Featured Startup Pitch: Brooklyn Workshop’s ‘vulcanized’ Elby shoes are designed for extra durability for longboarders and anyone else with a super-active lifestyle

By Editor March 20, 2014

Alon Karpman, BrooklynWorkshopBy Alon Karpman, Brooklyn Workshop founder

Elevator Pitch: Brooklyn Workshop has developed the technology and design to produce a longer-lasting vulcanized shoe.

Product/Service Description

Through countless hours of testing, Brooklyn Workshop has proven its design and technology for a longer-lasting vulcanized sneaker. Vulcanized shoes are the kind that customers are familiar with from brands like Converse and Vans. They are great because of how flexible, comfortable, soft and ‘grippy’ the soles are. The problem is that the softness comes at the price of the shoe wearing out very quickly. Anyone that has worn a pair of Converse is familiar with how quickly they wear out.

We use a special compound that retains all the softness, grip, and comfort of a vulcanized shoe, but with the added benefit of lasting much, much longer. To test the shoe, we gave pairs to a bunch of longboarders. Longboard skaters do things like foot-breaking that is essentially pressing your shoe on the pavement to stop. So, like an eraser on a pencil, this tends to destroy most shoes. When feedback came back from the riders, we were ecstatic! We even had a rider that took our shoes on a long-distance skate from New York to California. He wore them for over 2,000 miles and they outlasted both his Nikes and his Vans that he took along with him. After that, we knew we had the ‘special sauce’ and were ready to put out the next generation of shoes. We figured if it can take the abuse that our riders dish out, than anyone, even non-skaters, would be happy to have a great-looking, durable shoe.

We now have a Kickstarter campaign and a great distributor that is ready to take this nationwide. We started production of the mid-tops and should have them in stock just in time for summer.

The Elby low-top.

The Elby low-top.

Founder’s Story

While designing and testing my longboard, I was disappointed in how quickly my shoes wore out. Vulcanized shoes look great and have good grip, but because of the soft rubber used in the soles, they wear out extremely fast when being active. So, I set out to develop a vulcanized shoe that would outlast all others on the market. To do things right, I collaborated with veteran designer Michael Ditullo from Nike/Jordan/Converse to design the shoe for the launch. I was blown away to discover that he was a fan of my previous design efforts and was excited to be part of the project.

Marketing/Promotion Strategy

Through our core community of skaters, we will be putting out a series of high impact videos. Also, we started with a niche, so word-of-mouth is very strong. We now are able to sponsor the top riders in the world and get amazing footage and feedback to keep making the best shoe we can.

The new Elby mid-top.

The new Elby mid-top.

Market Opportunity

The athletic shoe market brought in $14.4 billion in revenue in 2013. It is mainly dominated by well-known names like Nike, Adidas and Vans. Being part of the core community of skaters gives us the ability to wedge into that market. Having quality shoes that people are buzzing about should keep us growing.

How We Differentiate From the Competition 

A big draw to make the shoes was to fill an actual void in the market. Skaters who ride short boards have a number of options in skate shoes that cater to their riding styles; but for longboarders there were none. And because of techniques like foot breaking (basically dragging your foot on the ground to stop), they can rip through a pair of shoes in just days. The Brooklyn Workshop shoes have proven to last at least twice as long as the competition. It is a real solution for skaters who need the extra durability.

Business Model 

In 2013, we launched with the introduction of our low tops. The response was great and we sold out quickly. We are now releasing the mid-tops and will follow with the next generation of low tops.

Current Needs

Now that we gained market acceptance in the core community, we would love to hear from partners that could help us leverage that to expand to the masses.

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BrooklynWorkshop logoHeadquarters: Brooklyn, New York

Website: www.brooklynworkshop.com

Founder: Alon Karpman

Investors: Bootstrapped

Year Founded: 2010

Kickstarter: kickstarter.com/projects/785830551/elby-a-long-lasting-vulcanized-shoe-from-brooklyn

Twitter: @BrooklynWrkshop

Facebook: facebook.com/BrooklynWorkshop