Barefoot Shoes for Running, Hiking, and Walking – Steven Sashen of Xero Shoes
INTERVIEW VIDEO (Length – 1:12:23)
Sponsors & Partners
Steven Sashen, founder of Xero Shoes shares the story of building an innovative footwear company where the products (shoes) allow natural barefoot fit and comfort and let feet do what is natural – bending, flexing, moving, and feeling. Steven talks about building the company initially through organic growth, shark-tank experience, and being profitable from the start.
Steven Sashen, the co-founder and CEO of Xero Shoes, shares his entrepreneurial journey. Having grown up as a fastest kid in school but getting injured during his return to competitive running, Sashen was influenced by his entrepreneurial parents. He had a varied career, from doing magic shows to inventing software and internet marketing. When asked about the significance of having entrepreneurial parents, Sashen expresses the possibility of both nature and nurture influences. He never considered entrepreneurship risky since it’s all he’s ever known. Xeros Shoes, his footwear company, grew organically from a DIY sandal-making kit idea and evolved into a business offering over 50 different styles. Despite initial challenges with marketing unconventional footwear, their unique value proposition lies in barefoot-inspired designs that promote natural foot movement for improved overall comfort and health. Sahsen’s approach to marketing involves reaching out to potential customers through a loyal customer base, spreading awareness about the negative effects of traditional footwear, and providing alternative options. Regarding competition, Sashen emphasizes the importance of uniqueness and truth when engaging with debates, with a preference for acquiring competing companies for faster growth. Marketing efforts include a focus on existing customers and paid advertising. Sashen also encourages entrepreneurs to read “Fooled by Randomness” by Nassim Taleb and “Stumbling on Happiness” by Daniel Gilbert for insights on luck and happiness in business. Throughout his entrepreneurial journey, Sashen emphasizes innovation, passion, and acceptance of the uncontrollable aspects of business growth.
- 00:00:00 In this section of the TrepTalks YouTube video, host Sushant welcomes Steven Sashen to the show, who is the co-founder and CEO of Zero Shoes, a minimalist footwear company. Sashen shares his background, having grown up as the fastest kid in school but getting injured during his return to competitive running after a 30-year break. He attributes his entrepreneurial spirit to his parents, both of whom had their own businesses. Sashen’s varied career Included doing magic shows for kids’ birthday parties, stand-up comedy, inventing software for film and television writers, and internet marketing since 1992. When asked about the reason he thinks having entrepreneurial parents is a significant predictor for someone becoming an entrepreneur, Sashen expresses that he doesn’t have a definitive answer, mentioning both nature and nurture possibilities. He asserts that he never considered entrepreneurship as risky since it’s the only thing he’s ever known.
- 00:05:00 In this section of the YouTube video titled “Steven Sashen,” the interviewee shares his perspective on finding creative pursuits and making a living. He expresses that the idea of applying for a job has never appealed to him, and he has often clashed with hierarchies and power struggles within organizations. The entrepreneur admits that it is difficult for him to work for someone due to his competitive nature and fear of being perceived as trying to steal a job, even when he is good at what he is hired for. He prefers working with those who are better than him, providing support and understanding, rather than being the one in charge. Sashen also mentions that entrepreneurship requires competence and confidence in various aspects of a business, and hiring genuinely talented individuals is essential. Surprisingly, the speaker reveals that he never considered entrepreneurship as an option, but their zero shoes business evolved organically from a simple do-it-yourself sandal making kit idea.
- 00:10:00 In this section of the YouTube video titled “Steven Sashen,” the founder of Xeros Shoes shares how his business plans didn’t turn out as expected. Initially, they thought they would make a significant profit and be bought out, but that didn’t occur. They met experienced professionals in the footwear industry who believed in their concept and joined the company. Furthermore, they recognized the challenges of running a wholesale footwear business compared to their direct-to-consumer model, which mainly addressed financial, design, and inventory issues. The unique value proposition of Xeros Shoes lies in their barefoot-inspired designs, allowing natural foot movement and improving overall comfort and health. The footwear is characterized by a wider toe box for toes to spread, a low-profile for balance and agility, minimal elevated heels, and flexibility. These shoes have a durable rubber sole and a long-lasting warranty. Xeros Shoes offer a wide range of designs and colors for both casual and performance footwear.
- 00:15:00 In this section of the YouTube video titled “Steven Sashen,” the founder discusses the evolution of his company, which began with a DIY kit for making barefoot-feeling sandals and grew into a business offering over 50 different styles for various activities. The product development process involved both self-initiated ideas and collaboration with experienced footwear designers, leading to ready-to-wear sandals and expansion into multiple product categories. The company’s growth was organic, thanks to a loyal customer base sharing their experiences and spreading the word about the life-changing benefits of zero-drop footwear. Sashen’s approach to marketing involved creating content and offering solutions to address potential customers’ concerns, resulting in a significant portion of sales coming from existing customers and word-of-mouth recommendations.
- 00:20:00 In this section of the YouTube video titled “Steven Sashen,” the founder of Barefoot Technologies discusses the early challenges of marketing their unconventional footwear. In the late 2000s, they could not afford paid advertising as the costs were too high due to opposition from big shoe companies. Seven years later, when prices decreased and new marketing channels emerged, they managed to run their first ad campaign. Their target customers are health and fitness-minded individuals, but they do not have a specific customer avatar due to the various uses and reasons for their shoes. Examples include professional golfers and those seeking foot comfort. Despite the diverse customer base, they aim to make their products attractive or polarizing to grab attention. Their business caters to a broad range of people, as their functional and philosophical approach benefits everyone. They continue to experiment with various interest groups and rely on AI and algorithms to identify potential customers.
- 00:25:00 In this section of the YouTube video titled “Steven Sashen,” the entrepreneur discusses his footwear business and the importance of intellectual property protection. He shares how some competitors infringed on his designs and trademarks, and he relates the story of a missed opportunity for a multi-billion-dollar lawsuit. While he acknowledges regretting letting the larger company off the hook, he emphasizes his determination to protect his business and intellectual property rights. The manufacturing for his footwear takes place in Asia, as there are currently no viable alternatives for producing what they make in other locations.
- 00:30:00 In this section of the YouTube video titled “Steven Sashen,” the speaker discusses the challenges of manufacturing shoes in America and the misunderstanding that consumers have about the cost of producing footwear. He explains that bringing manufacturing back to the United States would be expensive and time-consuming, as the equipment, skilled labor force, and resources are not currently available. Instead, the focus of the brand is to spread awareness about the negative effects of traditional footwear on people’s health and gradually make a difference by providing alternative options to the general public. The speaker emphasizes that their loyal customer base, who have experienced the benefits of their shoes firsthand, acts as brand evangelists, helping to build recognition and increase sales both in retail stores and directly to consumers.
- 00:35:00 In this section of the YouTube video titled “Steven Sashen”, the founder of Xero Shoes discusses his mission to change people’s lives by making barefoot training shoes more accessible. He explains the grassroots approach, which involves getting more shoes on people’s feet, and the top-down approach, which includes collaborating with high-profile individuals and professional athletes. Sashen shares an example of Nike reaching out to him after athletes started using his shoes publicly. He aims to bring as many people into his company as possible to handle the growth and change lives. Sashen mentions that big companies may respond by trying to sue him or acquire his company, but he believes the smartest move would be for them to collaborate and learn how to create the right shoe. He has confidence in his ability to debunk their claims and advance the minimalist shoe movement.
- 00:40:00 In this section of the YouTube video title “Steven Sashen”, the speaker discusses different responses to competition in the market. He emphasizes the importance of having unique perspectives and the truth on one’s side when engaging with debates. The speaker highlights that although acquisition and theft (copying) are ways to compete, it is smarter for companies to acquire to build on existing ideas faster. Sashen then reflects on his experience on Shark Tank and shares how he deemed certain sharks as potential investors based on their backgrounds and interests, but was surprised when Kevin O’Leary made an unexpected high-stakes offer for a large portion of the company. Despite the unexpected offer, the speaker did not find it appealing and the deal ultimately did not go through.
- 00:45:00 In this section of the YouTube video titled “Steven Sashen,” the speaker discusses his marketing efforts for his business, which includes a focus on existing customers and word-of-mouth marketing, as well as new customer acquisition through paid advertising. He has built a team of specialists to handle various aspects of marketing, such as Google ads, Facebook ads, social media, and Amazon. The team typically consists of two to four people per area of expertise. While AI may be useful in some areas, Sashen emphasizes the importance of human expertise for edge cases and complex projects, such as creating minimalist shoes. He also prioritizes marketing efforts based on a matrix of branded and non-branded content, as well as top, middle, and bottom of the funnel strategies. His goal is to reach people who may not be actively looking for his products and disrupt their thinking about comfort in footwear. Sashen maintains a focus on return on investment in his marketing efforts, rather than just return on ad spend.
- 00:50:00 In this section of the YouTube video titled “Steven Sashen,” the speaker discusses the importance of being profitable on the first sale and the challenges of growing a business, specifically in the footwear industry. He mentions that although they have a high lifetime customer value, the pattern of buying footwear is different from subscription-based services. The speaker explains that they need to be profitable from the start and continually, in order to sustain growth and inventory needs. He also discusses the impact of iOS 14 changes on advertising and their efforts to find solutions. The team is globally available and has expanded to Europe, where they are working with a third-party logistics facility due to past experiences. They also have distributors in other countries, such as Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and Thailand. The business is constantly evolving and they are preparing for future growth in various markets.
- 00:55:00 In this section of the YouTube video titled “Steven Sashen”, the founder of XERO Shoes discusses the challenges of expanding their business beyond Europe and the need to establish warehousing in new markets, such as South Africa. He reflects on the realities of entrepreneurship and the importance of accepting that some aspects of business growth are beyond personal control. During a rapid-fire segment, Sashen recommends two books for entrepreneurs: “Fooled by Randomness” by Nassim Taleb, which helps entrepreneurs understand the role of luck in business success, and “Stumbling on Happiness” by Daniel Gilbert, which challenges the assumption that financial success leads to increased happiness. Sashen emphasizes that innovation and passion for one’s business or product idea are key factors in entrepreneurial success. He also shares his perspective on AI, emphasizing its limitations and the importance of focusing on one’s business instead of being distracted by the latest trends.
- 01:00:00 In this section of the YouTube video titled “Steven Sashen,” the speaker discusses his preferred productivity tools, which include pen and paper, and an executive assistant. He shares that his executive assistant helps him manage his email effectively by filtering out unwanted messages, making his daily tasks more manageable. The speaker also talks about his latest vacation experience, where he had no internet access, and the idea struck him for an email tool that could detect vacation responders before sending emails. The speaker further expresses that he does not pay much attention to businesses or people he does not know directly and can apply to his own business. The conversation then shifts to the topic of luck and its role in success, sharing his personal experiences as an example.
- 01:05:00 In this section of the YouTube video titled “Steven Sashen,” the speaker discusses the role of randomness and luck in life and business. He shares an anecdote about how a chance encounter led to a business opportunity and how people often minimize the role of randomness. The speaker also reflects on how a seemingly unpleasant event, such as getting diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, can unexpectedly turn out to be the best thing that ever happened to someone. He advocates for acknowledging the role of chance in life and business and suggests reading the book “Fooled by Randomness” for perspective. The speaker mentions that he and his wife have a profit-sharing bonus program to acknowledge the role of chance and appreciate everyone’s contribution to their business. Despite not receiving any memorable business advice himself, he jokes about giving others the unconventional advice of getting a government job with a pension.
- 01:10:00 In this section of the YouTube video titled “Steven Sashen,” the entrepreneur shares his statistically stupid idea advice for aspiring business owners. He emphasizes the importance of testing the market’s interest in your product or service by spending money on advertising to see if people are willing to pay. According to him, friends and family may be biased and unwilling to share their true opinions, so it’s better to seek out strangers. Sashen advises entrepreneurs to run an ad, measure the response, and if necessary, save money and prepare for potential failure. To learn more about Sashen’s products, viewers can visit his website at xo.com, xeroshoes.co.uk, or check for local retailers via his site’s store locator. The interview concludes with Sashen expressing his pleasure at being part of the conversation and wishing everyone the best.
People & Resources Mentioned in the Episode
Book: Fooled by Randomness by Nassim Nicholas Taleb
Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Todd Gilbert
What You’ll Learn
Interview with Steven Sashen of Xero Shoes
|[00:00:08] Introduction to Treptalks & Guest Introduction (Steven Sashen)
|[00:01:01] Steven Sashen’s Background: Running and Entrepreneurship
|[00:02:08] Influence of Family & Early Entrepreneurial Ventures
|[00:03:25] Entrepreneurial Beginnings & Diverse Career Path
|[00:04:00] Nature vs. Nurture: Parental Influence on Entrepreneurship
|[00:05:00] Entrepreneurial Mindset & Views on Traditional Employment
|[00:06:00] Challenges Working in Traditional Environments
|[00:07:11] Collaborating with High-Level Competence
|[00:08:29] Entrepreneurial Competence & Hiring Dynamics
|[00:11:03] Introduction to Footwear Differentiation
|[00:11:58] The Impact of Footwear on Body Functionality
|[00:12:53] Negative Effects of Conventional Footwear on Health
|[00:14:30] Unique Features of Xero Shoes’ Footwear
|[00:15:00] Product Diversity & Design Rationale
|[00:15:37] Evolution of Product Development & Expansion
|[00:17:00] Organic Growth & Customer Testimonials
|[00:18:16] Identifying Target Customers & Market Approach
|[00:21:24] Identifying Target Market & Product Differentiation
|[00:22:00] Customer Experience & Shoe Impact
|[00:23:00] Diverse Customer Base & Product Appeal
|[00:24:00] Intellectual Property & Trademark Challenges
|[00:25:30] Regrets & Legal Approach to Infringements
|[00:27:00] Manufacturing Challenges & Geographic Limitations
|[00:29:30] Cost of Manufacturing & Retail Dynamics
|[00:32:03] Retail Presence & Direct-to-Consumer Success
|[00:33:43] Brand Focus & Changing the World
|[00:34:15] Shoes Impact & Customer Loyalty
|[00:35:03] Strategy for Mainstream Recognition
|[00:36:00] Engaging with Big Companies
|[00:37:28] Responses from Larger Corporations
|[00:38:00] Intellectual Property and Copying
|[00:41:00] Big Company Tactics & Acquisition
|[00:42:51] Shark Tank Experience & Seeking Partnerships
|[00:45:21] Marketing Approach & Team Structure
|[00:46:00] Building a Specialized Marketing Team
|[00:47:00] ROI Focus & Strategies for Cold Traffic
|[00:48:00] Shifting Marketing Strategies & Challenges
|[00:49:00] Adapting to iOS 14 Changes
|[00:50:00] Maintaining Profitability from Day One
|[00:51:00] Annual Team Meetings & Collaborative Ideas
|[00:52:34] Global Markets & Fulfillment Strategies
|[00:56:07] Book Recommendations for Entrepreneurs
|[00:56:24] Understanding Luck & Happiness
|[00:57:00] Entrepreneurship and Happiness
|[00:57:50] Learning from Richard Branson’s Story
|[00:57:58] Exciting Innovations in E-commerce/Tech
|[00:58:11] AI Limitations and Adaptability
|[00:59:47] Productivity Tools and Approaches
|[01:02:00] Appreciating Luck’s Role in Success
|[01:09:18] “Government Job with a Pension”
|[01:10:00] Testing Entrepreneurial Ideas
|[01:11:00] Proving Yourself Wrong
|[01:12:00] Connect with Xero Shoes
In this segment, the guest will answer a few questions quickly in one or two sentences.
Steven Sashen of Xero Shoes
- Book recommendation that you would make to entrepreneurs or business professionals (Response: Fooled by Randomness by Nassim Nicholas Taleb
Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Todd Gilbert)
- An innovative product or idea in the current e-commerce retail or tech landscape that you feel excited about (Response:)
- A business or productivity tool or software that you would recommend/Productivity Tip. (Response:)
- A startup or business (in ecommerce, retail, or tech) that you think is currently doing great things. (Response🙂
- A peer entrepreneur or businessperson whom you look up to or someone who inspires you (Response:)
- One networking tip or building and sustaining valuable professional relationships.
- Best business advice you ever received (Response: Get a government job with a pension)
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Hey there entrepreneurs, my name is Sushant and welcome to Treptalks. This is the show where I interview successful e-commerce entrepreneurs, business executives and thought leaders and ask them questions about their business story and also dive deep into some of the strategies and tactics that they have used to start and grow their businesses.
And today I’m really excited to welcome Steven Sashen to the show. Steven is a former competitive runner and the co-founder and CEO of Treptalks. Xero Shoes.
Steven Sashen of Xero Shoes: What were you not? I made that face because I’m still a competitive runner. So I’m a competitive sprinter at 61.
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Awesome. Awesome. I don’t know. I got that from somewhere else.
So it’s my mistake. Um, Xero Shoes is a minimalist footwear company dedicated to giving people the freedom of barefoot movement. And today I’m going to ask. Thank you. Steven, a few questions about his entrepreneurial journey and some of the strategies and tactics that he has [00:01:00] used to start and grow his business.
So Steven, thank you so much for joining me today at Tripp Talks. We really, really appreciate your time. Pleasure. Let the fun begin. I mean, so we can start there, you know, it’s, uh, we were just talking and you said you’re still a competitive runner and you obviously don’t look 61. I mean, at least I don’t, you don’t look 61.
I don’t know what
Steven Sashen of Xero Shoes: 61 supposed to look like, but I mean,
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: from like a comparative, you know, if you compare like. The average person at 61,
Steven Sashen of Xero Shoes: well, where’s the fun of comparing yourself to average?
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: No fun, no fun. And you’re not average for sure. So can you share a little bit about yourself in, you know, how did you get into competitive running and what kind of got you into entrepreneurship and starting this
Steven Sashen of Xero Shoes: business?
Well, the running part is pretty simple. I was growing up the fastest kid anybody knew right through elementary school and middle school, then everyone got taller than me [00:02:00] and the running coach that we had, or the track coach we had in my high school, didn’t know what to do. He wasn’t actually a really good coach, frankly.
So I stopped running. Um, I was a gymnast as well. So I focused on that and I gave up running from the time I was 15 till I was 45. And what happened then was a friend of mine, um, made a comment about how there’s a competitive track and field circuit for older people, master’s athletics. And I had no idea.
And it just so happens I was living in Boulder, Colorado, where. I’m a competitive and world champion. Runners are everywhere. So I got back into sprinting at for a 30 year break. And I spent the next two years getting injured pretty much constantly because in my head, I was still in my twenties and my body was definitely in its forties.
And then, um, uh, that leads to the entrepreneurial part. Skip go way back in time prior to starting zero shoes. The number one predictor of someone becoming an entrepreneur is having parents who are. So my father was a dentist. He started his own practice. My mother. Uh, her father was an entrepreneur. He [00:03:00] had his own business as well.
And she did a lot of consulting and started her own company also. And so I’ve never had a job. Um, from the time I was a kid, I did things to make a living starting my own businesses, doing magic shows for kids birthday parties. In fact, um, when my sister became a freshman in college, she’s a couple of years younger than me, she called me and said, how much allowance did dad give you when you were a freshman?
And I said, um, yeah, I haven’t gotten an allowance since I was like 15 and started making my own money. And there’s a long pause and she goes, okay, don’t tell him I called. So, uh, so. Out of college, I did stand up comedy for a living. I then invented a piece of software for film and television writers because I was doing some screenwriting.
I got a degree from Columbia University Film School. Um, I’ve, I’ve, I’ve been an internet marketer since 1992. So I’ve just done nothing but find things that were interesting to me and happily found a way to make a living with those things.
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: [00:04:00] That is so interesting. Such an interesting background. And it’s interesting that you say that number one predictor for someone becoming an entrepreneur is the parents being entrepreneur, which kind of logically makes sense.
Um, but, um, why, why do you think that is? I mean, do you think that entrepreneurship is like, it’s certain, like it’s, it’s a way of thinking that. Unless like, you know, I know there are some people who are kind of born entrepreneur, like, you know, they are born sell salespeople, um, do you think that
Steven Sashen of Xero Shoes: the people who are going to have the nature nurture conversation?
Um, yeah, I don’t have a good answer for that. I don’t know how much of it is some genetic something or how much of it is just modeling what you see. Uh, I know that many of my parents friends also had their own businesses. So that was just sort of around me, but many people think of entrepreneurship as risky.
And what I can say is that that’s never been a thought that’s crossed my mind. [00:05:00] Um, I, I, for me, it’s always just, you know, the idea of. Finding something interesting and pursuing that and finding a way to make a living at that. That’s just always been the way that I’ve thought. It literally never occurred to me to try to apply for a job.
Um, I’ve occasionally thought about doing it just to see what it’s like. Hmm.
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: And, and you, did you ever get, I mean, the other thing is. Entrepreneurs actually, it’s, it’s difficult for entrepreneurs to find a job because a lot of the times it’s
Steven Sashen of Xero Shoes: like, Oh no, I don’t play well with others. Um, or at least I’ll say it this way.
My father, I was asking my father for a loan for something that I was trying to do. I don’t remember what it was. And he said to me, why don’t you just get a job? And I said, cause it wouldn’t end well for anybody. And all that really means is that most of the times if I’m working for someone Unless they are super, super, super smart and competent, then they would think that I’m trying to steal their job, which would not be the case.
Um, but I’m really good at the things that I’m good at, and that’s what they’d be hiring me [00:06:00] for. And if there’s any sort of hierarchy or any sort of political, you know, ladder climbing. It just wouldn’t end well. I mean, I haven’t, again, haven’t had a job, but I’ve been involved with organizations where the, at some point the person at the top of the organization is happy having me on board because we’re very much equals and they’re able to do the same job.
And then at a certain point they think we’re in a power struggle. I’m not in a power struggle. I’m just having a good time, but they think that there’s a power struggle because I’m able to do what they’re doing as well or better than they are. And so then it, you know, it gets messy fast. So whenever I’m in any sort of group like that, the thing that I say to the person leading it is please fire me as quickly as you can kick me out as soon as possible, because if not, it’s going to get messy because you’re going to think I’m doing something that I’m not doing.
You’re going to think I’m trying to take over. Totally not my interest. I’m just here to have a good time and, you know, do things that are fun. I think that’s a great
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: insight. And I think, uh, uh, you’re very correct. You know, I think [00:07:00] It takes a really evolved leader to kind of work with someone who, who is kind of, you know, working at a very high level or, you know, can, can give somebody, you know, can be perceived as a threat.
Steven Sashen of Xero Shoes: Well, and here’s what’s so funny is on the other side of that equation, there’s nothing I like better. Then finding someone who’s much better than I am at something. And because I’m, uh, you know, I’m good at a lot of the things related to internet marketing. Um, and I’ve, I found that I’m good with about things about product development, all the stuff involved in zero shoes.
There’s places where I’m, I’m good at it. And my wife as well. I mean, she’s a finance operations person. I’m a marketing product person. And so, but we both have a really good overarching view. Of every aspect of our business, so there’s definitely people with much more talent than what we have, but we’re also contributing into the conversation because we know enough not to be dangerous, but enough to be helpful and so I mean, literally, there’s nothing that I would like more than to have have [00:08:00] no nothing but people who are better at this than I am so that I can be part of what they’re doing and encourage them and understand it and be helpful, but not have to be the guy doing all that work, frankly.
And I think that’s,
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: that’s kind of essential in entrepreneurship. Like you want to have people in your team who are really great at what they’re doing. You don’t want to be doing, you know, you don’t want to be the person who knows everything or doing everything, uh, uh, otherwise,
Steven Sashen of Xero Shoes: yeah, at a certain point you can, when you’re just getting started, if you’re a small company, but.
You know, there are a lot of entrepreneurs who say, well, I’m not really smart. I just hire people smarter than me. And I think they’re stupid. And what I mean is if you’re not competent at all of those pieces, how do you know you’re hiring someone really good? So if you, you need to have competence in as many aspects of your business as possible so that you can hire properly so that you can, you can monitor and vet and manage people properly.
And so when everyone’s like, I’m just, you know, I’m just a dumb guy. I [00:09:00] hired smart people. It’s like, I don’t buy that.
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: For sure. Uh, I think entrepreneurs have a different way of thinking. Um,
Steven Sashen of Xero Shoes: so you may have a question about that.
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Yeah, so you mentioned that you never considered entrepreneurship a risk and you know before this interview I was thinking about this a little bit that Anybody who wants to go in a shoe business?
You know, there’s a complete idiots. I mean, it is. I was. That’s what the word that came to mind was a very risky, uh, business to get into because you have like everybody, everybody wears shoes and there’s no shortage of shoes. There’s all kinds of brands. There’s all kinds of price points. And you’re basically going against like this big, uh,
Steven Sashen of Xero Shoes: sea or ocean competition.
Yeah. Yeah. No. So look. Yeah. Uh, we didn’t start trying. We didn’t think, Hey, we’re getting into the shoe business. Our business evolved very organically from a very simple little idea. It was a do it yourself sandal making kit based on a 10, 000 year old [00:10:00] design idea. So we, we, and we literally thought that would be the basis of our business.
And we also literally thought that once we got to about a million or 2 million in sales, somebody would happily buy us out. For five, six, 7 million, and we could retire. Um, neither of those things turned out to be the case. So we found ourselves accidentally in a business now at about the seven month mark, we met people who had been in footwear for about 35 years prior to us meeting them.
And they literally sat down at our, uh, dining room table, giving us some advice and said to us, we believe in you and we believe in what you’re doing. And we would start this company with you, but we’ve been in the footwear business so long that we’re not stupid enough to try and start a shoe company.
And so, and there’s another aspect of that because most footwear is sold directly in stores and running a wholesale based business instead of a direct to consumer business adds a whole other layer of problems, financial problems, design problems, inventory problems. And we didn’t have those because we’re predominantly direct to [00:11:00] consumer business from day one and still are actually at this point.
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: You do have a clear value proposition. I mean, your value proposition is, uh, uh, your footwear. is, I mean, there is a, you know, it’s, it’s giving people the freedom of barefoot movement. So can you talk a little bit about what’s different about this footwear?
Steven Sashen of Xero Shoes: Yeah, the simple thing is almost all modern footwear gets in the way of letting your feet do what they’re made to do.
Your feet are supposed to bend and flex and move and feel. If you don’t let them bend and flex and move, that’s for balance and agility and mobility. If you don’t let them do that, that function tries unsuccessfully to move up into joints that aren’t wired for that. Your ankle, your knee, your hip, and your back.
So if your feet don’t feel good at the end of the day, one part is because you’re not letting them do their job and other parts of your body are trying to take over. The second thing I mentioned, you’re supposed to feel you have more nerve endings in the soles of your feet than anywhere but your fingertips and lips.
So imagine what happens if you can’t. [00:12:00] Feel something. I mean, there’s a reason that you have those. It’s for balance. It’s for knowing what you’re stepping on or stepping in so you can adjust accordingly. If you’re not giving your brain that information, what happens? Again, you have issues with balance, you have issues with mobility.
You have it. It just gets in the way. So our shoes are designed to give you that natural experience. More it’s natural comfort, natural performance, natural health. So if you can’t move, you know, think about putting your arm in a cast. It gets weak over time. If your foot is in something that doesn’t flex and bend and move, same thing.
It gets weak over time. If you add an arch support, research shows the same thing. It’s just like supporting any other joint of your body. If you don’t let your arch move by supporting it. It gets weaker over time. And what does that cause? Eventually, uh, can cause any issues with your ankles, your knees, your hips, your back, even up to your neck.
It can cause balance issues that cause elderly people, including my father to be one of those people who trips, falls down, breaks their hip and dies [00:13:00] very soon thereafter. And I say that without much emotion because it was quite a while ago. Um, so. All of our shoes. I wish I had one here. I’m normally at our office doing this, but I just came back from a trip and frankly, my wife has COVID.
So I’m isolating as well to make sure anyway. So our shoes, um, wider toe box, your toes can spread instead of squeezing together low to the ground for balance and agility. Instead of being, you know, really high off the ground, we don’t elevate your heel because that messes with your posture. We don’t have a thing called toe spring where the toe is raised up because that makes it.
So you’re The tendons in your feet aren’t working properly. They’re super, super flexible. So the, all the bones and joints are, which are designed to move, can move. They’re really, really lightweight. We’ve had, we’ve literally had people say they forgot they were wearing their shoes when they got into bed.
Um, and most running shoes in particular are designed with planned obsolescence. They say you have to replace them every three to 500 miles. They actually are worse. within about a hundred miles. Um, but they’re made with all that foam. The [00:14:00] foam breaks down. They make sure the rubber underneath the foam breaks down around that same time.
We don’t have that big thick foam midsole. And so instead, um, we developed our own rubber and it’s really durable and flexible. And so we have our, our shoes have a 5, 000 mile sole warranty instead of that, you know, three to 500 mile thing. And they’re affordable as well.
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: So the main difference about your shoes is really the, the thin rubber sole that kind of, I guess, takes the point
Steven Sashen of Xero Shoes: that, you know, getting that kind of getting that feedback plus protection is important, but also just the rest of the design, not squeezing your toes, not elevating your heel, just not getting in the way of letting your body do what it’s made to do naturally.
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: And, uh, can you talk about your, like, product selection? I do see that you have a wide range of, uh, designs and colors and so forth. So the basic idea is the same. And then on top of that, you have like a wide range of selection. Yeah.
Steven Sashen of Xero Shoes: We have casual and performance [00:15:00] shoes, boots, and sandals, about 52 different styles right now.
That people use for everything from taking a walk to running ultramarathons, to playing pickleball, to playing basketball or tennis, uh, to just walking around, hiking, running. I mean, you name it, people do almost everything you can think of in our shoes. What was
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: the product development process? Like, is this something that is this is the idea that you came on your own while you were kind of going through that, uh, running journey, or is this something that you kind of, you know, You said this, yeah, this could be an interesting idea and you work with other like product developers.
Steven Sashen of Xero Shoes: Um, a little bit of both. So again, our first product was literally a sheet of rubber, 12 inches square, some cord and instructions on how to cut out something, the shape of your foot and put the cord in there and attach it to your foot. So you could walk around in something that was giving you that barefoot feeling, but with protection.
Um, and then we, people were. Kind of telling us, well, there’ll be great. [00:16:00] I like the idea, but I don’t want to make my own shoes. And so I was working this problem for quite a while. And as I’m trying to figure out how to make a ready to wear version of that same product, we ended up meeting someone who had been a footwear designer for new boy.
35, almost 40 years at that time. And he saw what we were doing, tried one of our do it yourself kits. It changed his life. It changed his wife’s life. Suddenly, you know, they weren’t running before, um, because their knees were bothering them and now they were able to run and walk and hike. And so he had just retired.
and wanted to help us. And we were able to afford him because he had just retired. So, uh, so we brought in, there’s a guy named Dennis Griskell. We brought him in and with his help, we developed ready to wear sandals and then a sport sandal like Teva Chaco Keen, but weighs 70 percent less. And then people kept basically kept asking us for what they wanted next.
So I love these sandals, but what am I going to do in the winter? What am I going to do at the office? What am I going to do if one after the other after the [00:17:00] other? And so with Dennis’s help, um, our product line expanded to maybe, oh gosh, 40 products. Uh, we have a, a number of designers on our team, product developers on our team.
The factories we work with have people on their team. So now if you look at our entire product team, from design to production and quality control, there’s probably 20 people involved, uh, and that’s growing as we’re moving into other specific venues like, uh, specific sports, basketball, football, soccer, et cetera.
So we’re bringing additional people who have expertise in those areas as well. Awesome.
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Um, I definitely want to, uh, I will ask you about your team a little bit more. Um, but I guess my next question would be, to me, it seems like your business, so you had this product where people had to assemble the, the shoes, uh, themselves.
And from there, to me, it seems like you kind of grew your, um, Product or the community [00:18:00] around that product quite organically, because if your model is direct to consumer and you’re going against like a wide range of other shoes in the market, um, how do you kind of. Tell customers, Hey, come check my shoe out because it’s a little
Steven Sashen of Xero Shoes: bit different.
Well, um, half of our sales are coming from existing customers and out of the new sales, a lot of them are coming from those existing customers. So it’s people, I did a survey recently and asked our customers, how many times, or how many of you have been stopped on the street by someone asking about your shoes?
75 percent said that’s happened to them. I asked how many people have been stopped on the street, uh, or if you’ve been stopped on the street because someone recognized you were wearing Xero shoes. And about 65 percent of the people said that that happened to them. I said, how many times have you just bumped into somebody else wearing Xero shoes?
They said, that’s about 50 percent said that’s happened to them. So. The biggest thing that’s allowed us to grow is that we’re creating a product that changes people’s lives, that makes them feel good, that lets them use their body naturally. They’re able [00:19:00] to do things that they either haven’t done in years or have never been able to do at every age from, you know, from 10 to 95.
So the first part, when we just got started, which is the end of 2009. I just made a bunch of videos. I syndicated those in every video platform that existed at the time. And there’s about 20 of them. And I just made a lot of content to just share this whole idea, but also there was interest in this to begin with.
There was not a lot, but you know, decent amount. And I just got involved in those conversations. I just tried to offer value to the people who were already expressing interest. A friend of mine said this really well, making money is easy. Just find out where the money is flowing and get in the way. Or another way of saying that is find where people who are already.
congregating, talking about what you’re doing, see what they’re complaining about and see if you can offer them some solutions and then the, then if you have, I mean, in our case, the solution was, here’s what you can do, you can go get all the parts on your own, or we’ve already assembled them for you and it’ll be less expensive.[00:20:00]
Uh, and then it’s just moved from there. We, at first, we couldn’t even do any paid advertising because it was too expensive. We had a 20 product. And at the, in the early days and the whole barefoot boom back in 2009, 2010, the big shoe companies were paying two, three, 4 a click just to keep people away from this idea.
And so it took us maybe Oh my, like seven years, maybe, until we could actually run our first paid ad because things had gotten less expensive, we were getting more popular, we got better at doing what we were doing, prices again came down on ads, and we were just capitalizing on new channels that emerged that didn’t exist back in late 2009.
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: do you have kind of a better idea of your, uh, of your, um, you know, the target customer persona? Like I’m assuming, you know, for, for the regular average Joe, you know, for example, when I go to buy a shoe, I’m looking [00:21:00] like my main criteria is. You know, what is what’s going to look fashionable and things like that, right?
Um, I would assume a lot of the, the average Joe who are not thinking about the function more than the fashion, you know, they may not even, you know, think about the functionality aspect of it. So is it more around like people who are more into like running, walking or,
Steven Sashen of Xero Shoes: uh, No, it’s, um, I like to say that it’s health and fitness minded people, but that’s almost everybody really, you know, if you have back pain or knee pain or whatever, and I’m not saying we cure back pain or knee pain, I’m not allowed to use the P word.
Um, uh, because we don’t have, and there’s things that if you read testimonials on our website, you hear amazing things from people. Once you let your feet do, what’s natural, your body do, it’s natural. Some incredible things can happen. We can’t talk about make medical claims because there’s not a. Specific scientific study done with our shoes and talks about some of these now, happily, some of these studies are going on right now.
And soon we’ll be [00:22:00] able to use certain words that we’re not supposed to use. But, um, but some of the things we do are so unusual looking that in a store, people pick them up. And because they’re so lightweight, that gets people’s attention and then they put them on their feet and they don’t squeeze their toes together.
And while they weren’t thinking, I need shoes that don’t squeeze my toes together because they never knew there was an option. Suddenly they have that experience and literally their eyes light up and they go, Oh my God, and my toes can spread. And then they start walking around. It’s like, I can feel my feet moving.
We had some basketball players. We put a shoe on them and without exception, they all said, I’m using my entire foot. I can feel my entire foot and they were just ecstatic. So you definitely have to make things that are either attractive to people and then have a dip point of differentiation in our case, the shape, the lightweight, the feeling that you get, or frankly, you make things that are so polarizing that it gets people’s attention.
You may, I mean, there’s a whole thing that’s been going on, still going on about ugly shoes and people are responding to [00:23:00] ugly shoes. So. Now what happens with those companies that make ugly shoes is eventually they start toning it down because they get a lot of attention from the early adopters who are okay with ugly shoes, but they know to grow the business, you have to make things more acceptable to more people.
So we don’t have a single customer avatar because we have so many different products that so many people use for so many different reasons. Like any one of our product, there’s maybe Um, so we have five different kinds of people using that product for 20 different reasons. So one, one of my favorite examples, we have a number of professional golfers who like our shoes and they swear by our shoes.
And each one of them is talking about a completely different shoe. One is talking about one of our sandals. One is talking about a trail shoe. One is talking about a running shoe. One is talking about a gym training shoe. I don’t know what the fifth one is. You know, we, we can’t do the very simple thing of, uh, the way I like to joke about it is our business would be very easy if the only people interested in what we’re doing were women named Rachel, who are [00:24:00] 35 years old, who go to yoga on Thursday afternoons.
We don’t have that. We have a much broader subset of humanity. When people actually, when people ask me, who’s your market, I like to say people with feet, preferably. And glib because People who can only afford a 20 shoe. They’re not buying our 80 shoes, um, or people who only shop in a particular type of store.
If we’re not in that store, they’re not buying our shoes, but what we’re doing functionally, what we’re doing philosophically is good for everybody. And now we just have to, um, we’re just identifying, you know, who is. And I think that’s a good candidate for trying this out. And frankly, we don’t have to do as much of that anymore anyway, because the AI and the algorithms that Facebook and Google are using are better than what we would do by trying to identify a specific subset anyway.
So, um, we, we start, we, we continue to experiment with different interest groups that we think will have some interest in what we’re doing. And then we find some that are [00:25:00] crazy that we never thought had anything to do with what we’re doing. It works with them because again, it has nothing to do with the interest group really.
It’s just that we found a new audience that we could target and everyone has that same desire. They want their body to feel good at the end of the day. Yeah,
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: I mean, that’s kind of the good thing about this category, that if you’re a a, a, a, a human being, you, you have. Foot and you need shoes. Everybody wears shoes all the time or, you know, they have to wear it every day.
Pretty much. Um, do you have, um, any patent on this, uh, on your product or, um, design?
Steven Sashen of Xero Shoes: We have some design patents and we have a few utility patents as well. The design patents. Um, I actually. Had the best example of the good use of a design patent ever is that a trade show and one of my competitors had a new sandal they were showing.
And I said, you’re not going to want to do that because we have a design patent that [00:26:00] you’re going to be infringing on. And I know you’re going to think I’m a horrible human being. And I, I’m promising you that I’m not, um, what I’m trying to do is keep a federal judge from putting you out of business. And I know you’re going to be mad at me for a while, but really just go look at our product, look at your new product and see if you can figure it out.
And they yelled and screamed and yelled and scream. And four days later, they’d called and said, Oh my, thank you so much. And so that’s the best use of a design patent is when it’s so obvious that there’s not really a way around it. And someone realizes that that’s going to be a problem. Um, we’ve had. My utility patents, no one has tried to get around those yet.
I have, I think one of the first patent new patents for sandal lacing systems that’s ever been done. And we have some patents that are pending on some other technology that’s related to what we’re doing. That I’m really looking forward to, but we also have other IP. We have the biggest, I’ll tell you the biggest business mistake I ever made in my life was I go to a trade show and a multibillion dollar company was using one of my trademarks [00:27:00] on all of their displays, all their photos, all their ads.
It was clear. This was a big campaign. They had about a million dollars of the artwork using my trademark. And actually they were using two other terms that I coined that I hadn’t marked. And the biggest mistake I ever made was I sent them a cease and desist quickly enough that they were able to stop using my mark before they distributed the product.
The reason it was a mistake is had I waited for two weeks, product was already on the shelves. The way the law works is I could have sued them for every penny they made using my mark times three. It would have been about a 750 million slam dunk lawsuit, but, um, instead, um, they were nice enough and smart enough to find someone who just paid my legal bills.
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Wow. Okay. Do you kind of regret that? Or, or, or do you say that, uh,
Steven Sashen of Xero Shoes: you know, it’s a good question. Um, if I’m totally honest, uh, I would say yes, I regret it. Okay. It would have, I mean, [00:28:00] for two reasons, not just because of the cash, but also the awareness that would have built for what we’re doing. And it would have really put a stake in the ground for it.
Thank you. Uh, how we’re going to treat other people in fact after that event when anyone was infringing on our trademarks or copyrights or any of our ip My lawyer would call and say just so you know, we’ve already taken down a multi billion dollar company. We’re ready to do it again so i’m not And i’d seen smaller companies that this Same company had infringed upon and the smaller companies just rolled over and I said, yeah, I’m not gonna do that in fact, I won’t mention the name we got a call from or we got a cease and desist from a Very large multinational company that we were infringing on one of their trademarks and I called their lawyer.
I said You’re wrong Bottom line, I know you send out this letter to everybody, but you’re mistaken and I’m not going to just roll over because you’re a bigger company. So here’s what I’m willing to do. And here’s what I’m [00:29:00] not willing to do. And they ultimately agreed with me. So I don’t, I just don’t get, um, I don’t get what’s the word I’m looking for.
Um, I don’t get. I’m not afraid when someone comes after me just because they’re bigger or they have a bunch of lawyers or whatever it’s a, if it’s a real argument, I’m open to the conversation. If it’s not a real argument, I’m going to fight back. And if I know I’m right, I’m going to win. For sure. I
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: mean, uh, I’m sure you know more about shoes now than most people out there.
What, um, can you talk a little bit about your manufacturing? Um, is it, uh, I’m assuming it’s somewhere in, um, in Southeast Asia?
Steven Sashen of Xero Shoes: It is in Southeast Asia. It’s in Asia. Let’s just leave it that way. Okay. Simply because there’s really, for what we’re doing, there really aren’t any other options. There’ll be times when somebody will get online and say, you know, you should be making things in America.
And I go, I would love to be making things in America. It’s literally not possible in the same way that it’s literally not [00:30:00] possible to get a domestically made version of the devices we’re using for this conversation. You know, you’re not complaining about your computer being made in China. You’re not complaining about most of your car parts being made in China.
You’re not complaining about, you know, your food coming from somewhere other than down the street. So, um, you know, trust me, we would love to, but we literally can’t people say, well, it’s about the price. I go, it’s not about the price. The equipment isn’t here. The supply chain isn’t here. The people who know how to use the equipment aren’t here.
It’s literally not possible now. Well, but if you really want to do it, no, seriously, dude. Um, you know, I say that the experts in this of which you are not the experts in this say to bring manufacturing of footwear back to America, which is not even necessarily the best idea would cost hundreds of billions of dollars and take 10 or 20 years.
And so. And I’m not going to be the one leading the charge in that we’re not big enough to open up a factory. If one of those multi billion dollar companies opened up a factory in America, do you [00:31:00] think we would have access to it? Of course not. So it’s the thing that I usually say, and if I was smart and answering your question, I would have started with this.
It’s not as simple as people imagine it to be. One of the problems that human beings have is we can think of something, we assume it’s as simple as the fact that we just thought of it. And most situations are not that simple. And when it comes to manufacturing, almost anything, but especially footwear, it’s just not as simple as people want it to, want to imagine.
And they also imagine that it’s different. They also imagine that that 200 pair of shoes you just bought cost 5 to make. No. If that’s a 200 pair of shoes, I’m betting it costs 45 to 50 to make it. If it’s a hundred dollars pair of shoes, it probably costs about 25, 30 to make it. And that’s including, you know, getting it here and et cetera.
So the people who make more money are actually the stores that are selling it. Their margin is much bigger than our margin, except when we’re selling direct. So again, even that aspect is [00:32:00] very, very highly misunderstood. Are you
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: now in retail or you’re completely direct to consumer? No,
Steven Sashen of Xero Shoes: we’re in about, um, 800 stores worldwide and 800 doors.
So if a store has multiple stores, that’s referred to as doors. So REI here in America, they’ve got about 170 doors. We’re in those. Um, there are a number of places in Europe, for example, where again, one store, many doors. So our retail business is growing very quickly, especially overseas and that’s Really helpful because footwear people still like to try things on before they buy them even if you can do free exchanges People are much happier most often, especially for something new, trying it first before they commit at all.
And once they understand a brand, then they’re more willing to just buy online. So when Nike talks about their online sales, you got to remember, these are people who are existing Nike customers who trust Nike already. So it’s a very different thing with an upstart brand where people were trying to [00:33:00] learn about it for the first time.
And again, we’ve grown predominantly direct to consumer. So in fact, early on, we had Potential investors say, well, you have to prove yourself in retail first. And I’d say, I don’t think you get it. We’re doing this well from people who’ve never tried on our shoes before. Sometimes we’ve never seen them in real life before.
So do you think it’s going to be worse in retail? And then we get into a retail store and our sell through is phenomenal. Cause again, people pick it up comparing something that may look similar. And it weighs half as much and it lets their toes spread and it doesn’t mess with their posture and it’s flexible and they can feel the ground and they feel like they’re moving better.
So we do really, really well when we’re up against the competition in retail.
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Is your focus now really, I mean, to me, it seems like your brand is recognizable among the people who have kind of now come to know your product and, you know, they’re kind of the brand evangelists for you, but now, because it seems like your product [00:34:00] is.
Very functional and anybody who kind of uses it, you know becomes a fan Um is your focus now to get it more mainstream like more in retail stores so that people More of the general public starts recognizing
Steven Sashen of Xero Shoes: this brand My focus is changing the world And I know that sounds hyperbolic and a little grand, but literally, but where for the last 50 years has demonstrably been causing problems.
It’s like tobacco, except that it’s not killing people. And, but people don’t know that because they haven’t had any options until we started doing this and a few other companies have done the same. And when I say change in the world, it’s, I mean, Our average customer who’s been with us for a number of years owns what I can remember between three and five pairs of our shoes.
Some we hear from people whenever I do like a Facebook live event, someone will mention, Hey, I just bought my 10th pair of shoes. And the next post will be someone saying I have 20. So that doesn’t happen if you’re not changing people’s lives. and change enough people’s [00:35:00] lives and you change the world. So that’s my focus.
The specific way that happens, there’s the grassroots groundswell version of that, which, um, you cultivate by just getting more shoes on more people’s feet. However you can do that, whether it’s making it easier to buy online or getting into more retail. Um, and then the top down part. Which is, um, some people think of it as celebrities, but that’s actually rarely the thing that drives something authentically.
But what it can be is people who do have high visibility who are interested in what we’re doing because it’s providing a benefit for them. So we have a lot of professional athletes who’ve been coming to us lately. because they’re, they understand the value of barefoot training, but they don’t want to be barefoot.
They know that just walking in shoes like ours can build foot strength and they know for their sport, foot strength is really important. So we’re getting more of that. And there’s some things happening now. Um, I spoke to the agent for a couple of professional athletes and I said, as soon as we have, you know, any of your guys doing their [00:36:00] sport.
In our shoes in public for just like five minutes. The big shoe companies are going to have a response and he said, Oh, you don’t have to wait that long. Someone from Nike called me last week to find out what you’re up to. So we’re working at that level, not because that’s the plan, but because they’re reaching out to us because they know we can provide benefits for them.
So I like to say, we want to give people more games in a season, more seasons in a career, and that’s valuable for the athlete and the team and the sport, regardless of what the sport is. And so, um, we’re, we’re trying, I like to say that, um, back to your entrepreneurship question. One of my lines is all businesses rise to the level of the neuroses of their founder.
And so my neuroses is that I don’t think like this, I think like this, I think wide. So my, the thing I’m focusing on is bringing in the people into our company that we can, that we can to handle. Growing as fast as we can, not for the sake of growth, but because [00:37:00] we’re changing people’s lives and because we know that once we have one of those players in that game in our shoe, the big companies are going to respond in some way, and frankly, the smartest thing they could do would be to work with us rather than fight with us because we’re already doing it.
And it’s going to take them 12 months to catch up. And by then, you know, it’ll be obvious they’re the also ran. So, um, so yeah, I’m, I’m just trying to change as many people’s lives as I can, as fast as I can. So does the
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: working with you mean, I mean, uh, a big company, a really giant behemoth, you know, I think they’re the only employee, a few tactics, either they will, you know, um, do the crap out of you.
Yeah. Or, or, you know, they, they can just acquire you. Uh, would you
Steven Sashen of Xero Shoes: be kind of, yeah, I mean, literally, well, here’s what I, here’s what I’ve learned is my other big entrepreneurial lesson as an individual sport athlete, or maybe just being naive. I don’t know which it is. I’ve always worked on the idea of, you know, best man, best [00:38:00] thing wins.
What I learned in previous businesses of mine is when you threaten someone’s livelihood, they just don’t say, congratulations, you win and walk away. They will do whatever they can think of to stay afloat. And often they will think of things. That I would never imagine in a million years because I’m not in that situation.
So big companies, their first move is usually to try to sue you, um, because that’s the easiest thing. They’ve already got lawyers on retainer. The next thing, uh, be much more expensive to acquire, but that would be a really, really smart move because if we’re on one side of the fence. with this natural movement, minimalist idea.
And they’re on the other side of the fence with a big, thick padded motion control, whatever. The smartest thing they could do would be put me in the room with any of their developers and have, uh, um, panel discussions about how to pick the right shoe. And I say that because I’ve been on these panel discussions and they’re the most well attended, uh, piece of any event that we’ve been at, like the American college of sports [00:39:00] medicine.
They have this discussion fills the room, unlike anything else. Now, if you’re on both ends of that spectrum, you can win no matter where people fall in the conversation. The only challenge is that the people that they would have debating against me would have to have Mount Everest level egos, because I will destroy them by asking simple questions like, yeah, where’s your proof for that thing you just said, or what you just said violates the laws of physics, or what you just said would be easy to demonstrate with certain scientific instruments.
And you’ve never done that or, or the simple thing is, again, I mentioned on the Nike website, they have the results of a study that they created that they paid for that proved that their shoes injure people at a very significant level, a level so high that if our shoes injured people that much, that fast, we would be out of business and I would be in jail.
But they’re fine. So if I just point things out like that, the person on the other side of the debate [00:40:00] stage has to be able to handle that. And, um, not a lot of people have the perspective of saying, Hey, we’re getting paid to do this. I don’t need to win. I just need to show up. Most people, they want to win.
And what we have on our side. Is the truth and the truth is kind of impossible to beat you can, you know, grandstand and get some people on your side because they’re not willing to consider the truth. I get that. That’s fine. I’m not trying to get everybody yet. But I mean, I know I’ll never get everybody.
I’m not an idiot. But when you say things that just make sense, like your feet are, you have more, you have over 100 muscles, ligaments and tendons in your feet. If they can’t move, what happens? They get weak. What happens when your feet get weak? What kind of problems could that cause? Well, there’s no arguing that.
This is just all common sense. We all know the answer to that question. And then I hold up a shoe that doesn’t let your foot move. This is a slam dunk argument. [00:41:00] So anyway, yes, you’re right. Um, so suing is one thing. Acquisition is another. Do you have another thing that would be the appropriate way to respond?
So, um, uh, thievery is a third way of responding and it’s a fine way of doing it. I mean, look, I’m not suggesting that we should be the only natural movement company in the world. In fact, they’re already, I don’t know, 40 or 50. There’s only, there’s two that are the predominant players, myself and one of the company.
Um, but the more the merrier that just builds awareness and I’m okay with that. I hear there’s more than one company that makes cars and refrigerators and computers and light bulbs and everything we own. So it should be that way. That’s great. The job then is to differentiate yourself in some way, whether it’s through marketing or through who your audience is, or, you know, they’re an almost infinite number of ways of differentiating yourself.
So copying somebody is one thing the footwear industry is. Notorious for stealing ideas from each other. [00:42:00] Um, because once the idea is out there, they’ll find, someone else will find a way of doing something similar that’s not, you know, exactly the same, but in that same universe. I’m cool with that. Um, but to your point, it would be smarter for someone to make an acquisition play because then they could own what we’ve done much faster and build on that much faster than trying to come in.
Uh, and say, Hey, here we are when our existing audience is going to go, you’re just ripping off this idea. You’re, you’re just here for the money. You don’t really believe in this because if you really believed in this, you’d stop selling everything else you’re selling. Hmm. For sure.
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Yeah. Um, I want to talk a little bit about Shark Tank and can you, uh, uh, I mean, I, I read that you kind of, the deal that you took from Kevin O’Leary was for, oh, you didn’t take it.
Okay. Okay. Okay. So you own a hundred percent? Uh,
Steven Sashen of Xero Shoes: no, we, uh, we did at the time, I. [00:43:00] Um, and then we, uh, we brought on a private equity partner back in December of 2020, when there was a whole bunch of things going on where a, we needed the additional cash because some of our debt financing vehicles disappeared because of the pandemic and because of supply chain issues.
Um, and also we thought that they would have some ability to help us grow the business faster, which they have. So they have a minority position in the company. What was
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: your experience like for Shark Tank though? Uh, did you go there for more for, um, uh, because of course, you know, they have a lot of views and it can help, uh, you know, get awareness and also drive a lot of sales.
Was your play really to, uh, the marketing or were you actually interested in, uh, getting some funding?
Steven Sashen of Xero Shoes: If we got a good deal, we totally wanted to take it. Um, in fact, we thought that Out of the sharks that we were, that were part of our, our show, which was Mark Cuban, Damon Johns, um, Barbara Corcoran, [00:44:00] um, come on, I can do this, uh, Kevin O’Leary, of course.
And, um, um, uh, Robert Herjavec, um, names fall out of my head these days. I don’t know why. Anyway, we thought that four of them would be interested. We thought the only one who wouldn’t be was Kevin because we knew that Cuban had invested. In a or helped actually done some advertising for a company that had made a minimalist shoe.
We knew that Damon was hip to the footwear and apparel business. We knew that Robert was a runner and may be, uh, may have had some awareness about what we were doing. And we knew that Barbara was just a really smart business person and a brilliant marketer. And we thought she’d be interested in well, Kevin, we didn’t think he’d be interested and it turned out we’re the exact opposite.
And I think Kevin just made a play for us. He made a real, you know, hail Mary kind of offer. We went in offering 8 percent of the company for 400, 000. He offered us 400, 000 for 50 percent of the company, which was just a complete non starter. In fact, we literally forgot he made the offer. It was such a bad offer.
So, but we think, you know, it was either like, what the hell I’ll throw it out there. [00:45:00] They might say yes. Um, or, you know, it was just making good television either way. So we, we were really hoping we were going to get an offer and work with someone who any one of those four people, Mark or Damon or Barbara or Robert could have been really good partners.
And, um, just didn’t pan out that way, but it seemed to be a workout. Okay. For us. You talk a
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: little bit, you know, uh, about your marketing. I know you said that, um, a big part of your, uh, brand is existing customers and existing customer doing the word of mouth. Uh, and, and that helps you, um, Acquire new customers, um, but you did also mention that now you’re doing more of the paid, uh, paid advertising marketing kind of a thing.
Can you talk a little bit about your marketing team? Is it completely in house? Is it, uh, you know, agencies and how, like what, what kind of marketing you’re doing in terms of new customer acquisition, what’s working and what have you tried and kind of didn’t
Steven Sashen of Xero Shoes: work? [00:46:00] Well, so that’s an entire weekend seminar that we could do, uh, because it’s not a simple answer.
The, uh, but I’ll, I’ll, I’ll try and do the simplest version that I can. So I’ve been an internet marketer since 1992. And so I know how to do a lot of these things, if not all of these things, not necessarily as well or as detailed as other people, but I, you know, I know my way around. And what that allowed me to do was find old friends of mine who’d become experts or friends of friends who were also experts and build out.
And a mostly, um, outsourced team because anyone who’s smart enough to learn what I need them to do would be smart enough to then start a small agency and find two more people just like me. And because they’ll have enough bandwidth to do that, you know, running Google ads, for example, for us, it’s not a full time job for us.
There’s no way it could be. So, um, I’ve just put together a bunch of people who are each specialists and we all work together. So I have. I have my Google team. I have my Facebook team, which is actually two different media buyers who [00:47:00] have very different strategies that don’t cannibalize each other. Um, I have my social media team.
I have my Amazon team. I have, and the team is usually anywhere between two, Two and four people, typically, and I could go from there. You know, we’re bringing in additional copywriters. We’re bringing in additional videographers. We’re bringing in additional people who do other forms of creative, of visual creative, and people will say, Oh, you could just use AI for that.
It’s like, Nope, you can’t. Um, there’s a lot of things where AI is just not smart enough for broadband photography. These edge cases, remember large language models, even things like mid journey learned on a set of data. And if you’re doing something that’s different than that data set, they don’t know what you’re doing.
Yeah. So when I asked mid journey to make a minimalist shoe, it doesn’t know how to do that because it didn’t train on that data. So anyway, uh, so I’ve put together this team that’s always expanding. If we find some new channel, some new platform, some new methodology that needs [00:48:00] specific. Expertise in that area.
Um, and, uh, yeah. Yeah. Um, new customers. Well, let me just say this thing that’s more important than new customers result. Customers is I look at things with a bit of a matrix of Branded content, non branded content, top of funnel, middle of funnel, bottom of funnel. And I say what I call above top of funnel.
So for most people, top of funnel is let’s find people who are already looking for what I’m doing. For me, I’m just looking to pattern and erupt people who aren’t thinking about shoes or footwear. I want to just guess again, like you said, everybody wears shoes. So I just want to get to people and say something provocative that then gets them into the conversation.
Something like, I don’t wear comfortable shoes. In fact, I would refuse to wear comfortable shoes and you should too. Because what it goes, where it goes from there is that what we think of as comfortable is a bunch of cushioning. Which makes things so that you can’t feel the ground. You can’t move your feet and that’s not good for you.[00:49:00]
And actually what’s really comfortable is letting your feet do what’s natural. And if you, if you like taking off your shoes at the end of the day, you know what I’m talking about. If you like going to the beach and walking around in the sand, you know what I’m talking about. If you like wearing sandals or flip flops, you know what I’m talking about.
So, um, and then I’m just bringing them to realize there’s. Options they didn’t know existed. Um, but I look at my, I do everything in our marketing based on return on investment, which is not the same as return on ad spend. It’s ad spend plus any other costs. And for cold traffic, brand new people, my goal is lower than for existing customers or for people that I’m retargeting because they’ve already visited my website and taken some action.
So I’m, we’re constantly looking at. As granularly as we can for a company our size, um, how we can identify who is what, where, and make sure everything we’re doing is generating the return we want. We, there are some companies, especially info product companies or supplement companies. Or a [00:50:00] subscription companies where they’re willing to lose money on that initial sale, because they know they’re going to get people for three, four or five, six months on average.
Unless they’re like a, um, uh, SAS software company where if you’re locked in there, you’re going to be there for a long time. But regardless, while we do have a high lifetime customer value, the pattern for buying footwear is very different than something where people are just subscribing every month or doing something every month.
So if we don’t make money on that first sale. We don’t have the money that we need to handle the growth that we’re experiencing for next year. We want to have the money to buy the inventory. So we need to be profitable on day one and then day 10 and then day 50 and then day, et cetera, et cetera. So, um, that’s my biggest focus.
And we’re always just looking for some way of. Doing things a little differently is the best way I can put it. So with the iOS 14 changes and the, in the, the, the, the progressing inability to track people. [00:51:00] We have to find other ways and happily, um, back to my point of, you know, find it where the money is flowing, get in the way where the money is flowing is always for advertising.
And so there are people who are getting in the way of that by finding ways of getting around the iOS 14 problems. And we’re starting to test a number of those literally today. And, um, and a couple more starting in the next week or two where people have found ways around that. And if that works. It’ll be a very valuable part of our marketing stack.
And now we have an additional three people that are in that whole marketing team. My favorite thing that I can say about this is once a year, I fly everybody in to have a big meeting where we can all hear what everyone’s doing and come up with ways of working better together and just getting ideas.
And the two compliments that I love that happened every time I get everyone together. One is that everybody will say of the other people in the room, wow, those are really smart people. And I go, yeah, they’re saying the same thing about you. So it’s a lot [00:52:00] of really smart people. But the, my favorite compliment related to that is somebody said, I just spent 20, 000 to go to an internet marketing event last week.
This is better. These people are smarter. They’re giving real numbers. They’re not exaggerating to try to sell a thing at the back of the room. They really know what they’re doing. Um, and they know enough about everything else that, you know, it just helps everybody. So, uh, that’s the thing that I’m most happy about when it comes to our marketing team.
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: That’s, that’s really, really great. Um,
I know you mentioned that you, you, you are globally available. Uh, so, you know, some, some markets outside of the U S are more, uh, you said you’re growing quickly than, than others. Can you talk a little bit about your markets and like your fulfillment strategy in every market?
Steven Sashen of Xero Shoes: Um, yeah, kinda. So there’s, it’s not, uh, not so simple.
So we, we knew there was a [00:53:00] market for what we were doing in Europe and we opened a European office in Prague. And so we have a smaller version of what we’re doing in the U. S. in Prague. The difference is here in the U. S. we’re managing our own warehouse because we just want that control for a number of reasons.
In Europe, we’re working with a 3PL third party logistics facility for people who don’t know. Um, but we, because we tried working with 3PLs in the U S and was not a pleasant experience. We knew the very long list of things that we needed that company to prove they could do before we worked with them.
It’s literally like 50 different things they have to show us they can do. And then we have, uh, um, we just opened, we took over zero shoes. co. uk and that was being run by an independent. Dealer that we met very early on who thought it’d be a fun little side business and then it got too big for him So we took it on and for a while we were doing fulfillment through amazon In fact as of today, we were still doing fulfillment through amazon partly But we found a 3pl in the uk [00:54:00] and we’re going to be opening an office there as well In other places we have distributors.
We have a distributor in japan. We have a distributor in australia and zealand. We have a distributor in thailand so they’re responsible for Everything other than just, you know, us making the shoes and giving it to them. So I don’t know if at some point, um, we will take that on ourselves or not. We’re certainly not at the point to do that.
Now we learned in China, we worked with a third party marketing and fulfillment company. And it started going, it took a while to get it going, but eventually it was going really well, but it became clear that two things became clear that the Chinese market needed some variations on our product. And we didn’t have the money to make those variations and support that business yet.
And it was really clear we were going to need people on the ground in China, similar to what we did in Europe. We needed that in China and we weren’t prepared for that yet either. So it’s evolving. On a monthly basis, if not faster, um, [00:55:00] one of the things about the internet, one of the things that’s been problematic about the internet is everybody assumes that they can get anything they want everywhere they want.
And it’s like, no, you know, we’re, we, we can ship around the world, but we’re not a multinational corporation the way Nike or Adidas or Puma is. So you can’t, people think of us because we’re in footwear as if we’re just like that. It’s not the way it works. Um, so that’s changing as our company grows, as our market expands, as more people approach us who, uh, want to be helpful.
We got a call from someone in South Africa who’s a distributor. And he said, I heard what you’re doing in Europe, sign me up. It’s like, well, that was easy. So, but eventually we’re going to need to have some kind of warehousing in South Africa. If for no other reason, then they’re on the other side of the equator.
So they’re, we’re off out of sync seasonally. And, um, we can’t produce out of sync, so we’re producing for our biggest markets. They’re a smaller market, so it’s going to need, you know, to be handled in some way. Again, it’s one of these things [00:56:00] that I never imagined I would ever have to deal with, and now it’s, it keeps my wife and I up at night.
For sure. Um,
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: I mean, I can ask you a lot of more questions, but kind of, we’re running out of time. So I’ll, I’ll move on to our rapid fire segment. In this segment, I’m going to ask you a few quick questions and you have to answer them maybe in a couple of words or a sentence or so. So one book recommendation for entrepreneurs and
Steven Sashen of Xero Shoes: why?
Actually probably more than two. Um, Uh, one is fooled by randomness by Nassim Taleb, which will help you realize that, um, a lot of what’s going to happen for you is luck and not all about you. And another is stumbling on happiness from Daniel Gilbert from Harvard, which will help you discover that your idea that once you have a successful business and have made a certain amount of money, uh, that will not in fact, make you happier and can get you off that kind of hamster wheel of thinking, uh, that will, that will be the solution to all of your problems.
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Um, I mean, do, do [00:57:00] entrepreneurs get into entrepreneurship because they think it will make them happier? I doubt. I
Steven Sashen of Xero Shoes: doubt so. They have the fantasy that they’re going to, that they’re going to have something that hits it out of the park and they’re going to become, you know, the next, here, wait, I’ll tell you this one.
Somebody called me a little while ago and said, Hey, we have an opportunity to go to, um, to Richard Branson’s Island and hang out with Richard Branson. And it’s going to be, I don’t know what it was. Let’s say it was 10, 000. It doesn’t matter. They said, do you want to go? I said, Oh God, why? I said, what do you mean?
Why? I said, why would I want to go? Well, imagine what you could learn from Richard Branson. I said, Oh, I already know what I could learn from Richard Branson. Oh, really? What is it? Oh, I’m not Richard Branson. And guess what? Neither is he anymore. He couldn’t go back and start the way he started now because he has changed and the world has changed.
That was a rare, clearly unreproducible event because no one else has done it.
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: For sure. An innovative product or idea in the current e commerce, retail, or tech landscape that you feel excited about? Wait, give me that
Steven Sashen of Xero Shoes: one again. What do I feel [00:58:00] excited about?
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Product or idea? Another
Steven Sashen of Xero Shoes: product or idea? Oh, well, the simplest thing is, again, we’re changing people’s lives every day and that’s what gets me out of bed in the morning.
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: don’t like any other product or idea like that you, that you kind of feel excited about? I
Steven Sashen of Xero Shoes: would, I, I pay attention to my competition and I pay attention to my market. I don’t, you know, everyone’s very, um, high and mighty about AI from my experience, AI can do some, some interesting things, um, but it has a lot of limitations.
And in fact, a quick thing about this, I remember the early days after chat GPT three, um, there’s all these people showing how, how great it is for SEO and they’re using chat GPT to build these, you know, these SEO friendly pages and they’re watching their traffic go up and up and up until it went to zero.
So, you know, new things I’ve been doing this long enough that I’ve watched new things come and go, not saying AI is going, but I’ve watched people get really excited about crap that, that. [00:59:00] Has a limited lifespan and people never think that has a limited lifespan. They always think it’s going to go on forever.
And I mean, here’s my favorite simple example. Remember when MailChimp was really, really popular? Yeah. What happened? You know, it’s like, again, I’ve just seen it. I’ve been here 32 years. I’ve seen things come and go, come and go, come and go, come and go. So the only thing that I pay attention to that gets me excited is the things that I’m doing in our business and everything else I know is going to come and go.
So I don’t get excited about it. I use it for as long as I can. And when it stops working, I move on to whatever the next thing is and see if it’ll work. Cause not everything works for everybody. For sure.
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Um, a business or productivity tool or software that you would recommend or a productivity tip?
Steven Sashen of Xero Shoes: Uh, I don’t have one.
No, it’s all too individual. I’ve never found any productivity software that works for me because it doesn’t work the way my mind works. It doesn’t work. You know, if I [01:00:00] have to, if I wait, hold on my favorite productivity tool.
Paper and pen, because it’s the fastest way I can get something out of my head. And um, and then I know it’s there if I have to go somewhere and go to another tab in my browser and then type it in in a particular way, it’s just not going to happen for me. So I take it back, actually, best productivity tool is my executive assistant.
Okay. And that’s a recent phenomenon that I’ve been able to have that, um, but it’s someone who can go through all of my email, get rid of all the crap I don’t need, forward all the things that need to get forwarded in an obvious way. So I’m only seeing a small subset that I need to deal with on a daily basis.
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: It’s the best. I will tell you about a software, uh, an email software that can, that can be useful to you. So afterwards,
Steven Sashen of Xero Shoes: um, um, okay. But I mean, to, to, to put that in context [01:01:00] though, we’re using a new CRM and email tool for our customer happiness team, tremendous, great value for them. Doesn’t do anything for me.
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Um, another startup or business that you think is doing great things?
Steven Sashen of Xero Shoes: I don’t know. I don’t pay attention. Nope. Um, I can give you an idea for one. This is actually this is something. So I took basically my first real vacation last week. My wife and I were in Cuba where we had I used my phone all day as a camera.
That’s the only thing I used it for. And, but I had my, uh, my, my, my vacation responder on. And when someone emailed me, they got my response saying I was out of the country. It occurred to me that, um, what would be a really cool email tool is after you type in the email in the two or the CC or BCC field before you hit send, or maybe when you hit send doesn’t matter.
If. One of the recipients has a vacation responder on, [01:02:00] you automatically get it before you actually send the email. So that way you don’t bother somebody and then have to bother them again later. Wow. Very
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: interesting. Yeah. A peer entrepreneur or business person whom you look up to or someone who inspires you?
Steven Sashen of Xero Shoes: No, again, and it’s only because I don’t know these people. I mean, look, people thought Sam Bankman Fried was like the greatest thing since sliced bread till they found out he was, you know, a complete lying thief. I mean, that happens all the time. If I don’t know them, I don’t care. Um, if they’re not doing something that I can directly apply.
Why do I really care? And I know that can sound narcissistic, but it’s really just practical. Why am I going to be, you know, paying attention? Why am I going to go spend money to meet Richard Branson? I mean, it could be fun. He might like my shoes. He might introduce me to people. But in terms of running my business, he doesn’t know my business.
So I don’t really. You don’t really do that.
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: No, that’s, that’s, [01:03:00] no, that’s, that’s fair. I think, uh, uh, I mean, my philosophy is, uh, nobody, I think nobody’s perfect. And, you know, it’s like you can, you can look at someone and if they’re doing something great, you can kind of, uh, you know, learn from it. And, and.
Steven Sashen of Xero Shoes: know, maybe it’s, um, uh, people love to say success leaves cute clues and I, I completely disagree. It was, you know, I used to ask people, um, instead of saying what made you successful, where they’re going to go on and on and on about how smart they are, um, I like to ask how much of what you’ve accomplished was due to luck or chance or fate or things completely out of your control.
Much more interesting answers because it’s much more true. When I look at what we’ve accomplished, uh, if I took luck out of it, none of this would have happened. None of this, because one of the biggest, luckiest thing is one day when I was going to have brunch with some friends, somebody brought the woman who later became [01:04:00] my wife and business partner.
Keep in mind though, for the first four years, she knew me. She never, she avoided me like the plague. So it wasn’t like it was love at first sight and, you know, business. It was like the luckiest thing ever was that somehow I met this woman accidentally and somehow over time, she eventually decided to be my friend and then to go out with me and then become my wife.
And if that hadn’t happened, none of this would have happened. And that was just the first. In an infinitely large number of lucky things. And I have harbored no illusions. I mean, look, we’re smart people, but if we take the luck out zero
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: zip. No, I, I completely agree. And, uh, um, I think luck luck definitely plays a huge role.
I think the way I see it as like, you know, if you consider yourself an atom in like a, in a container with a lot of other atoms, the more you kind of like, and the more actions you take, the more, you know, uh, um, [01:05:00] The more times you interact with other atoms and you know, it’s like, then you create. It’s like randomness luck is randomness, in my opinion, it’s like
Steven Sashen of Xero Shoes: the more random it’s random.
I mean, let’s be clear. So yes, you’re right. I mean, look, um, uh, my neighbor was playing golf with some guy and my neighbor asked what this guy did. And he said he had something to do with footwear. And it’s like, Oh, my neighbor has a footwear company. And the guy says, I just heard them on this podcast. I love those guys.
I mean, you know, again, what are the odds? I mean, yeah, the odds get better. The bigger you get, the bigger your network is. But, um, and if you’re the kind of person who sees the opportunity and eventually takes it, that’s helpful. But in my mind, it’s that initial thing that you had no control over. That’s the one that I.
Find the most interesting because you had no control over it and people love to think that, you know, they love to minimize that. Because otherwise it [01:06:00] feels like you’re just in a random world and you have no way of knowing if it’s going to work or not. Guess what? You have no way of knowing if it’s going to work or not.
So here’s a random one just for the fun of it. In January, uh, no actually December 29th, I got diagnosed with a very rare form of cancer. So, I mean, it was eyeball cancer, retinal cancer, to be more specific, and, um, the good, uh, best thing that ever happened to me, for many, many, many reasons, um, that we don’t have time to go into right now, but suffice it to say, that’s a form of luck.
You know, it was a random weird thing. This particular cancer, they have no idea why it happens. They have no clue. And it’s rare enough that they’re not really inspired to try to figure that out anyway. But a lot of these things, weird things that happen, you know, you, that, that we think of as, it’s an old Chinese story and I’m not going to do the versions like, you know, could be good, could be bad, could be good, could be bad.
And it’s depending on how you look at it. And, um, and [01:07:00] we always think about luck as the positive things, but sometimes the luckiest thing is something really seemingly unpleasant that, and I don’t mean in retrospect, you go, Oh, thank God that happened. I mean, in real time, it can be the best thing that ever happened to you.
And so, but we just don’t think of it that way. Um, we always think of luck as a good thing and sometimes luck is, you know, not so good winning the lottery. Not so good for a lot of people. Yeah. Yeah. We just, so we just don’t understand this luck that goes back to my book recommendation fooled by randomness, the subtitle, if I’m, I’m probably misrepresenting it, the hidden role of chance in markets and life.
It’s, I can’t stress how important it is to have some understanding about that. It just gives you perspective. It makes it so you don’t take yourself, pardon me for saying it this way, so fucking seriously and so self important. Yeah. I am a piece of this, but that’s it. Yeah. And, um, and if people over try to overplay my role, [01:08:00] I try to shut it down.
Sorry, this is not a rapid fire answer. We have a profit sharing inspired quarterly bonus program where we take a portion of our profits every quarter and they get divided evenly among everybody in the company because we believe my wife and I, that everybody is important. And if they weren’t there, this whole thing could fall apart as a form of luck.
And so we just want to acknowledge that in some way. And um, most people don’t. You know, they just don’t appreciate it. And it just makes us feel, um, lucky and grateful. And what’s the word? Um, responsible. We’re responsible for taking care of this thing that has happened to us and around us and for us and with us.
And I think that’s just a much, um, It’s a much more saner way of going through your daily life as an entrepreneur. And if you disagree with me and do it a different way, I don’t care. That’s just the way, you know, my brain works.
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: [01:09:00] No, I, I, I completely agree with you. Uh, I think most people think they, they control more than they actually do.
They actually control. They don’t really control much at all to be honest. But final question, best business advice you ever received or you would get to other entrepreneurs.
Steven Sashen of Xero Shoes: I don’t remember ever getting any advice. Um, uh, cause people thought I was crazy with everything that I was doing. Uh, so the advice they gave me was things like, don’t do that.
And it’s like, made no sense to me. So the, the one that I like to give people is, um, well, I like to say, uh, get a government job with a pension. That’s my best piece of advice because. If saying that makes you think about it in any way and go meet people who’ve had government jobs with pensions, you know, they’re having a fine time.
And so if you can pull that off, I highly recommend it. And if it makes you pause even a tiny bit, when I say that you should really try to find a government job with a pension. Um, because if you’re a real entrepreneur, there’s nothing I could do that’s going to talk you out of your statistically [01:10:00] stupid idea.
I’ve had hundreds of them. So, so the best advice I can give. When you come up with one of these ideas that you think is brilliant that is statistically not is find the fastest cheapest way. To see if you’re wrong, don’t try to prove yourself right, try to prove yourself wrong. And one way is, um, spend some money on some advertising and see how many people are willing to give you their hard earned money out of their wallet, who you don’t know, because your friends are going to agree with you.
Look, the number of friends of mine who’ve said to me, we can’t believe what you’ve done. Because frankly, when you just got this started, we didn’t have the courage to tell you that we thought you were idiots. Makes sense. You know, your friends and family will lie to your face. Anybody that you know, anyone you meet will lie to your face.
Find a stranger, run an ad, see if they will give you their hard earned money. The way people used to do this is they’d run a full page ad where [01:11:00] you had to clip out a coupon and send in a physical check. And if they didn’t get enough checks to justify developing the product, they wouldn’t. Yeah. You know, prove yourself.
wrong. And if you can’t prove yourself wrong, then take the next step. And then beyond that, it’s, um, you know, cross your fingers and try to put away. Uh, try to save as much money as you can. So if it all goes bad, you’re still okay. Yeah,
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: no, that’s, that’s great advice. I think that’s, that’s probably the best advice, uh, for entrepreneurs for sure.
Well, Stephen, those were all the questions that I had. I know we went a little bit over time. Uh, so I really appreciate your time. I know, I know you’re. Uh, probably very busy. Uh, thank you so much again for sharing your story, for sharing all that great advice. Um, if anybody wants to check your products out, what is the best way to do
Steven Sashen of Xero Shoes: that?
We are at xero shoes. It’s XERO shoes.com or xero shoes.eu, or xero shoes.co.uk or we’re [01:12:00] also on Amazon and at a bunch of stores you can go use our store locator, um, at, at either one of those sites. Um, and you can find us on social media at xero shoes or slash xero shoes, wherever you happen to at or slash Awesome.
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Well, Steven, thank you so much again for joining me today at TrepTalks, and I wish you all the
Steven Sashen of Xero Shoes: very best. Thank you. Thank you. My pleasure.
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