation, Stitching Operations, Rubber Pressing, EVA Forming, The Assembly Line, The Shoe Last, Footwear Costing, Importing Shoes, Shoe Logo Design, Leather for Shoes, Textiles for Shoes ,Synthetics for Shoes,  Foam for Shoes, Know Your Footbeds, Material Suppliers, Shoe Designers Tools, Jobs in the Shoe Trade ,Quality Control, Starting a Shoe Company, Life at a Shoe Factory, Shoe Making Dictionary

If you want to learn more, check out our new books.

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