For Evan Fript, creating Paul Evans was a carefully planned escape from the world of finance.
“Always doing capital markets-focused work and equity capital markets… I hated working in banking and finance,” Fript said on the 31st episode of the Loose Threads Podcast. "I saw the success of Bonobos, Warby Parker and the direct-to-consumer business model and started doing some research about the footwear industry.”
What Fript discovered was that the market for luxury footwear was rather consolidated. A few luxury brands made shoes in a few towns in Italy.
So naturally, Fript traveled to Naples and found a factory.
“They produce the highest quality men’s footwear that I’ve ever seen,” Fript said. “We go over there a few times a year, we import products and sell it on PaulEvansNY.com.”
While Fript was able to find the shoes he needed on a map, building Paul Evans into a successful brand proved to be a challenging process.
He said that some of the growing pains came from developing a remote network of people that he relied on in the early days of Paul Evans. According to Fript, that kind of working relationship led to a drop in the quality of service, something he hopes to remedy in his second year running Paul Evans, by working with more local people.
Fript also found his background in finance allowed him to navigate some of the more difficult aspects of launching Paul Evans, such as securing the necessary loans to get his fledgling company off the ground.
“I know when they’re fucking me. Some guy tried charging me a 15% ‘origination fee,’ and I was like, what are you talking about?” he said. “I think small business lending is such a challenge. There aren’t enough people and institutions addressing it, particularly because entrepreneurialism is the lifeblood of our country. You would think that there would be more resources,” he said.
That experience ties back into what Fript called one of his most important lessons from building Paul Evans: Having a diversity of experience will always be a strength.
“I know all my expenses, how much money I have coming in and coming out. That’s from having a finance background,” he said. “But I’ve also had to learn a lot of the other stuff. There’s marketing and I’m starting to lean photography. Those are all things that if you can cut your cost and do it yourself, you’re going to do it yourself.”
Working with people who bring those skills to the table, Evans said he has been able to save costs and keep Paul Evans growing.
“That’s why I don’t have a ten-person team. We’re jacks-of-all-trades,” he said. “You have to be, to get a company off the ground with not a lot of money.”