If you're anything like me, you've probably spent at least a little time thinking about the value of a good pair of shoes (Thanks, Allbirds). Do you buy cheap ones and replace them often? Spend a lot and hope they last? There's definitely strategy involved. There's also a lot of evidence to suggest that cheap shoes don't save you any money in the long run, and may just make you miserable in the meantime.

On the other hand, it can be difficult to justify shelling out $600, even for a quality pair. So what if I told you that the same $600 shoes could be bought for under $300 instead? Now that's a conversation worth having.

Paul Farago thought so, anyway, when he founded Ace Marks in 2016 and began selling quality, handcrafted Italian shoes for (relatively) low prices.

Looking at Ace Marks from the outside in--particularly with the perspective of someone who humbly buys their shoes at the local mall--leads to two big questions. First, what makes a pair of shoes worth $600 (or $10,000) in the first place? Second, if the shoes are that good, how does Farago sell them so cheaply?

The first question is easy to answer: good shoes last longer, feel better, keep your feet healthier, and of course, serve as a status symbol that actually carries practical value (not that we're judging...but we are). Even at their low price point, every handcrafted, hand-dyed pair of Ace Marks is unique, making you the wearer of a one-of-a-kind fashion product.

So how are they under $300?

Here's the foundation of Ace Marks' success story--and there's a simple and compelling lesson that other companies can learn from it.

Ace Marks products rely heavily on the human element--careful craftsmanship and painstaking attention to detail. But Farago's business model hasn't shied away from technology to amplify his cause, either. In fact, it's the digital revolution that's enabled the company's success, from using Kickstarter campaigns and cutting out middlemen with direct-to-consumer e-commerce sales, to forming an active online community around its buyers.

What's the lesson for entrepreneurs? Even if you're operating in or looking to enter a market that's heavily steeped in tradition, embracing digital opportunities--and thinking outside the box--is still the way forward. Empower yourself with tools that are right at your disposal. 

So, the next time you think about a niche product or service to offer, don't just stare at your feet--get going! Follow in the 'footsteps' that inspire relevant action for you. 

Published on: Jan 3, 2019