EVER fancied designing your own footwear? Now thanks to the entrepreneur Matt Scott you can give the sportswear companies a run for their money.
His company Mes Footwork is based on the principle that customers really do know best, allowing those who log on to his website to put their own graphics, designs and text onto plimsolls which are then manufactured by Matt and his growing team.
Former marketing student Matt came up with the idea after designing a pair of plimmys for his ex-girlfriend’s birthday: “About 18 months ago I bought a pair of plimsolls from the ex-Navy store for my girlfriend’s birthday and put pictures on them.
“She loved the present and that’s what sparked the idea of personalised trainers.
“I did some research and put a business plan together and everything just seemed to fit.
“The opportunity was too good to pass up so I thought I would give it a go and just go for it.”
Matt funded the start up of his company through his student loan and by lending some money from his parents: “At that point I invested my student loan and I also got a little bit from my parents. I also got £500 from Newcastle uni,” explains Matt.
From the bedroom of his student flat the business started to come together with the help of a basic sewing machine: “I got some shoes imported from China and started putting designs onto those using a sewing machine in my student flat in Jesmond.
“Then I started to try and drum up publicity by using MySpace and Facebook. It didn’t go boom straight away like you always think it’s going to as soon as you launch the site; you think everybody is going to find it and order a pair of shoes!
“But the business did start to trickle in.”
Now, with the help of a number of grants and awards to support the growing company, the business is going from strength to strength.
Matt, from Washington, has been able to set up a manufacturing unit in South Shields and employ fashion graduate Ellie Mole, 23, to develop a new range for a major high street retailer.
He has also been able to employ a seamstress to make the sneakers from scratch and is set to employ another seamstress in the coming weeks.
The Design and Creative Fund, which supports businesses in the design and creative sectors, backed the venture with an investment of £25,000 to help with product development and marketing.
“The funding and support from the Design and Creative Fund, particularly in the current climate, is invaluable. It will give my business the finance to support product development, style production, warehouse facilities and a marketing campaign, which I hope to launch in the run up to Christmas,” explains Matt.
Matt also gained all-important support by clinching the Newcastle University Planning and Pitch Award for which he was given £1,000 and the If We Can You Can Challenge for which he scooped an Apple iPhone, £2,000 support and the chance to network at a major business event: “All of my award money was ploughed back into the business,” explains Matt.
“Part of the If We Can You Can prize was to go to the annual dinner which is attended by major entrepreneurs across the region and held at the Hilton in Gateshead.
“Dave Stewart from Eurythmics was one of the after dinner speakers. He saw someone else wearing the sneakers at the event and asked to find out more.
“He asked ‘could I get one of my designs made into the shoes?’”.
Dave emailed Matt his designs, which Matt put onto the shoes and shipped out.
As well as picking up celebrity fans, Matt also got the chance to connect with major North East entrepreneurs, such as Dave Charlton from The Officers Club: “He put me in touch with a selection of his contacts and that started me on the path to find the right manufacturer.
“I also had a meeting with Office in London about supplying shoes and then I had to think about setting up a professional operation rather than my from student flat.”
As well as the development of a high street line Matt has developed an eco-friendly range of sneakers called Threads to Treads, which creates shoes from recycled clothes.
The green range had its debut at a charity fashion show held at Newcastle’s Tup Tup Palace to help Sage employees raise cash to rebuild a hospital in Nepal. The show also featured X Factor finalists Bad Lashes.
“It’s been going really well,” says Matt.
“There have been lots and lots of opportunities – too many really as I have had to turn some of them down to focus on a few of them.”
Matt says that he has no regrets about following his dream: “I am definitely going to give this my best shot.
“I love it – it’s a great challenge.
“It’s starting something from nothing and see it developing. I’m working hard and can see the vision of where this can possibly go.”
For more information visit www.mesfootwork.com