Wednesday , October 19, 2016 - 5:00 AM
For some people, the crackle of Velcro strips parting is nostalgic of childhood, when footwear was lace-free and life was carefree. For others, Velcro shoes are a matter of convenience and functionality.
But one thing Velcro shoes are not often associated with is style.
Two brothers from Ogden are hoping to add that missing ingredient with their men’s Velcro strap shoes, Velks.
In 2010, Shae Russell and a group of his friends from Fremont High School stopped at a local Wal-Mart and came across a $10 pair of Velcro shoes. The tight-knit group of friends each bought a pair and started wearing them to school. They called them “Velks.”
“It kind of started turning into a trend,” Russell said. “We noticed that game days, dances and even graduation were common ground for the Velks.”
In 2013, after returning from a church mission in France, Shae started classes at Weber State University,where his older brother, Holden, also attended. Holden had just returned from a semester abroad at Shanghai University in China, which had given him the itch to create a business.
The two were frequenting entrepreneurship lectures on campus when they decided to turn the Velcro shoe fad into a legitimate business.
“We got this confidence from all these presentations and competitions that we did.” Shae said. “Because we were doing that, we earned some grants from the school to kind of get our feet off the ground.”
From the entrepreneurship grants they received from Weber State and the University of Utah, the brothers were able to draw and submit their designs to a graphic designer who transformed their drawings into a mockup for manufacturers.
“It’s just kind of a slow process of refining and evolving the quality, the sizing and styles to suit our customers.” Holden said.
After finding manufacturers in the U.S and China, they started a Kickstarter campaign in June to get their shoes into circulation. They reached $7,300 of their $20,000 goal.
Five models of Velks are offered on their website, including corduroy, dress, sport, classic and casual. The brothers also offer a $500 membership that allows customers to become product testers.
“If you wear Velcro and you’re not ashamed of it, it sends a message that you don’t just go along with what everybody else does.” Holden said.
Shae is pursuing a degree in business management at Brigham Young University, where Velks are sold out at the BYU store.
Hal Anderson, BYU store buyer/supervisor, says he couldn’t pass up the idea.
“There’s always a lot of students looking to come up with a new idea, but very few of them actually ever get anything off the ground,” Anderson said. “These were different enough that I took notice.”
Prices for Velks range from $15 to $90. The brothers are working on developing new styles that they project to be on their website by January 2017. Although they currently offer only men’s styles, they are open to developing women’s styles in future productions.
“We live in a world where stereotypes and stigmas plague our society.” Shae said. “Velcro has long been labeled a shoe for the weak, young and elderly, and we’re here to change this perception one customer at a time.”
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