The last several months, I've been featuring young entrepreneurs who are creating jobs for themselves and others. The following is an interview with enterprising, persistent brothers who have launched a "sole-ful" company and set a new standard in sandals. Here's how it happened, as told by co-Founder, Matt McManus.
In 2013, while attending the University of Wisconsin, brothers James and Matt McManus decided to jump into the world of footwear. The idea was to offer American consumers a sandal that was a perfect blend between comfort and durability, while bringing the product to market for under $20. Moving forward with the launch became a priority for a senior project assignment. Now, under two years later, the brothers have built up a chain of retailers around the country and are expanding at an impressive rate.
How did you get started with Bokos?
My brother returned from Beijing, where he lived for a year and a half. He brought with him a pair of sandals that was similar to what Bokos is now. They were comfortable, lightweight and made out of a non-porous rubber that made them easy to clean. We had them lying around the house for a summer, and we started to notice that friends and family were constantly talking about how interesting they were. This planted the seed for us to launch Bokos. We spent a year finding a manufacturer to help us craft a product that gave us everything we were looking for, and introduced it to the American marketplace.
What is it like to run a company with your (older) brother?
The most important thing to remember is that partnering up with a family member has to make "business sense." My brother and I didn't go into business together because we're related. We went into business together because we have complementary skill-sets. To me, that's the most important component to keep in mind when determining if a family member is a good potential business partner.
What has been the biggest obstacle in the Bokos journey?
Initially, it was time, or lack thereof. For the first twelve months, my brother and I both worked on Bokos part-time while still holding full-time jobs. As most small-business owners will say, you get out of your business as much as you put in. We felt that we were sometimes running in place when we could only work on the business for a few hours a day. Now, as a full-time employee, time has become less of an issue.
What is the best part about being a small business owner?
It's never boring. Every day presents a set of new challenges and new experiences, and as an owner, you get to have your hand in absolutely everything. On any given day, I might be speaking on the phone with an existing retailer, handling customer service emails, managing our advertising campaigns or packaging up the previous night's customer orders. I haven't once looked at the clock and counted down the time to when my "day is over." I enjoy absolutely every minute of it.
If you could give one piece of advice to aspiring entrepreneurs, what would it be?
Nothing happens overnight. Don't give up. No matter how great your product, no matter how impressive your business model, you will not grow from a complete unknown to a household name overnight. You just won't. It's not how it works. The key idea is that if you trust yourself, and you have confidence in your product, remaining diligent and committed will be the catalyst to your success.
Who are your customers? Break down who wears Bokos.
Our sandals are simple. This was intentional. We wanted our product to become our customer's "go-to" footwear option. I think that's the reason people wear them for so many different reasons. We have athletes that wear them before and after running and in the locker room showers. We have folks that wear them in the vegetable garden, around the campsite, in their cabins and around the yoga studio. I love running a company that lets me work with such a broad array of customers.
The Bokos brothers are proof positive that you can hit the ground running with a global business idea if you are willing to work hard, believe in your idea and not take no for an answer. Walk a mile in their sandals and you just might decide to launch a global business yourself.
To learn more about Bokos, you can check out their website at www.BokosUSA.com.