Interview with Niklas Vesely
Founder of 2HEX
‘Quantity and capital is crucial when starting a skate shoe company. A good skate shoe costs you around 18 USD to make. Plus, you have to start with at least 500 pairs per color and size. Therefore, if you want two colors, each in 5 sizes, your first production will cost you 90,000.00 USD.’
What advice would give someone that wants to start their own skate shoe brand?
Until you run productions for 5 million USD or more every year, the margins on shoes are too small to compete with the big and well-established skate shoe brands. If you want to go ahead anyway, then don’t sell to distributors who sell to shops – instead sell to skateboarders directly. By skipping the supply chain, your margins are big enough to compete with the major skate shoe companies.
What is the biggest challenging in getting skate shoes manufactured?
Quantity and capital is crucial when starting a skate shoe company. A good skate shoe costs you around 18 USD to make. Plus, you have to start with at least 500 pairs per color and size. Therefore, if you want two colors, each in 5 sizes, your first production will cost you 90,000.00 USD.
What is the biggest challenge for a manufacturer when dealing with customers?
This is different for every customer. In the beginning it is hardest to identify real potential customers among the big number of people who just dream of starting a skate shoe company but never commit to it. Once a customer committed to starting his or her skate shoe company, the first production is the hardest. Most customers cannot submit a perfect sample of what they want the shoe to look and feel like – therefor we have to make a sample based on the customers description. However, since there are so many details to a skate shoe – all details can never really be communicated within an email. Until we really understand what a new customer has in mind, it can take multiple samples. This samples planning is often more work than the actual production, which is why we now only offer samples of custom made shoes once we received the mass production down payment.
‘Still high-quality skate shoes that are durable, comfortable and protective are much more expensive to make than let’s say a running shoe.’
Minimum orders must be a challenge when you are starting off. There are so many different sizes (full/half sizes), colorways, kids, men, women. How can you support those decisions from a manufacturing perspective?
As described above. If you just want two colors in 5 sizes each, you have to come up with 90.000 USD – skate shoes are really more an additional product for established companies than something you can start with. Also, profit margins are only around 20% or less if you sell to distributors – unlike for example skateboard bearings, wheels or trucks which can be sold at a 100% mark up.
What are some of the Minimum Order Quantities and manufacturing costs if people use your platform?
If you go for just one design in 3 sizes, we can start with 1500 pairs of technical skate shoes at 22 USD each. That’s 33.000 USD to get started. It strongly depends on the type of shoe though. A classical low cab vans kind of skate shoe would only cost around 16 to 18 USD to get started. Once your reach 10.000.000 USD worth of shoe productions, economy of scale comes into play and the costs drop drastically. Still high-quality skate shoes that are durable, comfortable and protective are much more expensive to make than let’s say a running shoe.
What is the most expensive part in the production of skate shoes? Material or labour?
For small quantities its labour. Once you order for over 1 million USD / year, it’s the material.
‘Vietnam is more suitable for mass productions, while China is better for implementing uncommon customizations on small runs of shoes.’
What is the biggest challenge in getting skate shoes actually sold?
You must either have a shoe that offers something no other shoe does, or you have to be cheaper. Being cheaper is almost impossible when starting small. Therefor you must come up with a unique selling proposition. This can either be a more technical shoe, or a shoe with a special story that catches your buyers’ emotions.
Main shoe production locations are currently Vietnam and China. What are the key differences between the two countries when it comes to shoe manufacturing?
Quantity. Vietnam is more suitable for mass productions, while China is better for implementing uncommon customizations on small runs of shoes.
We talk about the most profitable components of skateboarding in an upcoming issue. How would skate shoe rank on this list?
It would rank last. Skate shoes are the least profitable. Shoes are an extremely hard market to enter. But it really comes down to the story, image and technical understanding – Nike was the underdog sponsoring the coolest people and they really understood running. This was how a young boy from the U.S. (Phil Knight, the founder of Nike) beat the German giant Adidas. On that note: If you want to build your own shoe company, there is no better book to learn from than “Shoe Dog” by Phil Knight.