PTM 008 – Making Extra Money by Selling Invisible Shoes with Steven Sashen of InvisibleShoe.com

Part Time Money PodcastIn today's episode of the Part-Time Money podcast, I speak with Steven Sashen of InvisibleShoe.com . We discuss how to start a shoe business. Steven stumbled upon a unique shoe product idea associated with a popular trend in the running world: barefoot running. Steven makes “invisible” running shoes based off of the traditional Mexican running sandals of the Tarahumara. Here's what Steven had to say about his part time shoe business pursuit:

I started a side-biz on Nov 23, 2009 making “barefoot” sandals (at www.InvisibleShoe.com). Actually, I have to back up. Id been making running sandals as a hobby. Then a coach suggested I do it “for real.” I pitched this idea to my wife, who totally shot it down. “Youre right,” I said to her. And I waited until she went to sleep and built a website 😉 We started making money right away. And then within 4 months, our “side” business became our full-time business! Now were about to do a retail expansion that should take us into the mid 7 figures within 12-18 months.

Steven's Story: Needing Extra Income During Retirement

Steven Sashen and his wife were retired. However, with the economic downturn the investments they were living on weren’t going to allow them to stay retired. An inventory showed them they had about a year left until they ran out of money. So they started looking around at ways to generate more income.

With Steven’s background in Search Engine marketing, much of their plans centered on online income streams. At the time, neither Steven nor his wife considered that his hobby of barefoot running would contribute to their big financial breakthrough. Read here about another hobby that turned into a full-time job.

Steven had gotten into barefoot running to help cure some of the injuries he had acquired sprinting. Barefoot running comes from the Tarahumara people in the Chihuahua section of Mexico. People there often run barefoot, or use items such as tire scraps cut to the shape of their foot. Steven designed a modern, high-tech version of a 10,000-year-old shoe.

He made the shoes for himself and a few other friends, who in turn, had other friends who wanted the shoes. Eventually, Steven created a pair for his barefoot running coach who encouraged him to sell them.

Eventually, after seeing there was little competition in this rising niche of running, Steven launched a WordPress site to see what would happen. In 3 months, he was making more than enough to cover a car payment. In 6 months, it was a full-time job for he and his wife.

I think if you cannot look back 3-6 months and go, “Wow! What an idiot!” then something is really off. I do not know that there is a way of avoiding that. I have talked to a lot of very successful entrepreneurs, and everyone that I have met says, “Oh yeah, it was just one mistake after another that I was recovering from, and I could not have done differently because I was that person then.” So, if anything the advice I would give about mistakes is, “Just cut yourself some slack, shut up, and keep going.

Making His Business Idea Work

Steven did not necessarily have a business plan at the onset. His “plan” was to use his expertise in search engine marketing–create a lot of content, build up a website, get the content on various social media networks and article sites. He also was looking for places online where his audience was already congregating and participating in those conversations.

Steven is quick to point out the importance of participating in those online conversations—on forums, message boards, and comment sections on other sites. He was careful to not pitch his product, but to offer important ideas or research or content no one else was talking about. He says he didn’t go there to fish, but to swim with everyone else who was in the pool. Other than finding bloggers and people who would review his product, that was all the marketing he did for his entire first year.

Once it became a full-time job for both he and his wife, as well as a few other employees, Steven began reinvesting his profits to grow the company. But eventually, he says, entrepreneurs often get to the point where they have 2 choices: go all in or find external money. So he sought out more money in order to get other people involved to grow the business faster than he would with his own resources. If your business needs extra money, check out this post about small business loans.

Philanthropy is important to Steven and his wife, too. They take a percentage of their profits and donate them to charities that support the cultures that led to his company, such as the Tarahumara Children’s Hospital Fund.

Listen to the Podcast

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Shoe Business Owner Steven SashenHere are the questions I ask Steven in the podcast:

  • Why did you want to start making part time money?
  • What made you choose shoes/sandals?
  • Describe the shoes for us.
  • How did you actually make the shoes?
  • Was there anyone else doing this?
  • How did you catch the wave or trend of barefoot running?
  • How did you make the shoe business take off?
  • How did you promote the business online? What sites did you use?
  • What did you build the site on? What about the e-commerce site?
  • How do you manufacture the shoe?
  • How much time did you spend on the shoe business?
  • How soon did you generate income?
  • What skills did you have going in?
  • What gave you the confidence to go into business on your own?
  • What about structuring the business? Did you formalize that?
  • I notice the site has a toll-free number? How do you handle customer service?
  • How are you supporting the culture in Mexico?
  • What mistakes have you made along the way?
  • How do you drive traffic to the site? Organic or Adwords?
  • Tell me about your call to action on the homepage?

To see the full transcript, click show