Justin Schneider was a Notre Dame decathlete who studied architecture and design and then worked for Adidas, Reebok and New Balance. He took a leap of faith and formed his own company, Wolf & Shepherd, which was launched in north Florida with his wife, Hope, in 2015. The company recently made its home in El Segundo.
After leaving Reebok, he spent a year in Madagascar doing freelance work at National Geographic, a big departure from designing athletic shoes, working on medicinal plants to find alternative resources of protein. When he returned home, a friend talked about how uncomfortable his pricey dress shoes were.
“He said, 'Why don't you design a dress shoe that works great that I can wear to work, but where I also feel good? It shouldn't be rocket science. We're not wearing a four-inch pump. So that was sort of the foundation of our story,” Schneider said.
Schneider's first prototype was made by gluing the foam heel of his running shoes to the soles of a pair of dress shoes. His goal was to “make something that's beautiful and classic and timeless relative to today's growing working professional.”
“Our approach has been to take this idea of how you would design an athletic shoe, which is how to make it lighter, how to make it faster, how do I inspire someone to win and then apply or adapt that to classic footwear,” Schneider said.
Schneider added, “The demands that we expect on our feet, people are working longer hours, people want to look good and they also want to feel good and we're trying to blend those two worlds together.”
When started in 2015, the company was financed through Schneider's savings and preorder campaigns.
“We grew to a point where we could move our manufacturing to Europe and we found the greatest assembler in Portugal who could assemble a local source of material,” Schneider said. “All of our leather was coming from Italy; we were finishing that leather with a very nice wax from southern France.”
Wolf & Shepherd received notoriety in 2016 when Juris Silenieks won a half marathon in Atlanta while running in their shoes. This gave the company a “mini launching pad.”
For awhile, Schneider ran the company with his wife, a track coach, who was pregnant with their first child. Leather shoes were stacked to the ceiling in the 800-square-foot beach house they were renting. When their daughter Stella was born, Hope started working at the company full time.
They eventually headed west and moved into a house in Redondo Beach, to be closer to their family, where their son was born. Wolf & Shepherd's headquarters and distribution center was in the 1,100-square-foot home they were renting. They rented a warehouse in Torrance and grew out of that after 10 months. In December 2017, they added a 3,000-square-foot space in El Segundo as headquarters.
Wolf & Shepherd has grown substantially since 2015, when the company generated $135,000 in sales the last three months of that year. In 2017, the company generated $500,000 a month in sales. The company also recently raised $2 million in financing.
Because of recent growth, there are a number of career opportunities open at the company.
“We had to hustle for everything that we have built,” Schneider said.
Currently they have eight different product styles and are expected to come out with a patent leather shoe line this spring. Their shoes can be found in 45 boutique retailers across the country, but sales predominately come from online. Their shoes can also be purchased and tried on at their office in El Segundo, which is located at 209 E. El Segundo Blvd.
For more information, call (310) 254-9491, or visit wolfandshepherd.com.