Are you Sneaker Clean?
While many students spend college avoiding the real world, Marshall Sophomore Wes Tardy isn’t wasting any time. Tardy is doing what every middle-aged man wishes he had, starting a company that focuses on his passion. For Wes, that’s shoe collecting. His company, Shoe Shine, was spawned from the 19-year-old’s love for shoes. “I just loved the design and the meaning behind them,” he said.
A self-described sneaker head, Wes admired the pricey shoes from a distance until he began collecting at 15. As a collector, Wes recognized a niche in the sneaker head community for a clothing line that proudly proclaimed their passion and matched their favorite kicks. He responded with Shoe Shine, a line of hoodies, T-shirts and jackets for the shoe enthusiast in everyone.
“I market to pretty much from 9 to 25, or anyone who is feeling the line. It’s more urban than anything, but I don’t want to limit my line to a certain group of people.”
Wes’ first design, “I am Sneaker Clean” was inspired by his desire to bring sneaker head community into mainstream culture.
“The saying means that you are fresh/fly/clean, and I tried to fuse that with shoes.”
While the line is young, it has met with success. Initially launched last year on eBay, Shoe Shine will soon be available at stores in Huntington, Lexington and Knoxville, and is currently featured at www.sneakerfiles.com and www.theshoegame.com (search I am Sneaker Clean). Plans are in the works for an upcoming Web site (www.shoeshineclothing.com). Wes has shipped products as far as California and Texas, and to some members of the Miami Heat, including West Virginia native Jason Williams. Although Wes struggled to pinpoint the precise moment he knew the line would be successful, the first inkling trickled in with the phone calls and messages of interested consumers and postings at various Web sites.
“I had to take a step back and think, ‘is this really happening?’”
It was when Wes took the serious step to trademark the line that the reality of beginning his own business set in.
“From then on, I could do whatever, but getting it trademarked was a big stepping stone for me because I remember thinking, ‘OK, Wes, this is the real deal. You really are doing it, and from there on I started taking my line seriously and trying to find out how to get it out there.”
While getting a trademark made the company legit, Wes encountered other obstacles while bringing his product to the market.
“Just because someone says they will do something for you doesn’t always mean it will work out the way you planned it.”
Like many young entrepreneurs, Wes also met with criticism.
“Accept criticism and take it in as advice and use it as a tool to motivate you and see what you need.”
And Wes plans to continue improving his line. While the business is currently based at Wes’ Huntington home, his focus and determination to keep his goals in sight have enabled him to expand to stores and across the Internet.
“I think about ideas and marketing strategies all the time. Don’t stop thinking about ideas. Write everything down, even if it isn’t a great idea it might lead to another one that is.”
Wes has big ideas. For the future, he hopes to make contacts, create his own Web site for marketing, get his product in numerous stores and expand the line internationally. Eventually, Wes would like to operate his own store.
Wes recognizes this is only the beginning.
“My line is nowhere near where I want it to be. It’s just starting out and I definitely have a long way to go, but I like that. That just brings more adventure and knowledge into my life. I know there is a lot out there I still need to learn, and I am willing to take that challenge on.”
Wes credits his parents and family as being his greatest source of help. Wes also says the source of his success is God.
“God definitely got me to where I am now and without him, none of this would have happened. So, all my success goes to him, my savior Jesus Christ.”
Wes’ passion for shoe collecting has brought him to another passion: operating Shoe Shine.
“I truly enjoy every second of it and the opportunities that it brings to me. It’s a passion that I have and it just keeps growing. Everyday I wake up and think how I can better myself and my company.”
To become sneaker clean, email Wes Tardy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Contact Laura at email@example.com