Story by: Anna Barker, MSU Center for Entrepreneurship and Outreach
Ki’erre Dawkins and Cliff Danzy used their shared love of shoes to create a profitable business.
Dawkins grew up in Saginaw, Michigan before moving to Mississippi. Early in his college career the fine arts major realized he had a passion for painting.
“I took Brent Funderbunk’s class and he was the first person who told me I was a painter.” Dawkins recalled.
The 25-year-old used his artistic talents to customize his own shoes.
Danzy, a 24-year-old business administration major from Clinton, Mississippi, began working on shoe restorations after recognizing the lack of quality repair companies.
“So many people will use the same method and tools that are needed to restore dress shoes for an athletic shoe. That’s completely wrong and can destroy the shoe,” Danzy said. “So, in high school, I started to teach myself how to individually restore different types of shoes.”
The two met while living in Hathorn Hall after Danzy saw Dawkins customization work on social media.
“Cliff actually saw my work on Instagram and contacted me to customize a pair of Timberland boots.”
Although Cliff Danzy had experience in shoe restoration, he did not start customizing shoes until he met Dawkins.
“Cliff had worked more in restoration and I was more interested in customization,” Dawkins said. “So we sat down together and came up with the Timberland design. We’ve been doing this together ever since.”
The two soon discovered a market demand for custom shoe services and restorations.
“We did some research and found out pretty quickly that there was a market for what we were doing.” Dawkins said. “We got so much positive feedback after our first customization, that we decided to keep working together.”
That positive feedback was the impetus that ultimately drove the co-founders to create SneakerBeaterz, their footwear customization and restoration company. “I was in the E-Club my freshman year,” Danzy said. “In the summer of 2016 I met with Eric Hill and he told me about the new Venture Catalyst program and all that the E-Center could do for us. Ki’erre and I started meeting with Eric every week to develop a business plan.”
The two completed over 400 orders last year, earning over $30,000 to drive SneakerBeaterz forward.
“I think that when your back is pushed against the wall you can find a way to make things happen,” Dawkins said. “Ask yourself what you can provide that people need.”
“It’s cool that we were able to turn our hobby into a career,” Dawkins said. “I believe things happen for a reason, so don’t take them for granted. Find a way to use your skills.”