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Wolf & Shepherd: Combining Performance & Design

If you want something done well, sometimes you have to do it yourself.

 

Justin Schneider is a shoe designer. He’s previously worked for such world-renowned athletic brands as New Balance, Reebok, and adidas.

 

“He’s a big shoe buff. He loves design, and is passionate about integrating technology with fashion and performance,” says Dan Schoenherr, Director of Finance and Operations at Wolf & Shepherd.

 

He started realizing that a lot of the classically-designed dress shoes that look great were really uncomfortable.

 

But, before all of that, Justin was an athlete. He was a decathlete at Notre Dame, played pickup basketball, and wore a lot of performance footwear. So, when he entered the corporate world, he had a hard time finding a beautiful yet functional shoe.

 

“He started realizing that a lot of the classically-designed dress shoes that look great were really uncomfortable. They really weren’t nice to wear. Those traditional brands are using centuries-old technologies on the soles and insoles, which makes for a pretty uncomfortable shoe.”

 

So, Justin figured, why not take the comfort of a performance shoe and pretty it up a bit? Nobody else was doing it right, so he’d do it himself.

 

In an interview with WJXT, Justin summed up his inspiration: “After we leave college, or finish playing sports, we find that the new field of performance is the workforce. I figured why should we compromise the equipment we wore on the field, just because we enter the corporate world?”

 

Justin wanted to combine performance and design. The Wolf, and the Shepherd.

 
 

The Field to the Office

 

A shoe company doesn’t just drop out of thin air, even for a designer.

 

Justin had a bit of money saved, and invested it all into his new venture. As Dan tells it, the beginning wasn’t a walk in the park.

 

“He bootstrapped the very beginning,” Dan remembers.

 

He cold-called people, convincing them that he was going to design the best, sexiest, most stylish and comfortable shoe out there

 

“It’s a very typical scrappy entrepreneurial story. He got prepayments for shoes to raise money from anybody and everybody he knew. He cold-called people, convincing them that he was going to design the best, sexiest, most stylish and comfortable shoe out there. He asked for a deposit on the promise of delivering the shoes in a few month’s time.”

 

That’s a lot of responsibility, and a lot of people to please. But, Justin’s initial investors were close to him, knew his drive and passion, and trusted that he’d deliver.

 

Miraculously, Justin scraped up enough money to run the first batch of shoes, which he sold and delivered to happy customers.

 

“Those models look a bit different from how the shoes look now. So that got his initial production, and prototype, paid for and out the door.”

 

Happy ever-after, right? Well, not exactly. Justin kept bootstrapping for a little while, but ran into a bit of a problem.

 

Wolf & Shepherd was so successful at the beginning that Justin just couldn’t keep up

 

“He just didn’t have enough working capital to cover pre-payments for additional orders and additional inventory.”

 

Wolf & Shepherd was so successful at the beginning that Justin just couldn’t keep up. But, luckily, he had a plan, and a great support system around him.

 

“He raised $250,000 from friends and family. The purpose of that was really to get more inventory to sell. But, he also wanted to upgrade the manufacturing. What he had was okay, but higher end men’s dress shoes are handcrafted in Europe.”

 

The world’s best leathers, manufacturers, and suppliers for men’s dress shoes were in Italy and Portugal. So, he had to move operations, and found himself in Porta.

 
 

Moving on Up

 

All manufacturing operations for Wolf & Shepherd were moving to Portugal. For Justin to make the highest quality shoe, he had to go to the source, and Porta is home to some of the world’s best.

 

He contacted a friend from college who also ran track, and got an idea.

 

But, he still had to get the word out. He couldn’t cold-call every customer.

 

“While all this was happening, he was cold-calling news organizations, and doing his own PR. In that process, he contacted a friend from college who also ran track, and got an idea.”

 

Justin was in Atlanta at the time, and convinced his friend to run in the Atlanta Half-Marathon in Wolf & Shepherd dress shoes.

 

He won. Talk about performance marketing.

 

And then, Justin hit his stride.

 

“He was able to use that story to get in GQ, Squawk Box, Business Insider, and other major publications. The goal was to get that story out, which jumped sales quite a bit. So, Justin could really leverage that funding from friends and family to keep gaining traction, and to get more designs out there.”

 

Justin was in Atlanta at the time, and convinced his friend to run in the Atlanta Half-Marathon in Wolf & Shepherd dress shoes.

 

After that, plus some more broad-based marketing, Wolf & Shepherd began to really take off. They acquired more inventory, hired some employees, and all-the-while kept an eye out for new and fashionable designs by partnering with the best designers in the world.

 

But, international suppliers can pose big problems.

 

Sending money overseas is hazardous, especially in large sums. Justin needed some help.

 

“I came onboard in July of 2017. Mind you, Justin is a great designer, really strong entrepreneur and visionary, and is really great at the front end of the business. But, he needed a lot of help on the business side. So, I came in to help make sure we could support big growth from a finance, supply chain and logistics standpoint.”

 

Or, as Dan calls it, the “unsexy part.”

 

But, as he started to work with Wolf & Shepherd’s Portuguese suppliers, he found he needed a better way to pay for high quality materials.

 

At just the right time, Veem came calling.

 
 

Something New

 

Now that all of Wolf & Shepherd’s suppliers were overseas, Dan was sending a lot of money over bank wire.

 

“It’s not a crazy amount, but it’s enough. We were just using our Chase bank account to send international wires. The exchange rate was what it was, I couldn’t attach the invoice to the wire, and payments just took way too long to arrive.”

 

So, when Dan got a call telling him about a faster, easier service, he was all ears.

 

I had just been wiring some money over to Portugal. Honestly, if it wasn’t so easy to set up, I wouldn’t have even tried it. But, because it was, I got everything settled, and decided to compare Veem to Chase

 

“The guy on the other end just said ‘hey, we can help with your international wires. If that’s something you do, we’d love for you to check us out.’”

 

For Dan, the call came just in time.

 

“I had just been wiring some money over to Portugal. Honestly, if it wasn’t so easy to set up, I wouldn’t have even tried it. But, because it was, I got everything settled, and decided to compare Veem to Chase.”

 

For his next wire, Dan checked the cost and exchange rate of both methods.

 

“I put the amount in on both sides and was surprised to see that Veem had a way better exchange rate. It was really easy to do, and from there we began using it full time.”

 

To establish trust and long-term relationships with some of the best suppliers and manufacturers in the world, Justin and Dan need to keep them happy. With Veem, they’ve got payments covered.

 

Ease of use and great prices drew Dan in, but transparency kept him hooked.

 

“Our payments arrive a full day earlier on average than they did with Chase. Suppliers are notified when payments are executed, which overall improves communications between us and them. That’s all become possible now that we can bring our suppliers onto the platform.”

 

A fluid supply chain is crucial for Wolf & Shepherd. To establish trust and long-term relationships with some of the best suppliers and manufacturers in the world, Justin and Dan need to keep them happy. With Veem, they’ve got payments covered.

 

Justin’s vision of combining the comfort of high-performance with the style of Italian design has come true.

 

From the office to the field, Wolf & Shepherd changes the way we work and play.