Will Leonard and his mother Victoria started the Blu Kicks brand with the simple idea of creating a better travel and vacation shoe. Inspired by the fish they encountered on a family trip to Hawaii, Will and Victoria began producing an ocean-themed line of colorful slip–ons that featured original fish artwork and cool laid back designs.
The Blu Kicks collection has now grown to include loafers and chukkas that retain the casual, classic style of the original sneakers, while giving them a line of products that they can now sell year-round.
I first read about Blu Kicks’ brand on the Shopify blog and I was impressed by the products, the social mission – blue kicks donate a portion of every sale to ocean-related causes – and the strength of the brand they had created.
The photos were great, there was a clear focus to the Blu Kicks brand and a strong narrative that immediately communicated what they were all about.
After starting out by hand painting shoes themselves, it took will and victoria 2-3 years to figure out how to manufacture the shoe. The Blu Kicks brand launched in 2012 with 2 designs, sold mostly to friends and family – and they quickly realized they needed to make more styles if they were going to grow the brand.
Will credits those first few years figuring out the business as really helping to define the strong DNA of the brand. Also, having a small team driven by the founders has helped. They now have guidelines and core assets that guide their creative process, such as creating outsoles featuring original artwork and donating a portion to ocean charities.
Now they’ve taken their commitment to extending the brand a step further venturing into retail with a pop-up store and a studio that’s open to the public.
Will talked briefly about the challenges of working with family. It takes an adjustment period as you learn how to relate in new ways and not just default to your long-established dynamic. Once you have more structure in the business and roles get more defined it gets easier.
Try to think about the marketing from the beginning of the product development process and build it into the products themselves
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