Whether you are working on Wall Street or a street fair, luxury shoes are important for your look. You want quality leather with a modern touch and unfortunately it is tough to come about this combo. This is exactly what Paul Evans is fixing. Paul Evans the Naples, Italy crafted shoes are made with an eye towards millennial’s who care about looking their best. With their elimination of any middlemen or extraneous costs, Paul Evans is doing a service to the world by making these gems as affordable as they come.
We spoke to cofounder Evan Fript about the product and got the inside scoop on how he has put together this company and how it’s been so successful without any funding.
Tell us about Paul Evans in your own words
Paul Evans is a direct-to-consumer luxury men’s footwear brand. We handcraft beautiful Italian dress shoes in Naples and sell them directly to our customers internationally via our website. We offer the highest value proposition in the world of shoes: Italian craftsmanship and quality materials with no middlemen markups. So instead of costing over $800 in a department store, our entire shoe collection is less than $400.
How is it different from competitors?
Easy, our shoes are much nicer and of significantly higher quality. Our entire collection is handmade in Naples using the finest Italian calfskin leather available. None of our competitors can say that about their collections. Jack Erwin has the same business model as us and is a great comp from that perspective, but the quality of craftsmanship is lower, and in our opinion, the brand and collection are generic and boring. Great starter shoes for someone who is new to dress shoes, but our demographic is comprised of more educated consumers who want the absolute best. We have a lot of former Allen Edmonds customers who email us for style help because they’re tired of wearing the same shoes as their dads. We’ve built our brand for the millennial man. He’s an online shopper and wants to have the best product available at the best price point. That’s us. We’re two former finance guys who wanted to help men everywhere look their absolute best. Our handmade collection of Italian dress shoes, boots and matching belts and bags are expertly crafted in Italy, the international headquarters of fashion. If you want the best, you shop at Paul Evans.
What market are you attacking and how big is it?
Great question. Our target market is the international men’s leather dress shoe market, estimated is be approximately $6 billion in revenues annually.
What is the business model? We’re direct-to-consumer, so you won’t find our products in department stores or on Amazon/Zappos. By going direct, we’ve eliminated the 2.5x traditional retail markup. Our mission from the beginning has been to help men everywhere dress better, and to do that, you’ve got to be at a more attractive price point than the current luxury brands in men’s dress shoes.
What inspired the business? My business partner Ben and I were working in finance and beginning to refine the way we looked with custom suits and shirts but we’re having trouble finding the right shoes at our price point. We saw the success of Bonobos and Warby Parker and decided to start a direct-to-consumer luxury shoe company to fill the gap we found when shopping for ourselves.
You have an enviable story of a bootstrapped startup that reached over $1M in revenue last year with no employees and no office. How did you do it?
Profitably. No fancy office space for us, no bloated payroll, no VCs breathing down our back to burn baby burn. Just a lot of hard work and a product that resonates with our customers. We do almost everything in-house and have found that we’re just as good as people who charge by the hour. We’ve been able to achieve a lot up until now as a two-man team, but we recently hired our first employee who will be starting shortly. We still don’t have an office but will continue working remotely and in the guide shop we are opening up. I remember slaving away in an office at all hours of the day/weekend and thinking to myself what a gigantic waste of time. If you break down the amount of work done with all the other BS you do to make the hours pass by at the office, you realize how much sense working remotely makes. I told our recent hire that she can work wherever, whenever and however she wants. As long as work is done quickly and correctly, who cares if they are doing it from the comfort of home or at an hour outside of 9-5?
What are the milestones that you plan to achieve within the next six months?
The next six months are huge for us. As I mentioned, we recently hired our first employee to help handle the incredible order volume we’re seeing. We’ll also be opening up our first guide shop at the end of 1Q16. The guide shop will be similar to the Bonobos and Warby Parker guide shop model, that is, not cash-and-carry. Customers come inside to engage with the brand, try on sample products, and if they are interested in buying we accept payment with credit cards swiped using our phones and iPads. No inventory to manage at the store. No shopping bags for customers to lug home. Just a warm, inviting place to hang out, learn about men’s dress shoes and leather goods, and try on some ridiculously beautiful shoes.
I actually think I heard it all, and I am very appreciative of all the advice I received. Starting a business is just as difficult as everyone says it will be and you have to be ready to sacrifice a lot.
If you could be put in touch with anyone in the New York community who would it be?
Having a conversation with Donald Trump would be pretty interesting.
Why did you launch in New York?
We’re not born and bred New Yorkers (well, I was born here, not bred though) and we’ve been here since graduating college, so it’s home, and it plays a huge role in the Paul Evans brand. One of our tag lines is “Made in Italy. Designed in New York.” We are combining the hustle of New York with the expert shoe making knowledge of Italy.