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Dirty sneakers business

The number of sneakerheads in Russia is now steadily growing. Youngsters in this country have never been more fond of rare and expensive sports shoes as they are now. To buy a special pair of some limited edition sneakers, one may at times spend few days in a line. When sneakers are worth such a pain, one has to carefully look after their looks. So a local company emerged in Russia, Solemate, which produces professional cosmetics and accessories for the sports footwear. The project was launched by Ivan Dubinenkov and Evgeny Skvortsov, who managed to start a new business and promote it within just two years, having only invested some RUR 300K ($6K) at the initial stage.

Project

Solemate team believes that to keep sneakers neat, one does not need to take them to an expensive drycleaners. All of the required procedures may be accomplished at home. But to get the desired result, one must use natural and most effective footware care means. Those are now developed and produced by many companies including Solemate.

The manufacturer regularly arranges various events and promos amongst sneakers collectors and sport people, in order to permanently be connected to prospect consumers and to get their active feedback. Being aware of the current problems and having them resolved at its research department, Solemate only offers the most advanced sneakers care technologies to the market.

Nowadays, Solemate partners with major brands and sellers such as Adidas Originals, Reebok and SneakerHead, etc.

Brandfounders

The brand was launched by two Russian entrepreneurs, Eugeny Skvortsov and Ivan Dubinenkov. Skvortsov graduated from Moscow Aviation Institute and before founding the company, he worked in the marketing sector. Dubinenkov graduated from the Chemistry Department of Moscow State University.

The idea of founding Solemate came to Ivan Dubinenkov when he was writing his Ph.D. paper at Bremerhaven in Germany. Having bought himself a pair of white sneakers, Dubinenkov thought that in Russian environment such footware will be unable to stay goodlooking for any time. Within days Ivan had designed a plan of launching a new footware cosmetics brand. When back to Russia, Dubinenkov met Eugeny Skvortsov who had had plans or opening his own business for a long time.

The combination of the marketing expertise of Eugeny and the practical chemistry industry experience of Ivan resulted in launching Solemate, a profitable startup which occupied a vacant niche at the national market.

Beginning

The formula for the first remedy, a sneaker shampoo, was developed by Ivan and Alexei Klimov, his University mate. It took about two months to get the best formula combination. Then, 300 bottles of the elixir were produced. They were sold or just handed out to friends and fiends’ friends. The comments of them all were collected.

Having taken the comments into accoun, the young inventors improved the sneakers care product and launched its mass production at a chemical factory in Moscow Region. Klimov was and still is an employee at the site. But that was not the end of the process. To be the most efficient and safe, Solemate keeps gradually improving and adjusting the chemical formulas of its products.

Initially, the products manufactured by Solemate, were mainly consumed by the friends of the entrepreneurs, therefore the project was hardly profitable. At the start of the business road, the brand founders had to be couriers, marketing experts, logistics specialists and even freight handlers. But quite shortly, the business started to pay back, once the first bulk purchaser emerged.

Market trust

Selling chemicals for sneakers treatment is no easy job in Russia. To gain affection of the customers, entrepreneurs have to promote not just their own company, but the entire industry. Usually, buyers would not comprehend why they needed any footware cosmetics offered by one or another company.

Solemate succeeded in attracting public through staging all sorts of events and master classes among real sports shoes connoisseurs. Indeed, presenting a product in a real environment is the best way to advertize a truly efficient agent. While Moscow residents could personally experience the company products’ efficiency, for the other locations Solemate has been actively offering its videoblog.

The popularity was also pushed up by the growing sneakers culture in Russia. In the West, people are since long accustomed to spending long hours and endless days queuing after exclusive products. Russia’s nationals are just starting to follow that fashion. For many people to begin buying special sports footware care chemicals, Russians have to first learn to appreciate the products the chemicals are intended to protect. Therefore Solemate actively participates in promoting sports footware and street traffic adoration. There’s nothing wrong with that since the street culture keeps flourishing while the corporate revenues keep growing.

Figure out figures

Venture’s seed money equaled RUR 300K, while nowadays the company can afford spending the same amount a month on promotion and advertizing only.

Solemate consumers’ average age is 18 to 25.

It took a year to bring the startup to a full scale operation, and another year later the company turnover reached some RUR 20 mio ($345K). By now, Solemate has got over 50 stable wholesale purchasers.

At the startups’s start, its cofounders had a 24/7 work shift. At the moment, Solemate products are available in 50 cities in Russia, CIS and Finland.

Practical advice by Solemate mates

Communication is of prime importance. Have no fear in engaging in a contact with a consumer. That is the only way one can get valuable knowledge of the wishes and concerns of a customers. Only then will one know what product could be bought to the market.

Startup is always a risk. One may be willing to work round the clock and sleep once a week, but that will be no guarantee of any success. One may have a detailed action plan, but must never forget that adjustments to the changing environment are what really matters.

Teamwork is what one can not ignore. By joining efforts, you and your partners are becoming a clout capable of flattening multiple competitors on the way. A single mind is unable to embrace the universe hence the experience exchange is so essential.

A petit initial capital is not a problem whatsoever. A business idea may be implemented with no substantial investments. The truly important matter is making prospect customers interested and everybody else talking about your venture.

By Christina Firsova

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