Ethnicity: African-American & Puerto Rican (Taino)
Business headquarters: Union, NJ
Instagram: @ Kravatfootwear
Just 29, and Daniel Ruiz is already making major strides as an independent business owner in one of the hardest markets to penetrate—the shoe game. Almost three years strong, the Jersey-bred sneaker-head officially launched Kravat Footwear in the summer of 2012 after years of working in retail. Now his line of kicks is an internationally distributed brand funkin’ up feet from here to the UK. (Talk about hustlin’!)
Inspired? Well, you should be. But just in case his stats haven’t enthused you yet, keep scrolling for a deeper look into Miss CM’s first-ever Hustler of the Month and his growing sneaker company.
Miss CM: So your sneaker line is called ‘Kravat Footwear.’ What inspired that name?
Daniel: Nothing really inspired the name. It was catchy. I thought it would be good for marketing purposes and people love it.
When did you start seriously pursuing Kravat?
The business was founded on June 15, 2012. I started pursuing this about two years prior. The starting process took a while because getting into the footwear industry is extremely difficult.
What inspired you to start this business?
The inspiration behind starting this business has been due to my passion for footwear that goes as far back as third grade. In fact, it was the Grant Hills that started my love for footwear. I remember growing up and looking at footwear thinking about what I would have changed or done differently on them. I wanted to start a business that I was passionate about. The idea was to wake up every morning doing something I enjoyed.
How many designs are available from your sneaker line thus far?
Right now it’s one on the market and four more to come.
Do you work solo or do you have a team to help you design and market Kravat?
When making designs, I have two designers I collab with. And as far as people helping me push the line, there are two other people.
What challenges have you faced as both a small business owner and a minority business owner, if any?
We have faced two major obstacles so far. One: trying to get market shares in an industry dominated by big footwear companies. Two: Most manufactures overseas usually do not deal with start-up companies. They require a large minimum order upfront that most small business companies cannot fulfill. We haven’t faced any challenges as a minority-owned business because most people don’t know the face behind the brand.
What are both your short-term and long-term goals for Kravat?
The short-term goal is to get into better manufacturing facilities. The long-term goal is to get to the point where we can release full lines of footwear—hightop, mid, and low cut designs—for not only men, but women and kids as well. Also, we want to have our own manufacturing facility here in the United States someday.
What major milestones have you accomplished with your brand, if any?
I’m not sure if we can consider this a milestone or not, but this specific event was a turning point for me: We were in Texas for a big sneaker expo where people buy, sell, or trade footwear and clothing. We decided to get a table and showcase our product. I was a bit nervous being that everything everyone was selling were the big brands, from Nike and Adidas to high-end footwear.
I’m like, ‘No one is going to pay us any mind.’ But to my surprise, people were showing a lot of love, interest, and buying our footwear. So I said to myself, ‘If we can sell footwear here, then we have something special.’ I guess it blew me away that people were spending their money on an unknown brand as opposed to spending on the established brands.
What achievement(s) are you most proud of?
The achievement we are most proud of is the release of Kravat’s first design, the Frankos, back in November 2013. Also, getting our footwear into boutiques, not only here in the United States, but also in the United Kingdom.
Things can get both hectic and discouraging as an independent business owner. What keeps you motivated?
The motivation comes from the people. The emails and messages are most encouraging. People who have purchased our footwear email us and tell us how much they love their Frankos. Others from all over the world constantly tell us how much they love our brand and how they’re excited to see what’s to come. That alone helps us to move forward at full force. We never anticipated getting so much support from people coming out of places like Germany, Dubai, Australia and Singapore in such a short amount of time.
What’s next for Kravat?
Next is visiting China to work directly with the factories to get ready for the release of the new mid-cut and low-cut designs for this 2015 year.
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You can rate and review Kravat Footwear here.