It has been a long time since I did a post of true substance or let you know what has been going on in my life. I believe that at the beginning of last year, I did not even do a reflection post on 2017. Well, here is making up for that and letting you know what has been going on in my life for the last 2 years for those that are interested.
As most of you know, I left the UK at the end of May of 2017 and headed to NYC. This move was for several reasons, but mainly of which was due to the fact that I let my ex-wife move back to Italy which meant that my permission to stay in the UK was no longer valid once she left. This was also calculated though for two other reasons. 1. I wanted to launch my business in the US and this was a good excuse to go and make that happen even if we weren’t quite prepared for it and 2. Because even though my 9 years of living in Europe gave me a beautiful son that makes my life have true meaning and allowed me to realize my dreams of starting my own shoe line, that at the same time, I went through so much hardship and strife that was becoming unbearable that I needed to make a change. Wanting to escape it all, I had realized that through my daily actions of living in London and my mental state I was quickly becoming a person that I was no longer proud to be and needed to change my environment by going back to my roots and to thus focus myself to once again become grounded in my true nature.
I, therefore, left London behind and arrived in NYC in June of 2017 and have been working ever since not only on building the US venture to The Shoe Snob/J.FitzPatrick Footwear company but also on myself. But of course, life usually does not go as planned and constantly gives you unexpected lessons to learn but also blessings in disguise if you choose to see them.
I have been pretty much winging my destiny my whole life almost never truly making structured plans outside of simply believing in my path/destiny and always knowing that everything will work out with hard work and self-belief. When arriving in NYC, I had no real plan of how I was going to grow the US business. I mean, it was obvious what needed doing i.e. getting a place to sell the shoes and ship orders, having an office, and a US website to cater to the market, but none of those things were in real sight as a small self-funded business that did not pre-plan an international move. As one would imagine, NYC is not a cheap place to start a business nor have a shop. So, my plan was to do what I did in London and that was team up with a tailor/suit business that had space already in the hopes to share the business and help grow each others’ following, through the pairing of suits and shoe customers.
Upon arriving I had started talks with one young business like my own and we had planned to set up a new shop that we could share and help to grow our presence in the US. But as often talks can be, that fell through for one reason or another and I found myself with no real place to start but with the burning desire and necessity to make it happen no matter what. At the same time, the talks were happening though with the business that fell through, I was finding myself spending more and more time with client and friend, Jake Mueser, who was persistently offering me his space and to attend domestic trunk shows with him. I liked Jake and his business, so we did a trunk show together in LA, and a couple in his NYC showroom and the synergy between our brands became very apparent. And it just so happened that half of his space was not being utilized and this blessing that was right in front of my face was presenting itself so openly to me. The worse thing you can do is pass up or ignore a blessing that is right in front of you, so I proposed to Jake a marriage of our businesses by taking half of his showroom for our US venture.
Jake being a young, smart business minded person like myself took his time to think about the idea, but in the end realized that it could only really be a win-win situation and thus agreed to share his space with my business. This was one hurdle down, but was really the only beginning to life learning experiences.
I will pause this story to touch on a more personal experience that plays a pivotal role in my US return and self-growth. Upon returning to the US, life blessed me with the re-connection of someone from my past (that I have known for 15 years), a person that always had a very special place in my heart. I am not a religious person per se but am very spiritual and most certainly believe not only in a higher power but also the notion that everything in life happens for a reason whether or not you chose to see that reason. And the way that I reconnected with this person again was one of those blessings that I could not ignore. It slapped me in the face so hard that I had to see it through or else I would have simply been a fool. And thankfully I did as through this reconnection, I have been able to again help myself become who I used to be by facing my fears and living for a cause greater than myself. Because we are never living to our true potential until we are challenged by our fears and pushed to our limits and this beautiful relationship has challenged me in ways that I had never wanted to confront. And in doing so it has helped me snap out of the ‘poor me’ mentality that I was becoming all too familiar with in Europe. And more importantly, I finally found the person that I want to spend the rest of my life with. One very positive reason to have moved back to the US!
—back to the main story —After agreeing to take over Jake’s unutilized space, the next step was transitioning the business. This is where things started to become very challenging. Remember we are a small company that has no real investor backing or multi-millions funding us. We started with a family loan, paid that back and have been running on revenues and small bank/payment-provider working-capital loans ever since to grow the business ourselves and thus not have anyone dictating our movements/ideas etc. So creating another international company from an existing one was a complex maze that needed sorting out. I had pre-planned this with the factory by ordering extra stock for the launch of the US. But the idea was to plan the launching of the showroom, website and US stock all at the same time without interrupting our business. And pretty much doing that all by myself as all of my employees and business-partner were back in London.
The truly challenging thing about it all was that an online business never sleeps. There are no days off, no real holidays, no periods of break so doing this all seamlessly and without causing issues to the customers purchasing online is where things became tricky. Because when you order stock, the factory wants to get rid of it once it is ready. But if you don’t have a showroom or warehouse to store that stock for online orders or a website to sell that stock, things start to get tricky. And if you have the showroom already while paying rent but no stock or website up and running to sell, again you are paying for wasted space and money down the drain. So you can imagine how complex it became to perfectly plan the set-up of this venture all at once. And at the same time, launching our sneaker line that became another nightmare that I really cannot explain but that truly made business challenging to say the least with a 2.5 month delay in launching. It has been a true test of character and faith to put it midly. But they have all been lessons that I am truly grateful for and have helped me to once again become the strong-willed person that I was before moving to Europe. A person with unwavering faith and self-belief, the person that I need to be in order to see my dreams through!
But of course, with all of this hardship, work and whatnot on my company and on myself, has meant that I was not able to put as much into The Shoe Snob Blog as I have been wanting to. There truly are not enough hours in the day to simply do it all. At least not if I want to keep my sanity and a shred of a personal life. So the blog has taken a backseat to the rest of my life. But that does not mean that I have given up on it. I started all of this for one grand reason and that was to see men wearing better shoes across the planet and The Shoe Snob Blog/social media outlet has a greater chance of accomplishing that than one shoe brand does. Therefore as long as people come to read the blog, the blog will stay existing and I will find ways to keep up at it better. So one of my goals in 2019 is to get the blog back up to at least having worthwhile content other than small posts. Posts that teach. That share secrets, that help spread the knowledge of the industry. I will get it back to that point. That is my promise.
Thanks for reading and of course, as always for all of the support!
Ramon Cuberta Ecija
Perdona que te escriba en español, expreso mucho mejor mis palabras más sinceras.
Siempre ha sido un auténtico placer continuar leyendo a un colega y buen amigo como tu. Me veo muy reflejado salvando las distancias entre nuestras respectivas y distintas etapas, compartimos en gran medida las aventuras y desventuras (porqué no decirlo también) de este complejo negocio. Me inspira ver que en momentos difíciles sigues con la visión profunda y espiritual de lo que te rodea, desde aquí maifiesto que nunca dejaré de sentirlo y vivirlo de esta forma. Todos pasamos por la vida a recoger y a dejar alguna cosa, a mi me queda mucho camino por recorrer, mucho que aprender y mejorar para llegar a verme como quiero verme dentro de unos años: Ser una gran persona, un gran padre y un zapatero artesano respetado.
Espero y deseo que tengas toda la buena suerte del mundo, la buena, la que se trabaja y se busca, la que nos hace grandes.
Un abrazo Justin!
Justin, your blog is fabulous and most informative. But, apart from the trade posts, your biography notes are quite inspiring and thought provoking. I wish you success, peace and happiness in 2019 and beyond!!
Very inspiring post Justin. Thank you for your continued dedication to the high quality of your brand, especially when it would have been easier not to be. I’ve always loved the blog, and am looking forward to seeing more educational content!
Justin, I admire your courage and ambition. I admire even more the fact that you make public all the bad and complex things that happened to you – life is way more like that, than just smiles all the time. Be bold and be happy. I wish you all the best, personally and professionally.