In this episode of Art of the Kickstart, we interviewed “Sneaker” Steve Patiño, CEO and founder of Ales Grey. Looking to support the more comfortable, effortless lifestyle that thrived during the pandemic, Steve developed the Ales Grey Rodeo Drive Slip-On. This slip-on is the world’s first recycled, sustainable clog. Learn how Steve surpassed his active Kickstarter funding goal by more than 70% with the support of over 130 backers.

Topics Discussed and Key Crowdfunding Takeaways

  • How Ales Grey’s mission-driven mindset influenced the idea of the Rodeo Drive Slip-On
  • Steve’s inspiration behind the brand and the namesake of the company
  • Insight into how Steve’s first sneaker store job kickstarted his career in this industry
  • How Ales Grey designed and prototyped the Rodeo Drive Slip-On
  • Background into Ale Grey’s partnership with XL Extralight in Italy’s “Difference Makers” program

Links

Sponsors

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Transcript

View this episode's transcript

Roy Morejon:
Welcome, entrepreneurs and startups to “Art of the Kickstart,” the podcast that every entrepreneur needs to listen to before you launch. I’m your host, Roy Morejon, president and founder of Enventys Partners, the world’s only turnkey product launch company that has helped over 2000 innovations successfully raise over $400 million in capital since 2010.

Roy Morejon:
Each week, I interview a crowdfunding success story, an inspirational entrepreneur, or a business expert in order to help you take your startup to the next level. This show would not be possible without our main sponsor, Product Type, a 300,000 member crowdfunding media site and newsletter that’s generated millions of dollars in sales for over a thousand top tier projects since 2017. Check out product Hype.Co to subscribe to the weekly newsletter. Now, let’s get on with the show.

Roy Morejon:
Welcome to another edition of “Art of the Kickstart.” Today, I’m super excited because I am speaking with “Sneaker” Steve Patiño, CEO, founder of Ales Grey. And if you haven’t heard of this product, it is truly amazing because it is the first recycled sustainable slip-on. Also, it looks to be one of the most comfortable, durable, lightweight, sustainable clogs ever. So “Sneaker” Steve, Mr. Steve Patiño, thank you so much for joining us today on “Art of the Kickstart.”

Steve Patiño:
Aw, thank you, Roy, so much. It’s an honor to be on “Art of the Kickstart,” and I wish I had you in the video because that was an incredible introduction. I love it.

Roy Morejon:
Yeah, I nailed it. So, usually, I don’t do that, but no, that was wonderful. And I’m super excited to speak with you because I mean, you truly are a global footwear expert, right? I mean, you’ve got 25 years plus now of experience working on all sides of the footwear industry from DC shoes to other places. And now, you’ve got this amazing product that you’ve brought to market on Kickstarter, which the world is going to be made aware of now with this show.

Roy Morejon:
So let’s talk a little bit about this product as if I’ve never heard of it or if our audience has never heard of it. Where did it start, and what inspired you to create this product?

Steve Patiño:
Well, thank you. Absolutely. The way that the product started and the whole concept for it was in 2019, prior to the start of the pandemic, we were approached by a company named [inaudible 0:00:02:25] or light in Italy, who is the pioneer and leading manufacturers in injected foam material in the world. Their father and great-grandfather were passionate about lightweight innovation technology for the last 56 years. Our company, because it’s a mission-driven company, was chosen to be a part of their “Difference Makers” program. And very shortly after the start of the pandemic, we really just had to reassess our company and what type of product we wanted to create for the market. And for us coming more from a empathy standpoint, times are hard for a lot of people, for many of us and spending 300, 400, 500 or plus on footwear was just very difficult.

Steve Patiño:
I didn’t feel good about it, and so we said, talk with our team, “What is the best product we can make for the world right now?” And with everyone moving to either work from home or a more comfortable, effortless lifestyle, I really believe that we needed quality and sustainability. And if we can do that for the market and bring a “Made-in-Italy,” injected foam, proprietary, world’s first to the market was something that was really exciting because we saw the growth and how fast this actual demographic was growing worldwide and it’s outpacing traditional footwear. So from a business standpoint, we saw it as an incredible opportunity, and just from a human standpoint, we just said, “Look, this is the best product that we can make in the world. It’s the best step in the right direction that we can take.” And we’re so excited to launch the world’s first recycled, sustainable clog.

Roy Morejon:
So let’s talk about mission because I know with products like this, it is critically important to have that guiding light. So what was the mission at the outset, when you launched this and has it changed over the last few years?

Steve Patiño:
Well, it really has. And for us, we launched a Ales Grey in 2018, beginning 2019, so we’re still a young company, and our mission from day one was “Luxury with a purpose.” And like you said, after being in the industry for 20 someone years, we really thought to ourselves, “What can we do that’s special?” And that’s really what helped us, is being able to do that, and create something that was really special to the market. So we’re in partnership with the Inner City Arts Foundation for children. Through that, we’ve been able to help and work with their students, give a percentage back to sales, but more importantly, have them be a part of our mentorship programs and help with them, so that a younger society, traditionally students that don’t have the ability or funding for arts, to be able to create something special and have the tools to become a productive part of society.

Steve Patiño:
I say “art saved my life,” so that’s really our purpose. And through being able to manufacture in Europe, the purpose evolved, to your point, which was it changed when I started to learn about “What else can I do?” And when we were approached by XL Extralight to use their proprietary, sustainable-plus material, made of 51% recycled materials, I said, “Wow, this is, literally, the best step that we can make now for us and for the future.” And as you know, Roy, I just told you, my son is the inspiration for the brand, and he is the namesake for the company. So his name is Greyson Alessandro, and the name of the company is Ales Grey.

Roy Morejon:
Yeah. I love that you’ve incorporated your child’s name into the product. I try and think of different ways in the future, how I can incorporate my kids into the things or projects that I’m working on so those things can continue to live on forever. So I think that’s just, ultimately, overall, very important, at least personally for me and obviously for yourself in terms of the naming of your product. So Steve, let’s go into a little bit of your background. What led you into being an entrepreneur? What’s motivating you?

Steve Patiño:
I really would say my mother. My mother, she came to this country from Columbia with a fifth-grade education, and she did everything she could. She moved to New York, to Queens. She did everything she could to provide for me, and I saw how she worked. My friends always laugh at me, like my childhood friends. My house or apartment looked like a little flea market. She would do anything she could. She would sell, from little pieces of jewelry to lingerie to shoes to baby rings, even food out of the house. My house was a little market and as you get older, you think about your youth and you say, “Wow, this is, actually, how I became an entrepreneur,” because I saw my mother do it at such a young age.

Steve Patiño:
And from there, I started working at a sneaker store for free. That’s how my story started, and that store became very famous because I was able to forecast skateboarding shoes going into mass market, and we were the first non-skate store to sell skateboarding product in the entire East Coast of America. That then led me to become global director, very quickly, of DC Shoes and we were a part of the executive team that was part of the highest run. We went from 90 million to $600 million annual growth, and I was 26 years old. I traveled the entire world. And then, from there, it led me to Asia, and I lived five years in Asia, learning everything I could about the manufacturing industry. And from there, I’ve really saw … I loved living, I spent a lot of time in China. I learned how to speak Chinese.

Steve Patiño:
I love the culture and the food and the people, but two things that I couldn’t get past was one, was the pollution, and second, was some of the conditions in the factories. And that led me to manufacturing in Europe and for the last 10, 12 years, I’ve been manufacturing in Europe in the highest luxury caliber factories in the entire world. And when I saw Italy and I saw Portugal and the production there, honestly, that was the “aha” moment. I literally said, “How can I share this quality with the American market and the rest of the world, and how do I create a business model that allows me to do so?” And so this has just really been a culmination of my 27 years in the history, plus the 56 years of innovation of XL Extralight in Italy coming together and creating something to be able to create a world’s first product. And it’s honestly … it’s surreal, and it’s an amazing, and it’s just the beginning.

Roy Morejon:
Yeah. It sounds like it, Steve, and that’s truly an amazing journey that you’ve been on. So let’s talk about the design side of things here. What’s that process look like with Italy and your partnership there, and how did you go about deciding designs, colors, features, et cetera, in this launch?

Steve Patiño:
So, really, this shoe was built from the ground up, and it had to be. One, because, for the listeners, this is an injected mold, so this is very different than us making a sneaker and either getting an outsole or creating an outsole and then, finding all the uppers and all the pieces that go and the materials and the fabrics that make up a shoe. This is one material that gets injected into a mold, and then, from that, it’s a single piece injection. So it has to be perfect.

Steve Patiño:
As you know, footwear is one of the most difficult things to make. To make injected foam is even more difficult. To make a sustainable injected foam is probably the most difficult things you can even try to accomplish because it has to be from the ground up based on the expansion rate. So if we had to pick the hardest thing to do in life, we went for it, and we couldn’t do this without the engineering and the help of [inaudible 0:00:10:10].

Steve Patiño:
They really helped us and held our hand through the process, and we worked with our senior design team and our designer together, with me, to really create this product. And for me, from a design standpoint, I really wanted it to be sleek. I’m fascinated and just always inspired by the clean lines of beautiful sports cars, so that’s why it has the “drive” in the “Rodeo Drive” name of it. The area where this product is produced is Le Marche, which also produces one of the most famous driving shoes called Tod’s. So I love this kind of driving element to it, that’s clean lines, that’s sophisticated, that’s fast, [inaudible 0:00:10:54] details. We wanted it to have that comfort level from the inside. In terms of proportion, the way that it’s engineered on the inside, it’s, literally, like when you step into … if you sit inside of a Porsche or a race car, you sit deep down inside with a snug fit.

Steve Patiño:
It’s same way that the shoe is engineered and basically, the shoe gets gutted from the inside, so you don’t see it. That way, you can have a lower toe. The ventilations on the side were, specifically, only on the medial inner side, so that one, your foot is protected, but you still have the waterproof feature. And on the aesthetic standpoint, you can actually have a very clean silhouette. A lot of people like minimal clean design, so we’re excited to have that feature there. You also see beautiful grooves inside the mid-sole and the strap detail. The hardware is recycled on top of the shoe.

Steve Patiño:
There’s three extra textures that are already injected top of the mol, so you see in different specific areas where the bottom has an extra rugged sole on the middle. It’s a little bit smoother on the inner foot bed. There’s actually no texture, so your foot slides in. On the upper part where the top of your foot is, there’s actually, also, another texture that helps you not slip out of the shoe. The upper, completely on the outside, has an additional texture, so we really looked and engineered this shoe using the craftsmanship in Italy and our design language to create something that was beautiful, sleek, minimal on the outside, but completely filled with unique features. There’s over 30 features of this shoe.

Roy Morejon:
No, that’s incredible, and I know one of the core objectives when you guys came to us to, initially, launch this campaign was to build this community of people that can learn about your brand, the product, the mission towards sustainable luxury, as well as build this small tribe buck. What’s interesting on your campaign is 54 percent of the backers in the campaign had never backed a Kickstarter campaign before, and typically, we’ll see campaigns range between 20 to 35 percent, but with such a massive percentage of first-time backers, I think the beauty and the process that you’ve gone into building this product out shines forward. That’s inspired enough people to back, kick up Kickstarter campaign for their first time. So I’m interested to hear from you, in terms of, what is that communication been with the crowd and taking their feedback or engaging with them on this initial launch on Kickstarter?

Steve Patiño:
Well, in order to basically see the results over the last five or six days, what we’ve seen so far is that we had to do a very grassroots outreach. We are a new company. Everyone knows now that in digital marketing, that ads are just very difficult, especially the fashion space. Everyone’s fighting for this attention.

Roy Morejon:
Right.

Steve Patiño:
So it’s even more expensive and more difficult to do. We knew that this had to be, literally, like a startup, and we sent over hundreds of direct messages to all of our friends, families, athletes, celebrities, entertainers, to really just help and say, “We’ve been working on something special for the last year and a half. Please help us share this. Please help us bring the sustainable project to life.”

Steve Patiño:
And we had to really come from a non ego-less empathetic standpoint and just think very vulnerable, think, “Hey, I need your help.” And that’s how we’ve been able to get that many people to back, and I apologize to any of my friends for the three, four messages and the constant messages that I’ve given them to help back this campaign.

Roy Morejon:
Well, I think that’s what it takes, right? I mean, we’re all so busy in this world, even in the post-COVID America side of things, but we’re as busy as we want to be, but our attention spans are still less than that of the goldfish, right? So constant communication with friends, family, whomever is necessary to, finally, get some action on some things, especially when it comes to backing a campaign, because time is of the essence, right? As we’re recording this, 24 days left on this campaign, and every moment counts.

Steve Patiño:
Exactly, and I think, Roy, is be kind, right? So I know I need this. I know my company needs this, but everyone’s going through a lot still and in the entire world. So even when I reach out to people, I say it with kindness. I’m saying, “If you can.” I say it very respectfully, “If you can back this. If you can support it, and if you can’t, that’s okay. Can you please share, can you please comment whatever you can do,” but there is this sense of urgency and really, just vulnerability coming from me and my team saying, “Hey, we need this help. This is a good cause. This is a good project. We really need your support.” And honestly, our friends have been incredible, and the community has been amazing.

Roy Morejon:
Yeah. That’s great. So given this is your first Kickstarter campaign, what’s been the biggest surprise for you thus far?

Steve Patiño:
How difficult it is. Me being a seasoned veteran of the industry, I’ve done so much, but this is really a lot of work. And I want to just commend anybody who’s been a creator, who’s created a Kickstarter, and just, quit my hat off and just out of respect. This is a big thing to do. Kickstarter is not just some page you put up. The amount of time that it takes and creating the details, the communication, the amount of respect that you have to give to the community in Kickstarter to be able to understand your product cleanly and clearly takes a lot in terms of language and writing, drafting up the imagery. And for me, it was just the amount of work that it was. I was surprised by it. I didn’t know that it was that much to be able to do this, and I’m very happy that we’re a part of the community. I’m very proud.

Roy Morejon:
Yeah. Likewise, and I know the team here has been proud of the product that we’re launching with you and the early success that we’re having with it. So this has been great, Steve. Thank you so much for joining us.

Steve Patiño:
Oh, you’re very welcome. Excited to be on.

Roy Morejon:
So Steve, this is going to get us into our “Launch Round,” as you’re well aware, listening to our podcast for a few years now. I’m going to rapid fire a handful of questions at you. So, you good to go?

Steve Patiño:
I’m good to go. I’m ready.

Roy Morejon:
Let’s do this. So what inspired you to be an entrepreneur?

Steve Patiño:
I would say, really, just growing up in New York City and my mother, just being able to see it during the ’80s and ’90s was an incredible time, and it was a time where I believe just everything was possible. Even though I wasn’t coming from those type of conditions, I just believed in my heart that everything was possible, and I believe that’s what led me to be an entrepreneur.

Roy Morejon:
So if you could meet with any entrepreneur throughout history, who would it be?

Steve Patiño:
I would say I like … I’m thinking more of Buzz Aldrin as an engineer, astronaut and fighter pilot, just because of what he did and accomplished something that was never been able to be done before, and just to have that conversation with Buzz would be incredible and see what it felt like to commit your life to something at that degree. I can imagine how scary must’ve been to go to the moon back then and just that utter commitment. I would love that.

Roy Morejon:
Nice. So any books that you would recommend to our listeners?

Steve Patiño:
Yes. So I have two. So one is “The Power of a Positive No” by William Ury, and that really changed my life because it allowed me to say “no” in a kind way. It allowed me to say, “No, I’m sorry. I can’t do that. No, that’s not what I’m going to go in, or no, that’s not the direction that I want to do.” And you do it in a way by understanding yes, you’re able to say “no” in a positive way, so that book is first.

Steve Patiño:
The second that I love is “Tools of Titans” by Tim Ferriss and that book, just because of all the interviews that he’s done and just having those small tidbits of information from so many different entrepreneurs, incredible people. You don’t have to draft or create your storyline or your career in one way. You can alter it. Sometimes, we tell ourselves a narrative or a story and say, “Well, our life has to go in this direction, but it’s really not.” And when you listen to more people’s stories in their lives, you can take those and adapt your story to them, and it’s really remarkable.

Roy Morejon:
Beautiful. So what do you think are the top three skills that every entrepreneur needs to be successful?

Steve Patiño:
Top skill number one, I would say reflection. You have to be able to reflect inside to really see what you want to create. The second I want to say is passion because as we all know, there’s those times where things get really tough, and I believe passion puts you through it. And the third is patience. I really believe you have to be patient and see it out, so those were the three that I would recommend.

Roy Morejon:
Nice. So what’s one invention that’s made your life easier?

Steve Patiño:
The Rodeo Drive clog by Ales Grey.

Roy Morejon:
Beautiful.

Steve Patiño:
It’s so easy. I just slip them on and off, and I go to work, and I come back, and I have fun with my son. It’s been really amazing.

Roy Morejon:
Nice. Last question in the Launch Round, Steve, and I know we’re just running the first campaign with you right now, but really interested to hear your take on what does the future of crowdfunding look like?

Steve Patiño:
I really believe that the future of crowdfunding is going to increase tenfold. It’s just the beginning because it allows creators go right to the community, and I also believe that it allows creators to, actually, really dissect their business and create. It’s almost like you’re creating a business model when you’re creating a Kickstarter. You’re not just posting a product up on your e-commerce site. You actually really have to dissect the market and the product, so I believe that this is the future, where people are going to be able to create and put their products up to a larger community, and I think it’s just going to grow. And I believe that more companies are going to get involved because community is everything right now.

Roy Morejon:
Absolutely. Well, Steve, this has been amazing. This is your opportunity to give our audience your pitch, tell people what you’re all about, where they should go and why they should check you out.

Steve Patiño:
Thank you. So my name is Steve Patiño, founder and CEO of Ales Grey. We’re excited to bring the world’s first recycled, sustainable clog to the market in partnership with XL Extralight in Italy, and we were chosen to be a part of their “Difference Makers” program, and we’re so excited to be using sustainable plus. They’re 51 percent post-industrial recycled scraps of material compound with zero water waste, and we believe this is the future. 51 percent is just where we’re at now, working with the material science and their engineers. We’re going to get this higher, and hopefully, get to a hundred, and we really need your support to be able to share this product with the world, and we’re so excited. Thank you so much.

Roy Morejon:
Absolutely. Audience, thanks again for tuning in. make sure to visit artofthekickstart.com for the notes, the transcript, links to the campaign and everything else we talked about today, of course, and thank you to our crowdfunding podcast sponsors The gadget flow and Product Type. And if you’ve loved this episode as much as I did, make sure to share it, and leave us a review on iTunes.

Roy Morejon:
Steve, thank you so much for joining us today on “Art of the Kickstart.”

Steve Patiño:
Thank you, Roy. It’s an honor.

Roy Morejon:
Thanks for tuning into another amazing episode of “Art of the Kickstart,” the show about building a better business world and life with crowdfunding. If you’ve enjoyed today’s episode, show us some love by giving us a great rating on your favorite listening station. And of course, make sure to visit art of the kickstart.com for all the previous episodes. And if you need some help, that’s what we’re here for. Make sure to send me an email to info@artofthekickstart.com. Thanks for tuning in, and I’ll see you on the next episode.