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Starting a Sneaker Line – A Complete Guide

Do you want to start a sneaker line? If YES, here is a complete guide to starting a sneaker line business with NO money and no experience.

Okay, so we have provided you an in-depth sample sneaker line business plan template. We also took it further by analyzing and drafting a sample sneaker line marketing plan backed up by actionable guerrilla marketing ideas for sneaker line businesses. In this article, we will be considering all the requirements for starting a sneaker line business. So put on your entrepreneurial hat and let’s proceed.

Why Start a Sneaker Line?

Starting a sneaker line business is of course one of the many businesses that can be started from any part of the world. The owner of the business can penetrate the world market once the design is good and it meets a need in the fashion market. Entrepreneurs who intend  to start a sneaker line business can start their own sneaker manufacturing company from their homes on a small scale and service a customized market, or open a sneaker manufacturing factory and dominate both the U.S. market and the international market.

The bottom line is that there is always a ready market for manufacturers of sneakers. All a designer needs do is ensure that he or she carves a niche for his business and work hard to build a brand name that is accepted beyond his or her city of operation.

A sneaker line business just like most businesses thrive on creativity, branding (media hype et al) and good business skills. Any aspiring entrepreneur can start a sneaker line as long as they are creative, can get people to promote their brand and they have good business skills. The starting size of this type of business doesn’t really matter as long as the business is built on the right foundation and with the right combination of skills and talent.

One thing is certain, once you are creative, you will be able to come out with a unique style. In the sneaker line industry, you signature is your style. Another important factor that counts in this line of business is the brand name and perhaps the logo of the sneaker line.

If you look at the leaders in the sneaker line business you will realize that they deliberately choose a name and create a logo that best communicate how they want people to perceive them. Once you are able to secure a good name for your sneaker line business and then hire experts (graphic artists) to help you create a compelling logo, you can follow the trend in the industry.

So, if you have the desire to start your own sneaker line, all you need to do is read this article and you will be well equipped. You can start you sneaker line from a small town in the United States and if you are consistent and creative, it won’t be too long before your brand becomes an internationally recognized brand.

Starting a Sneaker Line – A Complete Guide

  • Industry Overview

Any human being you find in any street in the United States of America, and in any developed country and of course the average person you find in developing and undeveloped countries would put on one form of footwear or the other. Shoes cum footwear could be pure leather, synthetic leader, fabric or rubber.

This goes to show that there is indeed a very large market for shoes in our world; hence loads of investors cum aspiring entrepreneurs are pitching their tent in the shoe and footwear manufacturing industry, and sneaker line production is one of the booming business opportunities in this industry.

Businesses in the shoe and footwear industry that the sneaker line business falls under include footwear for men, women and children. The industry is involved in manufacturing shoe and footwear in different forms such as rubber and plastic footwear, sneakers, protective footwear (Safety boots), house slippers and slipper socks. Companies in this line of business also manufacture men or women footwear specifically designed for casual, formal and work environments.

A Research conducted by IBIS WORLD shows that the Shoe and Footwear Manufacturing industry in the United States has a low level to moderate level of concentration. The US shoe and footwear manufacturing industry is concentrated: the top 50 companies account for more than 95 percent of sales. New Balance and Allen Edmonds who are considered to be the two dominant players in the industry are estimated to account for an estimated 35.3 percent of the revenue generated in industry.

This low to moderate concentration reflects a fragmented market that has a mix of a few large companies and many small industry operators specializing in higher valued-added footwear. The largest global footwear companies such as Nike and Adidas, manufacture nearly all of their products outside of the country. This practice has increased over the past few years as large manufacturers discontinue production in the United States, instead focusing domestic activities on design and wholesale of footwear.

The Shoe and Footwear Manufacturing industry is indeed a major sector of the economy of most countries in the world (United States of America, Italy, France, United Kingdom, China, India et al). Statistics has it that in the United States of America alone, the Shoe and Footwear Manufacturing industry generates a whooping sum of $2 billion annually from more than 876 registered and licensed big scale shoes and footwear manufacturing companies scattered all around the United States of America.

The industry is responsible for the employment of well over 10,416 people. Experts project the shoe and footwear manufacturing industry to grow at a 2.7 percent annual rate. In the United States, men’s footwear account for about 50 percent of sales, women’s for about 20 percent, and athletic and other footwear for about 30 percent. The establishments in this industry that has a dominant market share in the United States of America are; New Balance and Allen Edmonds.

The sneaker production line of business will continue to blossom because the wearing of sneakers has come to stay, the designs can only be adjusted to fit into the latest trend. Some of the factors that encourage entrepreneurs to start their own sneaker line manufacturing company is that the business is a thriving business and the products can be sold not just in your country but all across the globe.

Over and above, the shoe and footwear manufacturing industry that sneaker line business is a part of, is a profitable industry and it is open for any aspiring entrepreneur to come in and establish his or her business. You can choose to start on a small scale in small shoe and footwear making workshop or you can choose to start on a large scale with standard sneaker/shoe and footwear manufacturing factories both in the United States of America and in countries in Asia where you can get cheaper labor and raw materials.

Starting a Sneaker Line – Market Research and Feasibility Studies

  • Demographics and Psychographics

The demographic and psychographic composition of those who wear sneakers cut across all genders and age groups. Male and female, adults and children all wear sneakers hence the demographic composition for sneaker line manufacturing business is all encompassing.

So, if you are thinking of starting your own sneaker line manufacturing business, then you should look beyond producing and marketing your products to just people in your city, but also people across the United States of America and other parts of the world.

List of Niche ideas Within the Sneaker Line Business That You Can Specialize in

There is no niche area of specialization in the sneaker line manufacturing business since sneaker line is a niche area in the shoe and footwear manufacturing industry. Those who are into the manufacturing of sneakers manufacture sneakers in different sizes and for different gender to meet the trend in the industry. Branding and packaging is a major factor that can help you increase your sales and gain market prominence in the sneaker line manufacturing business.

The Level of Competition in the Sneaker Line cum Shoes & Footwear Manufacturing Industry

The competition that exists in the sneaker line manufacturing business goes beyond competitions in your city or country; it is both national and international. This is so because, major sneaker lines/brands in China, Germany, France, Italy, United Kingdom and in any part of the world can be found in shoes and footwear shops all across the United States of America. So, it will be right to say the competition in the sneaker line manufacturing business is tough.

The truth is that, no matter the level of competition in an industry, if you brand and promote your products or business properly, you will always make headway in the industry. Just ensure you have what it takes to churn out quality products (sneakers) and you know how to reach out to your target market.

But over and above, there are several sneaker line manufacturing companies scattered all around the United States. So, if you choose to start your own sneaker line manufacturing company in the United States, you will definitely meet stiffer competitions amongst sneaker line manufacturing companies in the United States. Besides, there are larger sneaker line manufacturing companies/brands that determine the trends in the industry and you should be ready to compete with them for customers.

List of Well Known Brands in the Sneaker Line Industry

These are some of the leading sneaker line manufacturing companies/brands in the United States of America and in the globe;

  • Adidas
  • Nike
  • Puma
  • Reebok
  • Vans
  • Rebound HI
  • Fila
  • Filling Pieces
  • Lanvin
  • Raf Simons
  • Golden Goose Deluxe Brand (GGDB)
  • Maison Margiela
  • Common Projects
  • Buttero
  • Versace
  • Yves Saint Laurent
  • Hugo Boss
  • ETQ sneaks
  • Spalwart sneakers
  • Y-3 sneakers (Yohji Yamamoto)

Economic Analysis

If you are looking towards successfully launching a business and maximizing profit, then you need to ensure that you get your economic analysis right and try as much as possible to adopt best practices in the industry you choose to build a business in.

Sneaker line business is not a green business, as a matter of fact, you will come across several brand names in your local shoes and footwear stores when you go shopping. So, if you are mapping out your economic analysis, you should carry out thorough market survey and costing of the required raw materials, branding and other equipment needed to successfully run the business.

Over and above, if you are considering starting a sneaker line company, then your concern should not be limited to the cost of setting up the business and churning out quality sneakers, but also on branding and on how to build a robust distribution network. The truth is that if you are able to build a robust distribution network, you are sure going to maximize profit in the business.

Starting Your Sneaker Line Company from the Scratch versus Buying a Franchise

Unfortunately, you can hardly find a franchise of a sneaker line company to purchase meaning that if you want to own a sneaker line business, then you must be ready to start from the scratch. This is so because the business is still pretty much thriving and there are loads of opportunities available to aspiring entrepreneurs that are interested in the industry.

The truth is that it will pay you to start your sneaker line company from the scratch. Starting from the scratch will afford you the opportunity to conduct thorough market survey and feasibility studies before choosing a location to launch the business.

Please note that most of the big and successful sneaker line companies around started from the scratch and they were able to build a solid business brand. It takes dedication, hard work and determination to achieve business success and of course you can build your own sneaker line brand to become a successful brand with your products distributed all across the length and breadth of the United States of America and other countries of the world.

Possible Threats and Challenges You Will Face When Starting a Sneaker Line Business

If you decide to start your own sneaker line business today, one of the major challenge you are likely going to face is the presence of well-established sneaker line brands cum companies whose products can be found all across the United States and the global market. The only way to avoid this challenge is to create your own market.

So also, just like any other business, one of the major threats that you are likely going to face is economic downturn and unfavorable government policies. It is a fact that economic downturn affects purchasing power. Another threat that you may likely face is the arrival of a new sneaker line or even a shoe and footwear manufacturing company that also manufactures sneakers in the same location where your’s is located.

Starting a Sneaker Line – Legal Matters

  • Best legal entity to use for a sneaker line

When considering starting a sneaker line company, the legal entity you choose will go a long way to determine how big the business can grow; some sneaker line companies design their business and products for regional market, some for national market, while others for international market.

Generally, you have the option of either choosing a general partnership, limited liability company which is commonly called an LLC, or a sole proprietorship for a business such as a sneaker line company. Ordinarily, sole proprietorship should have been the ideal business structure for a small scale/customized cottage sneaker line business especially if you are just starting out with a moderate start – up capital.

But people prefer limited liability Company for obvious reasons. As a matter of fact, if your intention is to grow the business and have your sneakers distributed across the United States of America and other countries of the world, then choosing sole proprietor is not an option for you. Limited Liability Company, LLC or even general partnership will cut it for you.

For example, setting up an LLC protects you from personal liability. If anything goes wrong in the business, it is only the money that you invested into the limited liability company that will be at risk. It is not so for sole proprietorships and general partnerships. Limited liability companies are simpler and more flexible to operate and you don’t need board of directors, shareholders meeting and other managerial formalities.

These are some of the factors you should consider before choosing a legal entity for your sneaker line business; limitation of personal liability, ease of transferability, admission of new owners and investors’ expectation and of course taxes. If you take your time to critically study the various legal entities to use for your sneaker line business, you will agree that limited liability company; an LLC is most suitable. You can start this type of business as limited liability company (LLC) and in future convert it to a ‘C’ corporation or an ‘S’ corporation especially when you have the plans of going public.

Upgrading to a ‘C’ corporation or ‘S’ corporation will give you the opportunity to grow your sneaker line business so as to compete with major players in the industry; you will be able to generate capital from venture capital firms, you will enjoy separate tax structure, and you can easily transfer ownership of the company; you will enjoy flexibility in ownership and in your management structures.

Catchy Business Name Ideas Suitable for a Sneaker Line Company

When it comes to choosing a name for your business, you should be creative because whatever name you choose for your business will go a long way to create a perception of what the business represents. Usually it is the norm for people to follow the trend in the industry they intend operating from when naming their business.

If you are considering starting your own sneaker line company, here are some catchy names that you can choose from;

  • Micah Smith® Shoes & Footwear, Inc.
  • WXYZ Sneaker Line, Inc.
  • Jades Designs, Inc.
  • Thomas Gusto Sneaker Line Company
  • Top Drive Sneaker Brand, Inc.
  • Sleek Signature, Inc.
  • Barry Dave Sneaker Production Company
  • Abel & Xavi Sneakers, LLC
  • Luke Fritz Sneakers, Inc.
  • Nick Brighton Sneaker Line, Inc.

Insurance Policies

In the United States and in most countries of the world, you can’t operate a business without having some of the basic insurance policy covers that are required by the industry you want to operate from. So, it is important to create a budget for insurance and perhaps consult an insurance broker to guide you in choosing the best and most appropriate insurance policies for your sneaker line business.

Here are some of the basic insurance cover that you should consider purchasing if you want to start your own sneaker line business in the United States of America;

  • General insurance
  • Health insurance
  • Liability insurance
  • Workers compensation
  • Overhead expense disability insurance
  • Business owner’s policy group insurance
  • Payment protection insurance

Intellectual Property Protection/Trademark

If at all there are any businesses that require intellectual property protection (copyright ©), then sneaker line business should be one of them. The truth is that your label, design and your style need to be protected or else anybody can successfully fake or create similar products and go scot free while making money off your brand name.

If you want to protect your unique design, your company’s logo and other documents or software that are unique to you or even jingles and media production concepts, then you can go ahead to file for intellectual property protection. If you want to register your trademark, you are expected to begin the process by filing an application with the USPTO. The final approval of your trademark is subjected to the review of attorneys as required by USPTO.

Is Professional Certification Needed to Run a Sneaker Line?

Although you do not need any special professional certification before you can successfully start your own sneaker line business, but you will do yourself a whole lot of favor, if you study shoe and footwear designing or a related course before starting this this type of business. It will afford you the opportunity to truly maximize the business; you will be able to have full grasps of the business from start to finish especially as it relates to producing trendy sneakers.

List of Legal Documents You Need to Run a Sneaker Line Company

The essence of having the necessary documentation in place before launching a business in the United States of America cannot be overemphasized. It is a fact that you cannot successfully run any business in the United States without the proper documentation. If you do, it won’t be too long before the long arm of the law catches up with you.

These are some of the basic legal documents that you are expected to have in place if you want to legally run your own sneaker line company in the United States of America;

  • Certificate of Incorporation
  • Business License
  • Business Plan
  • Non – disclosure Agreement
  • Employee Handbook
  • Employment Agreement (offer letters)
  • Operating Agreement for LLCs
  • Insurance Policy
  • Consulting contract documents
  • Online Terms of Use
  • Online Privacy Policy Document
  • Apostille (for those who intend operating beyond the United States of America)

Financing Your Sneaker Line Business

Starting a sneaker line production business can be cost effective especially if you choose to start on a small scale by making customized sneakers based on demand. Securing a standard and well equipped production facility is part of what will consume a large chunk of your start-up capital, but if you choose to start the business on a large scale, you would need to source for fund to finance the business because it is expensive to start a standard large scale sneaker line production company.

No doubt when it comes to financing a business, one of the first things and perhaps the major factors that you should consider is to write a good business plan. If you have a good and workable business plan document in place, you may not have to labor yourself before convincing your bank, investors and your friends to invest in your business.

Here are some of the options you can explore when sourcing for start–up capital for your sneaker production business;

  • Raising money from personal savings and sale of personal stocks and properties
  • Raising money from investors and business partners
  • Sell of shares to interested investors
  • Applying for loan from your bank/banks
  • Pitching your business idea and applying for business grants and seed funding from donor organizations and angel investors
  • Sourcing for soft loans from your family members and your friends.

Choosing a Suitable Location for your Sneaker Line

When it comes to choosing a location for your sneaker line production business, the rule of thumb is that, you should be guided by the demand for such product and easy access to labor and raw materials in the location you so desire to start the business. Of course, if you are able to secure a central location for your sneaker line production business, it will enable you cut the cost of transporting your raw materials and finished products to and from your production facility and warehouse.

It cannot be overemphasized that the location you chose to open your sneaker line production business is key to the success of the business, hence entrepreneurs are willing to rent or lease a facility in a visible location; a location where the demography consists of people with the required purchasing power and lifestyle.

Most importantly, before choosing a location for your sneaker line production company, ensure that you first conduct a thorough feasibility studies and market survey. The possibility of you coming across similar business that just closed shop in the location you want to open yours can’t be ruled out. Which is why it is very important to gather as much facts and figures before choosing a location to set up your own sneaker line production business.

These are some of the key factors that you should consider before choosing a location for your sneaker line production company;

  • The demography of the location
  • The demand for sneakers in the location
  • The purchasing power of the residence of the location
  • Accessibility of the location
  • The numbers of sneaker line companies and shoes and footwear manufacturing companies in the location
  • The local laws and regulations in the community/state
  • Traffic, parking and security et al

Starting a Sneaker Line – Technical & Manpower Details

If you are considering setting up a sneaker line production company, it means that you should be prepared to purchase equipment and machines such as industrial shoe sewing machines, filling/grinding machines, gumming machines and industrial cutting machines.

These are the basic machines needed to launch the business. If you don’t have enough cash, you can start with fairly used equipment/machines but if you are financially buoyant, then you should go for brand new ones since they usually have a long life span.

As regard leasing or outright purchase of a production or warehouse facility, the choice is dependent on your financial standing, but the truth is that to be on the safe side, it is advisable to start off with a short term rent/lease while test running the business in the location. If things work out as planned, then you go on a long term lease or outright purchase of the property but if not, then move on and source for other ideal locations/facility for such business.

When it comes to hiring employees for a standard sneaker line production company, you should make plans to hire a competent Chief Executive Officer (you can occupy this role), Admin and Human Resources Manager, Sales and Marketing Manager, Sneaker Designers/Shoes and Footwear Designers, Marketing Experts, Quality Control Officer, Machine Operators, Accountant, Distribution/Delivery Van Drivers and Client Services Executive. These are some of the key employees that you can work with. On the average, you will need a minimum of 10 to 15 key staff members to run a small scale but standard sneaker line production business.

The Production Process Involved in the Production of Sneakers

When it comes to the manufacturing of sneakers, the first step to take is to come up with a design and then have the design approved by the board. After then, the next step is to determine the quantity and types (colors and sizes et al) of the sneakers to be produced. Other steps involved in the entire process are cutting the materials, sewing the materials, gumming the sneaker component parts and then filling and putting finishing touches. The next step is to pass them through the quality control department before properly packaging, labeling and branding the products (sneakers) for sale.

It is important to state that a sneaker line production company may decide to improvise or adopt any business process and structure that will guarantee them efficiency and flexibility; the above stated sneaker line production business process is not cast on stone.

Starting a Sneaker Line – The Marketing Plan

  • Marketing ideas and strategies

Generally, running a business requires that you should be proactive when it comes to marketing your goods or services. If you choose to launch a sneaker line production business, then you must go all out to employ strategies that will help you attract customers or else you will likely struggle with the business because there are well known brands determining the market direction for sneaker line.

These are some of the marketing ideas and strategies that you can adopt for your sneaker production line business;

  • Introduce your products by sending introductory letters alongside your brochure to corporate organizations, businesses in the shoes and footwear retailer industries, boutiques and key stakeholders throughout the United States and Canada.
  • Advertise on the internet on blogs and forums, and also on social media like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn to get your message across, so that those on the social media or those who read blogs can know where to go when they need to purchase your sneakers.
  • Creating a basic website for your business, so as to give your business an online presence.
  • Directly market your products.
  • Engage in road hows in targeted communities from time to time to sell your products.
  • Provide discount days for your customers.
  • Advertise our business in community based newspapers, local TV and radio stations.
  • List your business on yellow pages ads (local directories).
  • Encourage the use of word of mouth marketing (referrals).

Strategies to Boost Your Sneaker Line Brand Awareness and Create Your Corporate Identity

If you are in business and you are not deliberate about boosting you brand awareness and communicating your corporate identity, then you should be ready to take on whatever the society portrays your business to be. One of the secrets of larger corporations is that they are willing to spend fortunes year in and year out to boost their brand awareness and to continue to communicate their corporate identity the way they want people to perceive them.

If your intentions of starting a sneaker line production company is to grow the business beyond the city where you are going to be operating from to become a national and international brand, then you must be ready to spend money on promotion and advertisement of your brand.

No matter the industry you belong to, the truth is that the market is dynamic and requires consistent brand awareness and brand boosting cum promotion to continue to appeal to your target market. Your corporate identity has a lot to do when it comes to building a business that is profitable and lasts long.

Here are the platforms you can leverage on to boost your brand awareness and create corporate identity for your sneaker line production company;

  • Place adverts on both print (newspapers and magazines) and electronic media platforms
  • Sponsor relevant community based events/programs
  • Leverage on the internet and social media platforms like; Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google + et al to promote your business
  • Install your Bill Boards on strategic locations all around your city or state
  • Engage in roadshows from time to time in targeted neighborhoods to retail your sneakers
  • Distribute your fliers and handbills in target areas
  • Contact businesses in the shoes and footwear retailer industries, boutiques and key stakeholders throughout the United States and Canada informing them about your sneaker brand
  • List your sneaker line production company in local directories/yellow pages
  • Advertise your sneaker line production company in your official website and employ strategies that will help you pull traffic to the site.
  • Ensure that all your staff members wear your branded shirts and all your vehicles and distribution trucks/vans are well branded with your company logo et al.
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