Allbirds didn’t want to be a typical shoe company. Co-founders Joey Zwillinger and Tim Brown, who had no prior footwear experience, have succeeded by doing things differently.
When it debuted in March 2016 with a single style, a $95 wool sneaker, Time magazine called Allbirds “the world’s most comfortable shoes” — a stroke of luck no one could have predicted.
That early endorsement gave the founders confidence to push ahead with their ambitious master plan. At the heart of it was a desire to create shoes in a better way and drive positive change in the world. “We decided early on that we didn’t want to spend this huge chunk of our lives on a small business that didn’t have impact,” Zwillinger said. “We wanted to have a purpose-driven entity.”
Here, Zwillinger and Brown share some of the secrets behind their success.
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1. Their direct-to-business model: “Retailers are struggling. E-commerce has changed the way consumers interact with products and retailers, and so we wanted to do something direct-to-consumer and make it different and try to break through the noise with a great, comfortable product and do it only through our own website and our own stores,” Zwillinger said.
2. A focus on sustainability.
3. Keep it simple: “We launched with just one shoe, and a lot of people thought that was a bad idea,” Brown said. “But that incredible focus allows us to invest in sustainable materials.”
4. Never discount the price.
5. Great design, great comfort: “The style and silhouette and cut is really important because, traditionally, when you hear that shoes were comfortable, you assume they don’t look very good,” Brown said.