Two Waikato graduates are endeavouring to make a difference this month through gifting a pair of shoes to a student in need for every pair of shoes their business sells.
Jack Montgomerie and Landon Smith, Co-Founders of Spirit Shoes, launched the shoe brand in November 2020. The pair were inspired to provide stylish footwear options at a lower price point than the global brands currently dominating the market.
“The shoe space has far fewer competitors than what you’d see in say t-shirts, shorts or jeans,” says Montgomerie. “We think this is largely down to production complexities, but if we can get around these production complexities and get through the super hard start, then the lack of competition means that we can actually come into the industry as a disruptive brand.”
Montgomerie emphasises that starting a business as a young graduate has had many challenges, involving “a lot of hard work and so much hard work to come”. Specifically, challenging larger, well-established brands has proven difficult in a footwear market where these brands currently dominate. However, the founders believe that their aggressive pricing, with a pair of Sidekicks coming in under $100, makes their product more financially accessible, particularly to young people. Combined with a large focus on social media and influencer marketing, Montgomerie says that Spirit Shoes has the potential to become a premium brand without an excessive price tag.
Montgomerie and Smith aim to infuse the brand’s values into all aspects of its marketing and operations in order to stand out from competitors. One step they’ve taken is introducing a Golden Sidekicks initiative, in which random purchasers of regular black or white Sidekicks may receive a pair with a gold logo, and will be entitled to a free pair of shoes every year. By thinking of fresh, new initiatives such as these Montgomerie hopes the brand will be able to disrupt the footwear space.
At the start of this month, the brand announced a partnership with Papakura High School. Throughout April, for every pair of Spirit Sidekicks sold another pair will be gifted to a student in need. The brand is working with the school to get word out far and wide in the community, in order to get as many pairs of shoes on feet as possible.
Montgomerie says a key factor in the decision to partner with the school in the initiative was a need to “focus in on our back doorstep”. He recognises the success and social impact of shoe brands such as Allbirds as providing both an immediate product to customers and creating social good through their operations. For Montgomerie, it was clear that immediate focus was needed on addressing the needs of New Zealanders through their initiatives.
For recent graduates looking to start their own business, Montgomerie has a few words of advice. “Follow your passion and surround yourself with the right people because you will be living and breathing your business,” he says. “Have the courage to be a visionary and chase a goal that literally everyone will think to be impossible. Most of all, constantly push yourself to achieve things quickly — achieve something in half a year when it should rationally take 1 year to achieve.”
To check out Spirit Shoes and get involved with their You Buy, We’ll Give initiative, head to their website.