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How a Viral Reddit Post Helped This Sock Entrepreneur Launch a $5.7 Million Shoe Business in a Day

Kory Stevens interrupted a family meal to seize an opportunity to get into the shoe business.

By Kate Rockwood, Contributing editor, Inc.
After partial assembly, each Taft boot is hand dyed and painted. The company says it uses only vegetable-tanned, chromium-free, full-grain leathers.
After partial assembly, each Taft boot is hand dyed and painted. The company says it uses only vegetable-tanned, chromium-free, full-grain leathers.
Marco Argüello

Many business ideas have been hatched over dinner. Online shoe startup Taft actually launched one during dinner. Co-founders Kory and Mallory Stevens were running a successful online sock business. But Kory's heart and (go ahead, say it) sole was in boots and shoes. He'd even trekked to Spain to create prototypes and check out factories--and then went back to hosiery. But during a family dinner in late 2015, Taft's traffic started spiking because of a favorable Reddit mention. "I realized if we missed that moment, we might not get it again," Kory says.

He retrieved his prototypes from the closet and within hours named them (Jack, after his grandfather; Troy, after a nephew) and settled on a semi-random price. He slapped pictures and descriptions of the boots on the site--and amassed $50,000 in preorders by the next day. Acting crazy-quick allowed Taft to seize the traffic to get the preorders needed to pull the trigger on production--and pivot into the boot and shoe business. 

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The old city center in Almansa, Spain, near the shoe factory. Taft co-founder Kory Stevens traveled Europe in search of skilled shoemakers and found them here.

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1. Although many shoe factories now use computer-guided lasers to cut leather from patterns, Taft relies on artisans who do the shoe surgery by hand.

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2. A cobbler takes a hammer to the heel to secure the leather to the boot.

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3. Sewing is done manually, as shown here. The upper is then attached to the outsole using a process called Blake-stitch construction; it requires a separate machine.

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4. After partial assembly, each boot is hand dyed and painted. The company says it uses only vegetable-tanned, chromium-free, full-grain leathers.

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5. A worker reaches for a glue brush to attach the inner sole to the shoe.

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6. The finished, $250 pair of boots is bagged and boxed and ready to ship. Taft has done so well in its shoe business that it dropped its sock line in 2016.

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From the September 2018 issue of Inc. Magazine
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Summary | 4 Annotations
Online shoe startup Taft actually launched one during dinner
2018/08/22 00:56
Taft's traffic started spiking because of a favorable Reddit mention. "I realized if we missed that moment, we might not get it again," Kory says.
2018/08/22 00:57
The old city center in Almansa, Spain, near the shoe factory.
2018/08/22 00:57
Sewing is done manually, as shown here. The upper is then attached to the outsole using a process called Blake-stitch construction
2018/08/22 00:57