Categorized | Shoestring Startup

Invisible Shoes: Moving Fast In Business & On the Track

Name of your company and URL?

Invisible Shoes: Moving Fast In Business & On the TrackInvisible Shoes

CEO and Co-Founder – Steven Sashen

Date started?

November 23, 2009

What is your product or service?

Inspired by the traditional Mexican running sandals of the Tarahumara featured in the NYT bestseller Born to Run, we created Invisible Shoes as a modern hi-tech upgrade. Former lead designers from Reebok and Nike assisted us in the design process. The sole is comprised our own FeelTrue™ rubber, made with some recycled material, and in pre-cut to sizes ranging from a kid’s 11 to an adult 15.5. The sole provides solid traction with our dual-chevron design while coming in both 4mm “Connect” and 6mm “Contact” thicknesses. Nylon stretch-resistant laces come in a variety of colors and allow for add-ons such as beads, charms and pendants. To make your own pair of huaraches with our affordable DIY kit, simply punch a toe-hole, trim the front sole to a custom fit for your foot, and lace. In just minutes you are ready to run (or walk, hike, etc.) in your perfectly-fitted sandals. Invisible Shoes weigh only 3.8 ounces each (for a size 9 shoe) and can go the distance. People have worn Invisible Shoes to the beach or on a stroll through town, as well as hiking technical trails and running an ultra-marathon race. Taking a hint from our tire inspiration, we’re offering these with a 5,000 mile warranty — wear out a pair in 5,000 miles and we’ll replace them for free. We haven’t had to replace any yet!

Why did you start your company?

After taking a 30 year hiatus from track and field, I found my re-entry to the world of running — sprinting, to be specific — a painful one. I was plagued by chronic knee, hamstring and calf injuries that wouldn’t heal. A friend gave me a copy of Born to Run by Christopher McDougall, which was not only a page-turner, but an eye-opener. The Tarahumara, a native running tribe from the Copper Canyons of Mexico, were able to cover treacherous canyon terrain running 60 miles a day well into and beyond their 70’s, with only tire tread strapped to their feet. Here I was, sidelined with chronic injuries as a sprinter. What was I missing? Curious, I made my own huaraches to see if I could run in them. After lacing up and taking off, I found my stride changing, my pace picking up, and my injuries completely disappearing within two months. Running nearly barefoot had given me the ability to be more aware of my stride and form, and had provided the insight and ability to change it. I went from being stuck on the sidelines to regularly winning 100m races, sprinting past runners half my age, and earning the title of Masters All-American. Local barefoot running coach Michael Sandler and author of Barefoot Running loved my huaraches and said if I made a website he would include me in his book. I saw a business opportunity. My wife, on the other hand, thought it was a horrible idea. So, like any good husband, I waited until she went to bed and built a website. The rest is history. We were quickly working overtime to keep up with sales and have now sold over 5,000 pairs in over 35 countries.

How was it financed?

Since Invisible Shoes are just a sole and some shoe string, it’s appropriate that we used shoe-string financing to launch the business. We started with $50 out of our pockets, making a few pairs of Invisible Shoes for some friends, and charged just enough to pay for our own. When more people wanted more shoes, we spent another $100 out of our pocket, and charged a tiny bit more. The total profit (about $64) was all we needed to buy our domain name, get a WordPress template and launch our site. We reinvested the money from our hobby sales to get more inventory, and off we went.

What free online or offline tools do you use?

We use a number of free online tools. WordPress powers our site and SimplePress is our forum software. We started out with the free version of the Ecwid Shopping Cart, but have since moved on. Of course we also use the social media staples – Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

How many people are currently working, including employees (freelancers or independent contractors for specific projects)?

Invisible Shoes: Moving Fast In Business & On the Track

Steven Sashen, CEO

Right now we have four people. Myself as CEO, Lena Phoenix (my wife) as COO, as well as a developer and publicist.

What is the best advice you never got?

Don’t go into the shoe business.

Oh, wait, all our friends who’ve spent 30+ years in the shoe business did tell us that… but we ignored them.

What almost killed your business in the start?

How fast it grew! We were growing at 100% each month for the first eight months, which meant that every penny we made had to go back into the business. We had no time or money left for ourselves.

What is the one thing that you did right?

Focused on SEO to get free traffic. Without a web presence and solid search results, we wouldn’t be where we are now.

What was the biggest transition you had to make?(i.e. new skill set, habits, abilities, focus)?

For one, we had never worked in the shoe industry before. That alone was quite a hill to climb, but we were fortunate to work with knowledgeable industry veterans who brought us up to speed quickly. Also, we were essentially retired before starting this business, so transitioning to “get up, go to work… work HARD” took a little getting used to. Luckily, the fun and excitement of the business now wakes us up every morning.

Are you currently in the black or red?

This all depends on how you look at the numbers given our recent purchase of inventory. But, basically, BLACK.

What type of marketing or advertising do you do?

With a limited budget, we have managed to make the most out of our promotional dollar. We work with a top-notch public relations professional, keep our social media active and engaging, and employ an aggressive SEO campaign.

What would make your business more “Successful”?

Automating our fulfillment process would take a lot of day-to-day responsibility out of our hands. We are currently working on this. From there, it’s just a matter of building awareness.

Would you want to be acquired by a bigger company, run it yourself or sell in a couple of years?

Invisible Shoes: Moving Fast In Business & On the Track

Whatever we plan for the future will be trumped by reality. We are open to continuing to run the company or discussing some form of acquisition or purchase.

Company Links:


Face book:

Twitter: @invisibleshoes

You Tube:




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