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.”