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SoleSavy

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Team announcement

Get to Know SoleSavy's Co-Founder and CEO: Dejan Pralica

Get to Know SoleSavy's Co-Founder and CEO: Dejan Pralica

Sneakerhead Dejan Pralica remembers not having the money for expensive shoes. Growing up in an immigrant family that fled the war in Serbia, the shoes he was used to wearing generally cost around $15. Things have changed remarkably in the time since, and he’s now running the sneaker community SoleSavy. Dejan came to Canada from Serbia when he was six years old, and his family moved in with his uncle. There were no luxuries, and that meant only buying the cheapest shoes when they were on sale. It was only when he started playing basketball in high school that he started to take notice of quality sneakers. “The basketball team was sponsored by Nike, and we got a pair of Nike Shox at the time. It was like my first real pair of shoes, and I still have them in the garage. “I remember the first sneaker I ever bought for myself; a lot of people would make fun of it now. But I got the Nike Roshes for like $90. I remember thinking, ‘Oh, wow, this is a nice-looking sneaker. It's affordable, it's comfortable. It's accepted.’ Because it was very, very popular at the time, even though now they’re kind of the butt of jokes.” Once Dejan got into his 20s and he could afford more expensive sneakers, he started to see how sneakers could be about connections with others, and celebrating moments and milestones. That interest went beyond just casual, and he started his first sneaker company with some friends in 2011. Five years on, he met SoleSavy co-founder Justin Dusanj, and things went to the next level. “Justin reached out on Twitter and said, ‘Hey, I love what you're doing for sneakers. I'm in Vancouver, let's meet up.’ We hit it off from there and stayed in touch, but I didn't really think much of it outside of him being a cool dude who likes shoes as I do. “Then in late 2017, we decided to do something. We just started spitballing ideas. This was an idea that we all loved from the beginning, and once we started looking into it, it just made sense. Everything came together really fast - it only took around a month until we had figured out the name, the brand, and what we were trying to do. We hopped on a plane to Los Angeles for the NBA All-Star weekend in February of 2018 with the confidence of a million-dollar company.” Dejan had studied graphic design since he was young, partly because it had helped him to learn English. He did all the branding for SoleSavy himself, once he and Justin grasped the idea of what they wanted the company to be. “It was just to make a positive impact in the lives of people who love sneakers. We just wanted to make that a better experience for them, where they like what sneakers say about who you are. I feel like those people are not represented in the industry, which is very much dominated by resale.” Initially, SoleSavy was a bit of an experiment, as they tried out different ideas to see what would best help them to achieve the kind of industry change they were chasing. They launched with 400 paying subscribers in September 2018, and things have only grown from there. “The next few years, I want SoleSavy to be that authority and that voice for the people. When brands and retailers, or when the media or senators, whoever it might be, when they need to consult someone on the state of the industry, I want them to look at us and see that we represent the people. Right now, the consumer's challenges and frustrations are being ignored.”

Team announcement

Get to Know Anna Bediones, SoleSavy's Director of Strategy for Women

Get to Know Anna Bediones, SoleSavy's Director of Strategy for Women

Sneakers are more than just a fashion item for SoleSavy’s new Director of Strategy for Women, Anna Bediones. Anna’s new role with the sneaker community company will be to advocate for the movement of women’s sneakers, and sneakers as an expression of identity. It’s a highly relevant role for Anna, who immigrated from the Philippines to Canada with her family. She says her Dad was an avid basketball fan, and that led her into the world of sneakers from a young age. “A friend of mine did a video with the Toronto Raptors about her Dad and his immigrant experience,” Anna says. “I bawled my eyes out watching it, because that's exactly the experience that we got coming here. We didn't know a lot of people, but basketball was a universal language. So it’s always been at the core of all of my interests or choices, and it was my entry point into sneakers.” Anna says sneakers quickly became part of her cultural identity, along with pop culture icons such as Sporty Spice, Aaliyah and TLC. She started collecting sneakers and got her first job at Footlocker at the age of 16. However, she felt somewhat isolated in the sneaker community because her friends weren’t into sneakers and she didn’t see many other females who were. “I've never had real mentorship, especially from a woman in this space that I wanted to be in. I've met some really great women along the way, but I never really found someone that I wanted to be like because I was always mindful that we had very, very, very different journeys.” It’s that mentorship and relatability that Anna hopes to be able to provide to other women and girls in her new role. By promoting women’s sneakers and the inclusive culture that goes with them, she hopes to be able to encourage females to pursue their sneaker goals. “We talk a lot about having role models that we can look to and promote an awareness of what's possible. For me, when I see another Asian woman who is doing something I've always wanted to do, it's like, ‘Hey, that's really cool that that's possible for someone who looks like me’. That's a big part of the change we can be part of, for women to be able to see themselves beyond the limitations they've been fed in the past.” “It’s about letting the next generation of sneakerheads know that there are so many possibilities within sneakers beyond just owning them. Being a sneaker influencer is a real thing now, working in media, working at your favorite brands, working with your favorite bands without actually having worked there. You have roles as engineers, within design teams, or even doing things like color design, which is a role in itself. We're just helping people discover that they can use their skill sets to create their own path in the future.” Anna likes to go running in her spare time and finds it almost meditative. She says running has also been part of her personal development, as it’s helped her to put less pressure on herself. “I'm a competitive person, and I used to compare myself a lot to past versions of me that were faster and in better shape. And I had to really just let go of all that in the last year and just be like, ‘Okay, you know what, just go outside and go running.’ So if I'm slower today than I was yesterday, that's fine. If I'm not, I had to just teach myself not to care.” The past year has been a big learning experience and an opportunity to recalibrate. She's learning to slow down and find other creative outlets. She co-founded Extra Goodie, a beauty company making clean products and natural skincare. She formed the company with a friend in 2020, looking to help women become inspired and confident in their natural beauty. She says it’s part of a journey she’s also on herself, trying to become more low-maintenance and self-sustaining in her beauty routine. SoleSavy just announced a successful $12.5M Series A funding!

Team announcement

Meet SoleSavy's Director of Video, Tony Mui

Meet SoleSavy's Director of Video, Tony Mui

Accomplished video creator Tony Mui has joined sneaker company SoleSavy with an eye to building communities with original online content. Tony is a prolific content creator and has been making videos and video memes both professionally and for his personal YouTube channel for around five years. Tony always liked sneakers as a kid growing up but was never able to afford all the ones he wanted. He got into sneakers later on when he got a job, but still remembers being able to get his first pair of good sneakers in junior high. The problem was, the Nikes he liked were half a size too small for him. “As a child, you would lie to your parents just so you could have that certain item that you loved. But every day, those sneakers were pinching my feet, giving me toe cramps. I actually cut a hole on the side of the sneaker right near the pinky toe, just so they were more comfortable and actually fit me.” Tony got into video and film while working in an insurance job soon after graduating college. He didn’t enjoy his job, so started pursuing an entertainment career on the side. He had some success with commercials for Wendy’s and even a major motion picture, which gave him enough encouragement to quit his job and pursue acting full time. “I wasn't really booking as much as I thought I would be. That's when I pivoted into teaching myself how to make my own videos and how to edit myself. I made a couple of viral video memes, and that's when (online media company) Complex reached out to bring me on board to create those video memes for them.” Tony was making 1-2 videos a day for Complex but ended up doing a lot more when he brought his personal camera and started filming at work. He would make videos with his co-workers each day and post them on his YouTube channel. The positive feedback he got from his colleagues encouraged him to keep doing it, but he hadn’t sought the permission of the company to make them. “I kept doing it, knowing there was a chance I could get fired. But I thought, ‘If I get fired today, I'll be alright because of my skill set.’ Little did I know, some of the higher-ups were following me on Twitter, and they were actually watching every single episode. I eventually got called into my boss' office. I go in there thinking ‘I'm in deep, deep trouble’, but he said, ‘Hey, we've been watching everything you've been doing, it's amazing, can you please keep doing it?’” Tony worked for Complex for nearly five years before coming to SoleSavy as Director of Video. He sees a real chance to grow the sneaker community through targeted video content. “There are a lot of big companies out there right now. You have the reselling platforms, you have the sole collectors, you have the hypebeast, you have the Complexes, right? We want to get our names out there as a premium sneaker platform where you can get good quality content related to sneakers.” Tony would love to make a feature film one day or to travel and film once the world allows. He believes it can only be a good thing for the Asian American community to see faces on screen that they can relate to, and hopes to build a following of his own. “I want to make engaging content that is action-packed, and that you will want to watch right from me. When you see it, you know ‘That's Tony’s style right there.'” SoleSavy just announced a successful $12.5M Series A Funding!

Funding announcement

Sneaker community startup SoleSavy raises $12.5 million Series A to build an end-to-end sneakersphere

Sneaker community startup SoleSavy raises $12.5 million Series A to build an end-to-end sneakersphere

Link: https://techcrunch.com/2021/06/21/sneaker-community-startup-solesavy-raises-12-5-million-series-a-to-build-an-end-to-end-sneakersphere/ Collectibles boomed during the pandemic and while NFT outfits like NBA Top Shot exploded as consumers flirted with newer efforts, the sneaker world grew even more mature with enthusiasts digging deeper into communities dedicated to the hobby/passion/obsession/alternative asset class. Vancouver’s SoleSavy, a sneaker community dedicated to giving fans a curated place to navigate the world of shoes, with all of its drops, news and rumors, has raised a $12.5 million Series A just months after wrapping a $2 million seed round, showcasing investor enthusiasm behind vertical-specific premium social experiences. The round was led by Bedrock Capital with participation from Dapper Labs’ CEO Roham Gharegozlou, Diplo, Bessemer Ventures and Turner Novak’s Banana Capital, among others. Read the rest of the article https://techcrunch.com/2021/06/21/sneaker-community-startup-solesavy-raises-12-5-million-series-a-to-build-an-end-to-end-sneakersphere/.

Team announcement

Meet SoleSavy's Co-Founder & Chief Community Officer: Justin Dusanj

Meet SoleSavy's Co-Founder & Chief Community Officer: Justin Dusanj

Work meets passion for one of the co-founders of SoleSavy, a company empowering sneaker culture and looking to bring it back to its roots. Justin Dusanj started the company with Dejan Pralica after connecting online six years ago, and the pair are looking to grow the company to become “the Nike of sneaker membership.” “I've been into sneakers my entire life, so it's never really felt like work,” Justin says. “I fall asleep looking at shoes - it's an obsession. I do other things, but my mind will always be like, ‘What's going on in the shoe world? What am I missing?’ I get FOMO. I think it's what everyone strives for is to turn your passion into your profession. I've been fortunate to do that.” The SoleSavy mission is to make sneakers accessible and affordable. For Justin, it’s about returning the sneaker industry to what it was like for him growing up. “It’s becoming next to impossible to buy a pair of shoes that are coveted. There's a major shift in this industry going towards reselling and making money off the industry that we love. Whereas I grew up wearing shoes until they could no longer be worn anymore and never even thinking about the cost of them or how much money they could make if I sold them.” As a child, Justin’s dad ran a sports store, and he considers himself lucky to have had an early introduction to sneakers and sports apparel. He grew to make sure his look was always on point and matching, and always looking his best. “My dad always made sure I had the best sneakers on. It was his way of marketing; putting sneakers on his kid and hoping other kids saw it. So I was a walking mannequin for major brands my entire life” His dad’s store grew to have more than 100 franchises across North America. While Justin was able to benefit from such close access to the sneakers he loved, one of the enduring memories and lessons he learned came when his Dad lost his business. “For me to see how he persevered after that was super inspiring. It really does motivate me every day, because he literally just put his head down and went back to work and built something entirely new out of something that was totally destroyed. That's something that I'll carry with me every day when we're building SoleSavy.” Justin is SoleSavy’s Chief Community Officer and believes sneakers have an incredible ability to unite people across cultures and demographics, including on issues such as gender and racial discrimination. They’re seeing encouraging growth in women’s sneakers, and are bringing people together through their shared love of sneakers. “It's so collective and so powerful with the fundraising we've done for charity initiatives, everyone's willing to help out. People want to speak out, they want to speak their mind and tell each other how they feel. The people, the members, they just rally around that. And it's so powerful.” The power of the movement SoleSavy is creating comes back to the passion of its members, as well as its staff. For Justin, he’s living a dream he couldn’t even have imagined. “I can't even carry a conversation about anything besides sneakers, because it drains me. But I could talk about sneakers all day long. That is my true passion. It's in my DNA.” SoleSavy is hiring, come join the team!

Team announcement

SoleSavy Hires Anna Bediones to Lead Strategy for its Exclusive Women’s Community

SoleSavy Hires Anna Bediones to Lead Strategy for its Exclusive Women’s Community

SoleSavy, one of the fastest-growing sneaker startups, announced today that Anna Bediones joined its team as Director of Strategy, Women’s. In this role, Anna will lead SoleSavy’s latest venture to create a safe and inclusive community for women sneakerheads. Next month, the company will launch its first exclusive women’s community. Anna is a leader within the sneaker industry, both as a voice and creative. Her experience includes writing for some of the industry’s top sneaker publications, hosting video and podcast series, styling campaigns for companies like Jordan Brand and Nike, serving as a go-to brand ambassador for beauty, fashion, and sneaker brands, and more. “Anna is one of the most respected voices in the sneaker and style communities,” says CEO Dejan Pralica. “She’s worked on creative projects with every major brand, retailer, marketplace, and publication in the industry. Her unique experience as both a lifelong sneakerhead and creative in the space makes her the ideal leader to help us build the best sneaker community for women, and beyond.” About SoleSavy: Founded in 2018, it received $2M in funding from investors such as Bedrock Capital, Jason Calacanis’ LAUNCH fund, and Panache Ventures. Recently, its executive team added veterans from Nike’s Jordan Brand and the Los Angeles Lakers. From building one of the largest paid sneaker communities online, SoleSavy looks to take their momentum into building a new all-in-one experience that includes community, content, and a marketplace.

Team announcement

SoleSavy Hires Former Los Angeles Lakers Head of Marketing as Senior Vice President of Marketing

SoleSavy Hires Former Los Angeles Lakers Head of Marketing as Senior Vice President of Marketing

SoleSavy, one of the fastest-growing startups in the sneaker industry, announced today that Mitchell Holder joined its team as Senior Vice President of Marketing. In this role, Mitchell will be responsible for SoleSavy’s marketing and brand efforts as they look to empower sneakerheads and redefine their consumer experience. Mitchell joins the company’s leadership team and will report to CEO and Co-Founder Dejan Pralica. Mitchell is a respected creative leader, having most recently led the Los Angeles Lakers marketing department during its ‘19-’20 NBA Championship run. Prior to the Los Angeles Lakers, Mitchell led Ogilvy’s Digital and Social business on the West Coast and has held positions at Kobalt Music, VaynerMedia, and Sony Music. “Mitchell has established himself as one of the top marketing leaders in multiple verticals that overlap with the growing sneaker industry,” said Dejan Pralica, CEO. “His vision for building world-recognized brands and driving marketing innovation makes him the perfect leader for SoleSavy.” “SoleSavy is changing the game for those who really love sneakers,” said Mitchell. “I’m thrilled to be joining a team that has built such a passionate community and is now creating innovative ways to help empower those members with new products and services. In such a turbulent and shifting industry, SoleSavy is going to be a force for positive change in sneaker culture.” About SoleSavy: Founded in 2018, it received $2M in funding from investors such as Bedrock Capital, Jason Calacanis’ LAUNCH fund, and Panache Ventures. Last month, its executive team added Marco Henry Negrete, former Global Editorial Content lead at Nike’s Jordan Brand. From building one of the largest paid sneaker communities online, SoleSavy looks to take their momentum into building a new all-in-one experience that includes community, content, and a marketplace.

Team announcement

SoleSavy Hires Former Jordan Brand Global Editorial Lead as a Vice President

SoleSavy Hires Former Jordan Brand Global Editorial Lead as a Vice President

Sneaker startup SoleSavy continues to grow. The community-led organization is driven by bringing back authenticity to the sneaker game by providing tips and tricks on how to cop sneakers for retail. But the company is more than just a tool — it’s a conglomerate of genuine sneaker lovers. The company recently received $2 million in funding and its ceiling continues to rise. SoleSavy has added yet another key figure to its roster as Marco Henry Negrete, former Jordan Brand Global Editorial Lead, is stepping in as the company’s Vice President of Content and Communications. Negrete will lead SoleSavy’s content strategy, consumer and corporate communications and creative marketing efforts.

Funding announcement

Sneaker enthusiast group SoleSavy raises $2M, setting the stage for a community-driven commerce boom

Sneaker enthusiast group SoleSavy raises $2M, setting the stage for a community-driven commerce boom

SoleSavy, a community built around buying hot sneakers and related items that are increasingly hard to acquire at retail, raised $2 million in a round that closed late last year. SoleSavy is a group of communities that is currently mostly hosted on Slack. SoleSavy’s co-founders Dejan Pralica and Justin Dusanj founded the company in 2018 as a paid community for collectors and enthusiasts seeking pairs that were getting snapped up by bots or resellers. Pralica previously co-founded Kicks Deals, a sneaker shipping site focused on less than retail pricing and Dusanj is the former director of Operations at New Age Sports, a Nike retailer. SoleSavy’s $2 million party raise includes investment from Panache Ventures, Jason Calacanis’ LAUNCH, Turner Novak, Ben Narasin, Morning Brew’s Alex Lieberman and Austin Rief, Tiny Capital, Wesley Pentz (yes, Diplo), Matthew Hauri aka Yung Gravy, Ryan Holmes, Roham Gharegozlou and Bedrock Capital. SoleSavy has built an engaged community (several communities, really) around the ebb and flow of the sneakerhead consumer universe (SCU). I just coined that, by the way, please make it a thing. The SCU is an interesting place filled with fascinating characters and behaviors. Every once in a while it pokes its head into the mainstream, whether via a documentary, a hot shoe release or a strong-arm robbery attempt. In 2021, I believe that we will see more of this world breaking out of its box into the larger consumer consciousness. The trends that are leading us to this place are varied, but some of them have been front and center during the pandemic, as a decade’s worth of consumer behavioral change has occurred in the space of a few months. You only have to look at how hard it was to get a PS5 or Xbox One X or a GPU for the holiday season, and how many services, Twitter accounts and monitor groups rose up to try to help people do that to see what the future of shopping looks like. I joked about not being able to buy butter without a bot, but it’s not far from the truth — nearly every category of goods has had its own shortages over the last year. But the mother of all limited goods category for decades now has been sneakers. Every release is hotly anticipated and eagerly purchased by people looking for the latest shoe. The massive increase in interest in the sneaker as the marquee desirable item and the unwillingness of the biggest manufacturers to lose the hype halo has led to each drop being harder to get than the last. Second-market startups like StockX and GOAT have sprung up to facilitate those who don’t mind paying 30%-200% premiums on each release. The solution for many lies in the countless “cook groups” that help buyers anticipate demand and stock for each drop and plan to purchase them on release date. SoleSavy’s function is ostensibly to do just that: help regular enthusiasts to strategize and execute the release-day cop. But beyond that, Pralica says that the group has come to be about the community of people around those shoes more than the purchase itself. SoleSavy is at its heart a Slack group (a series of groups actually that act as cohorts, leading people through the tiers of community that the team has built) with rooms that help people to understand what’s happening in sneakers, get the releases and commiserate around the culture. Pralica says that they’ve built that community out slowly (the waitlist for the group grows by 400 people per day) in order to maintain a positive atmosphere and to properly onboard new people to the group. They also have an app that drives push notifications and a podcast. That positive community vibe is what Pralica says is SoleSavy’s long-term focus and differentiating factor that keeps the 4,000 members across the U.S. and Canada interacting with the group on a nearly daily basis. I’ve been in a dozen or so different groups focused on buying large quantities of each release to re-sell over the years and many of them are, at best, rowdy and at worst toxic. That’s an environment that SoleSavy wanted to stay away from, says Pralica. Instead, SoleSavy tries to court those who want to buy and wear the shoes, trade them and yes, maybe even resell personal pairs eventually to obtain and wear another grail. Though cook groups have been the “core” of the Discord and Slack-based communities in the sneaker world, other iterations have been booming too. Entrepreneurial communities based in the same hustle principles like Tyler Blake’s In This Economy and fanbase-focused groups around popular streamers top the Disboard. And bets on social token outfits like Zora are also focused on community as the glue that holds together a user base. Community is the future of all commerce, whether you’re looking for a specific product (see the huge PS5 monitors) or want to steep yourself in a particular universe of product interest (the SCU). The trends that I’ve been seeing all point to 2021 being the year that community-driven purchasing breaks out of the underbelly of fandom and becomes officially “a thing.” SoleSavy has been experimenting with a variety of ways to keep the community knit going, including live chats, get-togethers, and even a handsome custom community-designed Jordan 1. These efforts have driven the previously bootstrapped company to some impressive early numbers. Pralica says that SoleSavy is currently profitable, with $1.5 million ARR on $33 monthly subscriptions plus affiliate revenue and that their DAUs are at 90% — an engagement number that would make any retailer salivate. Though the funding closed (very) late last year I thought that this would be a great kick-off story for the year ahead. Though SoleSavy seems to have a really compelling story and a great growth curve, I think they’re at the tip of a very large trend, one that we will see continue to build throughout the year.

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