Shoes, Speed, and Success, with Steven Sashen, Founder of Xero Shoes
Now and then, you have the chance to meet extraordinary people and learn more from their story than you ever thought possible. This conversation with Steven Sashen of Xero Shoes is one of those opportunities!
In this episode, we’re talking with Steven Sashen about shoes, speed, and success. He’s one of the fastest men over 55 in the country, co-founder of Xero Shoes that’s creating not only a brand, but a movement, he’s also turned down a $400K funding offer on Shark Tank.
So if you want to learn from a successful entrepreneur, so you can build a life and business you love … tune in below!
Table of contents
We believe that his ability to create a community and a movement is something that you can benefit from as business owners and entrepreneurs. No matter where you’re at in the journey, we think you’ll find something valuable in this conversation with Steven Sashen. Enjoy the show notes below.
In the Business of Making Xero Shoes
When you think of how a business gets its start, you probably think of all the planning, designing, and prep work that goes into a brand. However, that’s not quite how things happened for Sashen.
[3:27] “The way it actually happened is my favorite thing, which was a complete accident. So what happened was…a little over 13 years ago, I was 45, I got back into sprinting after a 30-year break, which I don’t really recommend. I was getting injured constantly for like two years. And finally, a friend of mine, who’s like a world champion runner…said, ‘Try running barefoot and see if you learn anything about why you might be getting injured.’”
This planted the seed, and Steven discovered that running barefoot allowed him to correct his movements with more ease and fluidity.
From DIY to Worldwide Recognition
When Steven Sashen finally hit his stride, everything changed. That’s when he knew he must lock-in the benefits of this natural movement. He had heard of natives in Mexico who ran with sandals made from scraps of tire. So he created his own version.
With some rubber from a shoe repair shop and cords from Home Depot, he created what we could consider his first prototype. Here and there, friends would request their own. Then one day, he was approached with the opportunity that started it all.
A barefoot running coach was writing a book, and said that if Sashen treated this hobby like a business and made a website, he’d feature it in the book. In the following three and a half years, Xero Shoes became a DIY sandal-kit company. Now, Xero Shoes sells a complete line of casual and performance shoes, boots, and sandals.
Turning Down Shark Tank
Early on, Xero Shoes appeared on Shark Tank. And though they were offered $400,000 Sashen turned the money down. This sparked a lot of discussion on whether he made the right decision.
[12:38] “People kept telling us all along that we should be on the show, we didn’t even know what they were talking about. And then we found the show.”
Steven Sashen realized that, were they to get on Shark Tank, regardless of the outcome, it would be free exposure to millions of people.
[13:37] “The thing that was really valuable is that once they told us they wanted us on the show, it really made us focus on who were are, what we did, and what we wanted.”
[15:40] “So the key moment though, was that thing with Kevin, where he offered us 400 grand for half the company, [and] we were offering 8% of the company. We had done a lot of research about valuations of footwear brands. And so we knew what the range for yes and no was, we were very negotiable. We just didn’t get that far, and so it was a non-starter.”
Xero Shoes: A Fast-Moving Company
[20:12] “You’re constantly running two races when you’re running a business. One is a speed race: velocity is important. The more you can do, the better. The faster, the better. At the same time, there’s certain things you can’t rush. And luckily, my wife and I have different skillsets and mindsets. So I’m the sprinter. She’s the detail-oriented, long-distance person.”
[20:48] “The line that I have is that all businesses rise to the neuroses of their founders.”
Essentially, combining skill sets in a business is the key to success. The more you can balance out, the greater accomplishments you can achieve together. This is the model that Steven and Lena have operated under, and found outstanding success.
Chance vs. Control
In business, Steven Sashen shares some interesting insight. He relates it back to barefoot running, where he had to analyze the information his body was giving him and make corrections, all in a split second.
[28:02] “It’s a weird thing, because you’re going to take in all that information and you’re going to make a decision, and you’ll either be right or not. It’s not like you can take it all in and you’re going to get the right answer…Like the line…’1000 miles begins with a single step.’
I asked a guy who translates from Chinese, I said, ‘Since there’s not a tense thing in Chinese, isn’t it as true [to] say a journey of 1000 miles is a single step?’ And that’s the way that I think it’s like; you take a step, you reevaluate. You take the next step, you reevaluate as best you can.”
He and his wife thought Xero Shoes would always be a DIY sandal company. Yet if they had stuck to this plan instead of reevaluating, their lives and their business would be completely different. This is the difference between a vision and a set goal.
Taking Responsibility of Your Finance
Living successfully and building time and money freedom isn’t simply about finding the perfect product or advisor. At the root, it’s about finding the best process for yourself, and taking responsibility and control of your circumstance.
[49:31] “As human beings, we’re looking for the things that will get us what we want. And if someone says, ‘Here’s a simple thing that will do that”…off we go. It’s rarely that simple. But when it comes to running or walking or hiking, you do become your own best coach.”
Finance is the same. The better education you can give yourself, the more you can learn and then trust your gut and take control, the better outcomes you’re likely to have. Without the education and the confidence, there’s no perfect product.
Cash Flow in Business
[50:50] “If you don’t know what’s happening with the money in your business, you’re not going to have a business. End of story.”
[51:15] “We used to have what Lena referred to as the February problem. We had to pay for our product in December/January, it was going to land in February, and we weren’t able to sell it until March. So we had this February dip in income that we had to cover somehow…And if you don’t know things like that, if you can’t project–‘Here’s when I don’t know how to make payroll”–then that dip is going to be even worse.’”
About Steven Sashen
Steven Sashen is a serial entrepreneur who has never had a job, a former professional stand-up comic and award-winning screenwriter. And a competitive sprinter—one of the fastest men over 55 in the country (maybe the fastest 55+ Jew in the world!). He and his wife, Lena Phoenix, co-founded the footwear company Xero Shoes, creating “a MOVEMENT movement,” which has helped hundreds of thousands of people “Live Life Feet First” with happy, healthy, strong feet in addictively comfortable footwear. Steven and Lena also appeared on Shark Tank, where they turned down a $400,000 offer from Kevin O’Leary.
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