The Founders Series: advice for entrepreneurs and students who are considering becoming entrepreneurs
The Founders Series reaches across multiple industries in order to provide diverse perspectives on entrepreneurship. That’s why you see anything from startup-focused law firms to non-profit organizations featured alongside tech startups.
This week we caught up with Justin Schneider, the Founder of Wolf & Shepherd, a relatively new and highly innovative maker of dress shoes. As a former decathlete at Notre Dame and shoe designer at Adidas, New Balance, and Reebok, Justin knows a thing or two about athletic shoes. Fortunately for W&S customers, he has applied this knowledge to dress shoes and has created what might be the world’s most comfortable and functional, yet stylish, dress shoe.
Tell us about Wolf & Shepherd. What’s your vision for the company?
Everyone loves to look good, and classic shoemakers have done a great job bringing us timeless designs for nearly a century. But as shoe technology has advanced, shoe manufacturers have lagged behind. Drawing from the fundamental technology found in premier athletic shoes, our vision is to build dress shoes that stay true to classic styling while concealing performance technology in the heart of each sole. We believe this will be the launching pad to fully suit the professional of the future.
What inspired you to start your own company?
As a Track & Field athlete at Notre Dame, I spent countless hours training for two days of rigorous competition in the Decathlon. When each competition began, I knew I was physically prepared. I took extra steps to ensure that my equipment (shoes, implements, uniform, etc.) functioned properly.
When I finished my career in running, my new field of competition became the workplace. Each day, I want to wake up feeling comfortable knowing what I wear is a good reflection of my ability to perform.
What was your first job after graduation? How did you make the transition from that to entrepreneurship?
My first job after graduation was with New Balance, in the footwear innovation department. They hired me as a footwear designer to develop future concepts, five years out. Working at New Balance, along with Adidas and Reebok, refined my knowledge of the technical specifics in footwear before I started my first venture, Wolf & Shepherd.
What is the most important trait for an entrepreneur to have?
I think a lot of entrepreneurs hear that they need to have discipline, brains, adaptability, and a unique market strategy, but all these points are moot as they are identified after someone has already achieved success – they are just anecdotes. The only thing you can really control is whether you choose to try or not. You never build a successful business without trying to build it.
What career advice would you give to current students who are considering joining a startup or starting their own company?
There are many ways to increase your chances of success before starting. One of the most effective ways is to gain experience in the industry you’re interested in building a business around. If it’s shoes, then go work for a shoe company. If it’s healthcare, go work for a healthcare provider or hospital.
Where can people find out more about Wolf & Shepherd?
We’d love for you to visit our online store at www.wolfandshepherd.com. You can see news updates, inspiration, and product releases by subscribing on our website or following us on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter: