Jordana Schrager knew something was missing when she tailgated for the first time as a University of Michigan freshman.
Yes, her fellow Wolverine faithful were clad head to ankle in maize and blue, as dressing in school colors is something of a requirement for fans on game days. But she noticed hardly anyone wearing a pair of Michigan-themed shoes.
At that point, she had an idea.
Years before she had business aspirations, Jordana Schrager began doodling on sneakers and creating unique shoes for personal use, as well as friends and family. A high school sophomore at the time, her designs were so popular that she realized she could sell them. She then started a custom sneaker business called Sneakers by Jordana, where customers could order unique, hand-drawn shoe designs.
“I love art and design, and I really just made myself a pair of shoes,” Jordana Schrager says. “I wore them around and everybody loved them, so I started to make more for my friends and family and my little custom sneaker business grew a lot in the past few years.”
So upon noticing the lack of school-themed shoes in college, she decided to create a pair for herself.
“I decided to draw myself a University of Michigan pair of sneakers,” Jordana Schrager says. “I posted them on my social media account and everyone loved them. I started getting so many orders for not just University of Michigan, but for all different colleges.”
That’s when she realized there was a market deficit for college-themed sneakers, and pitched a business idea to her mother, Meryl Schrager, and family friend Lisa Benedict.
“Jordana came to us and said, ‘When all my friends and I get dressed up for all the tailgates, nobody has [college-themed] shoes and they always want me to make shoes,’” Meryl Schrager says. “So she came to us — myself and my partner Lisa Benedict, who both went to Syracuse — and we tried to figure out how we could bring these shoes into the market.”
GETTING IN THE COLLEGE GAME
The trio’s next step was to present the idea to the licensing director at the University of Michigan and request a license.
The Collegiate Licensing Co. (CLC) represents the university, and once the three business partners completed the licensing-approval process, Sideline Sneakers LLC was born
“I wouldn’t say the licensing process was so difficult, but it was definitely time consuming,” Meryl Schrager says. “It wasn’t hard; it was just a long process.”
Sideline Sneakers gained license approval for 16 schools before launching SKICKS, school-themed licensed sneakers designed by Jordana Schrager, in August 2014.
The shoes are available in Converse-style high- and low-top versions. Low-top SKICKS are available for $59.99, while the high-tops come in at $69.99, and more that 10,000 pairs have been sold since the product launched.
During the past year, Sideline Sneakers has been working to add schools to its licensing list, and Meryl Schrager says new SKICKS design options also will be available next season.
“We just got licensed for a whole bunch more schools — at least five, maybe seven,” she says. “Since it was our first season that just passed, we used designs that were kind of simple. Since they did so well, we’re going to now come out with more patterns and designs for back to school.”
BALANCING BUSINESS & SCHOOL
Though Sideline Sneakers has enjoyed initial success, Jordana Schrager still is enrolled at Michigan and juggles classwork with an increasing amount of business orders.
“I’m definitely very busy,” she says. “I’ve learned a lot about time management, but I’m a very organized person, so that definitely helps. I’m OCD about getting everything done so I manage my time, do my schoolwork, stay up late and work on my own sneakers and SKICKS designs whenever I have the chance.”
Meryl Schrager adds that while she believes Sideline Sneakers should be the priority, her daughter’s education is important and should pay dividends for the company in the future.
Jordana Schrager says school and the business venture are mutually beneficial.
“I’m learning a lot at school, which helps me with the sneaker business, so they go hand in hand,” she says. “Studying applies to SKICKS and Sneakers by Jordana, so it works out really well.”
The Schragers say they’d like to expand the business to professional sports markets in the future, but at this stage they’re focused on acquiring licenses for as many colleges and universities as possible.
“We definitely want to expand and get as many colleges as we can and have everyone learn about SKICKS and want their own pair,” Jordana Schrager says. “We just want to get our name out there and grow our brand.”
For more information about SKICKS, visit skicks.com. —J.B.