Just another day on the job, and come noon, your dress shoes are already killing your feet. It’s around this time you want to slip out of your leather and into some sneakers, but what if you could have both?
Wolf & Shepherd is bringing you just that. The concept behind this inventive company is creating a performance dress shoe that’s “looking to rid the world of uncomfortable dress shoes,” said founder Justin Schneider.
Justin studied industrial design at Notre Dame, and after graduating, he worked with a few athletic shoe companies, such as adidas, New Balance and Reebok.
“I left Reebok in 2012 or 2013 and started doing some design consulting work overseas,” he said. “When I came back I was catching up with some friends and a buddy of mine was a New York commuter, where any given day he’s walking two miles to work, and his feet were killing him.”
This scenario sparked Justin’s idea, and he began his journey from there.
“I started prototyping some concepts in Atlantic Beach in a 100 square-foot center with about $15,000 in savings and an online page,” he said. “Our first three weeks of our pre-order launch we sold $60,000 worth of shoes.”
What sets them apart is that Wolf & Shepherd has a dual-density support system in their shoes, which are just as handsome looking as they are comfortable.
“What makes them really different is the way that we think about our dress shoes,” Justin said. “When designing track spikes for runners and training shoes, you’re always looking to push the limit.”
Justin took the mindset of pushing the envelope and turned it on to dress shoes where he, “integrated [the idea] and concealed it in a classic shoe without compromising on the classic style and craftsmanship that you’d expect in a quality made, handcrafted shoe.”
One look at their website and you will see that, but try them on, and you’ll understand why they’re so different. “We’re not your grandfather’s shoe,” Justin said. “It’s a really sexy shoe that we’ve built with Italian leather.”
They use the same leather as Louis Vuitton, a name you are probably familiar with. But what sets Wolf & Shepherd apart from designers like Louis Vuitton?
“Aside from the fact that our shoes are lighter than our competitors by over a pound, they’re a more comfortable fit. We have an athletic last [a 360-degree model of the foot] that we sculpt the shoe around. We use carbon fiber, and it’s re-solable at half the price of our competitors.”
When it comes to building a business, you’d think location was key, but for Justin, it was more of a personal choice to stake his claim in Jacksonville.
“My wife and I were dating at the time, and I had the full intention of marrying her. She had a job as the track coach at the University of North Florida, and I was in the early prototyping stages of this company, so it didn’t really matter,” he said. “But, we’ve grown in Jacksonville from nothing to being worth a million dollars in a year and a half.”
If you’ve checked out their site (ladies) you’ve probably noticed there isn’t a line for women, but you’re in luck because a women’s line is definitely in their future.
Justin started his company with just an idea and the mindset to get that idea started. As a successful entrepreneur, he has some advice.
“Don’t be afraid to try something new because you have some kind of reservation,” he said. “When it comes to your journey, there’s a reason why there’s fear, which is a good indication that you should be trying to do something here. Take a risk. The worst thing is settling.”
Justin knows all about taking risk. Entrepreneurship isn’t easy and it takes a strong mindset to put oneself out there. Justin’s company is proof though, that it is possible.