When Kory Stevens was named best dressed in high school, it kicked off his fashion career.
In 2015, Stevens and his wife, Mallory, stepped into the shoe business with the launch of Taft, a direct-to-consumer men’s footwear brand that’s expected to hit sales of $20 million this year, with another 50 percent increase projected for 2019.
The collection is designed by Kory Stevens, 28, who received on-the-job training at factories in Portugal and Spain, where the shoes are made.
“I try to design very wearable, timeless shoes that aren’t crazy, so you don’t wear them once and toss them,” said the entrepreneur, who credits his fashion designer mother for his career choice. “She helped me to understand why looking good is important.”
Taft’s best-selling shoe is the Jack Boot, a cap-toe style in leather and wool. Other popular looks include the Lucca, a double monk strap, and the Kennedy, a wool cap-toe oxford. All shoes in the line retail for under $350.
Stevens’ footwear journey began in 2014 when he launched an online sock company financed through Kickstarter. But due to product limitations, he soon moved into shoes, funding the venture with preorders taken on the sock site, Taftclothing.com.
According to Stevens, the footwear collection quickly garnered a following among celebrities, athletes and the financial community.
The key, he explained, was the company’s online savvy. “We are digital natives and built on social media,” said Stevens. “We have an Instagram account of about 400,000 followers, with a lot of athletes. They buy shoes, tag us, and I’ve become friends with them.”
Just a year ago, Taft was a $5 million business operating out of the Stevens’ home. Today, it has a staff of nine and an official headquarters in Provo, Utah.
The company recently raised $5 million in a seed round, led by the Kickstart Seed Fund, with participation by other venture capital firms and NBA stars Dwyane Wade and Andre Iguodala. To continue to build the business and connect with customers, Taft plans to open a pop-up store in New York in November.
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