Monte Deere, the CEO of Kizik shares how the shoe-brand founded in 2017 became a trusted name for millions of shoe buyers. Interestingly Deere has been a mergers and acquisitions attorney for 30 years and then found his way into the vast e-commerce space.
Kizik is a Utah-based company that makes hands-free shoes made from Foot Activated Shoe Technology (F.A.S.T), an innovation from Handsfree Labs. They also license this technology to brands like Nike.
How I met Mike
Mike Pratt- the founder of Kizik, was actually a client of Deere’s and was just starting up a small shoe project in his basement, at the time they met. Deere was helping him move his shoe assets to his private company. He describes Mike as a fantastic innovator, someone who sees a problem and thinks of a solution, unlike most of us- who usually just get annoyed because of one!
Mike identified a common but often overlooked problem- no one really likes the hassle of tying their shoes; struggling to tie our laces, hopping around on one foot trying to put on a shoe, or having our fingers stuck at the back of a shoe. For some people, it is actually physically impossible to bend over to do so. This was a really unique space because many people actually have this problem, but don’t know a solution exists.
Mike Pratt started this project in his basement on a very small scale, and Deere says how impressed he was with how organised Mike was. The first time he actually stepped into the basement himself, he saw Mike working on many different prototypes, all labeled and marked in detail.
Deere remembers being really fascinated with the solution Mike was working on and two years later Mike contacted him to step into a leadership position for Kizik.
What the critics said
Monte Deere shares the kind of challenges they faced while getting the word out about Kizik. They had critics say that the technology enables being lazy, after all, how much convenience do we really need? He goes on to give examples of how products that make life easier have always been around and continue to be developed- car lock remotes for instance. How many of us even remember having to use a key to unlock your car anymore?
Once you’ve experienced that convenience, there’s really no going back.
How did you successfully launch on social media?
One of the strategies they’ve adopted to spread the message online about hands-free shoes is by creating video testimonials where people are given the challenge of trying to put on these shoes without using their hands. Their reactions were mostly rooted in surprise- sort of like an ah-ha moment! These videos have proven really impactful from an E-commerce point of view.
How did the Pandemic affect Kizik?
During the pandemic Kizik was selling through a wholesale channel till before the pandemic. At the beginning of the pandemic, there was a bit of a struggle when they made a shift away from wholesale and decided to lean into e-commerce. But keeping their product, price, and story aligned helped the brand really take off.
How to Stay Focused on Your Long Term Vision
Some advice Deere gives about guiding a brand is to always be thinking about the ‘WHY’- why are we doing this, what’s our purpose? For Kizik the ‘why’ isn’t just that they’re convenient, but they’re also a solution for people who are aging or have a chronic health condition or a surgery. The ‘why’ also keeps you focused on your long term vision. Ask this question right from day one and get consensus from your team on this.
While Kizik is still targeting young people who would buy these shoes for convenience, they are also a solution for people who would wear these shoes because of a health condition or disability or know someone who needs them.
Advice for Newbies in Ecommerce
To players looking to enter an e-commerce business, Deere recommends finding a product/ service you love and launching it. Without being passionate about what you’re selling, you can’t expect to be successful. He also says that it’s important that all your partners share your vision for your business to succeed in the long-run.