The founders of Beckett Simonon, the $79 shoe start-up founded in 2012 and based in Bogotá, Colombia, began with a remarkably simple premise: Cool shoes should be affordable.
"We understood how much it cost to make a shoe," says Andrés Niño, the co-founder and CEO of Beckett Simonon. "After seeing how they're sold for $500 or $1,000 dollars, we thought there was a really big opportunity to sell these shoes at a really low price."
Niño and his co-founder, Nicholas Hurtado, both 26, had some experience in manufacturing stylish items at low cost. The pair had previously co-founded a bag and accessories brand, Hasso, on a similar concept. By working with local Colombian manufacturers and selling to directly to customers online, the entrepreneurs were able to retain a sizable portion of the bags' retail margin.
Now they're parlaying those retail concepts in Beckett Simonon, which sells over a dozen styles of shoes, all for $79.
Using just $2,000 in seed money generated from Hasso, the company produced its first batch of inventory--1,000 pairs of shoes. Hurtado, a designer by trade, designed the styles himself. They priced the shoes at $79, which still meant they'd make a 40 percent margin on cost, even with free shipping. And to keep overhead low, the founders kept the team small: They hired a Web developer, an accountant, and one intern. Everything else was done in-house.
In other words--yep, you guessed it--they bootstrapped.
When the brand launched in November 2012, they chose not to hire a PR team. They didn't even sign up for a Google AdWords campaign. Instead, they signed up for a MailChimp account and emailed a few personal connections, who ended up forwarding the brand's launch to Hypebeast and Thrillist, two popular mens blogs, which featured the shoes. The site went viral: In a month, Beckett Simonon sold out of its first round of inventory.
"We were like, 'Damn, we need more inventory.'"
—Andrés Niño, CEO of Beckett Simonon
"It was really amazing," says Niño. "We didn't expect to grow so quickly. We were like, 'Damn, we need more inventory.'"
In December 2012, the company doubled its orders. Now, Beckett Simonon's revenue flow is allowing the founders invest in product development and in improvements to the website.
Niño maintains that Beckett Simonon's shoes are just as durable and stylish as any namebrand competitor--the only difference is in price.
For fashion entrepreneurs like Niño, the direct-to-consumer model is growing increasingly appealing. It makes sense, too. Good design doesn't necessarily cost a lot--but the distribution channels do. By circumventing the traditional retail process, brands like Beckett Simonon can focus on the two things that matter most: design and price.
"Price is absolutely key," says Niño, who adds that the company is looking to eventually move to New York City.
"New York is becoming the centerpoint for brands that mix fashion and technology," he says. "We looked at companies like Warby Parker. The goal is to become a brand where stylish-yet-price-conscious men can find it all."