Thoughts of Going Into the Boot Business

BootstorageJan201501My friend from Belgium sent me some more ideas for this blog, and I appreciate it. One of his recent suggestions was:

With such a vivid passion for boots: have you never thought of turning it into your profession? Like starting a business as a boot retailer or even starting a new brand of boots?

I appreciate the thought. My reply is after the jump…

Yes, it is fair to say that I am passionate about boots. Displays of that passion by displaying my boot collections on my website for more than 10 years and writing this blog with more than half of its content about boots or wearing boots is evident.

However, the other side of the guy who writes this blog and has such a large boot collection finds him even more passionate about his chosen profession and career path which has absolutely nothing to do with retail marketing or product manufacturing. [For purposes of protecting my identity and career, I am deliberately not stating my chosen career path or profession or the sector into which my profession falls].

rp_Speakblog.jpgMy undergraduate and graduate education is applied daily in what I do. My advancement through the ranks from entry-level to senior career professional, job jumps but remaining within my line of work, and contributions to my profession by participation in (literally) thousands of meetings and making presentations on the international stage at conferences (mostly in the U.S., but also in Europe, Asia, Australia, and New Zealand) have been hard-won and earned by hard work. Honors, awards, and promotions have followed.

As I said, my career path and profession have nothing to do with business, marketing, or similar occupations. In fact, I have generally kept away from business and marketing because I do not have the heart for cut-throat actions required to keep a business afloat and profitable. My heart tends to lead me to giving away the store, almost in a literal sense. I get angry and incensed by the behavior and “it’s just business” inhumane actions by investors and entrepreneurs who, for the most part, care less about people and more about profit. I am just not that kind of guy.

I know deep down that I would have significant trouble making a profit and earn a decent income from operating a business, especially in an industry where profit margins are very tight. I tend to be on the socially-conscious side of humanity, so I have difficulty profiting at the expense of someone else, or a collective of “someone elses.”

StompersIn a way, I am similar to my friend Mike, founder and former owner of Stompers Boots of San Francisco. Mike is (and was) a heck of a nice guy whose passion was to get men into boots. He mostly catered to the gay men’s leather scene that emerged and remained ensconced in San Francisco. Mike was exceptionally friendly and often cut deals on boots to the detriment of profit. He was also trusting (as I am sometimes naively so), and got burned badly by someone who took advantage of his trusting nature — and almost bankrupted his business.

When Mike finally decided to sell Stompers Boots in 2011, I seriously considered investing in the business. But four things stopped me cold: 1) I thought the best way to operate the store was in a brick-and-mortar setting with an internet side as Mike was doing it — and my spouse and I were not willing or interested in relocating to San Francisco where the store was located; 2) the store’s finances were in bad shape and profitability was doubtful; 3) the hours that Mike put into his business were monumental and often exceeded 80 hours/week — I want (and have) a more reasonable “work-life” balance; and 4) I loved what I was doing in my chosen profession and I did not want to give it up.

TWC02When it comes to boot manufacturing, I learned from direct observation that there is no profit in making quality boots. Bootmaking with attention to detail and construction has to be done by skilled artisans who also know how to operate and use the tools of bootmaking. Sure, I could learn how to use those tools, but I am only one guy. In order to produce a supply of boots in quantity sufficient for profitable sale, I would have to hire skilled people and pay a fair wage. I would insist on sourcing my products from quality and environmentally-conscious providers. I would insist on operating this business in the United States.

With my living wage, sourcing, and location requirements, if I were to make any profit at all, the price point for boots would have to be significantly higher than what most people would be willing to pay. Remember, most guys who may consider wearing boots look for the lowest-cost option and go for internet-retail (or the likes of Walsucks) boots on sale at low prices. These days, boots at those price points are made at low-wage sweatshops in China with low production standards and questionable materials sourcing. And that was Stompers Boots’ downfall — competition with internet boot retailers severely hampered and reduced sales below the point of making enough money to keep the store open, the lights on, and the rent & taxes paid.

WorkIn summary, I enjoy being a passionate boot-wearing promoter and I enjoy sharing what I have learned about boots. But if you can believe it, I am even more passionate about my chosen career and profession — and that is where I want to stay. My income suits my lifestyle and the work hours provide a reasonable “work-life” balance. I have long believed the expression by Confucius, “Choose a job you love and never work a day in your life!”

Life is short: know thyself and your passions.

1 thought on “Thoughts of Going Into the Boot Business

Comments are closed.