College Apparel Woes to Sustainable Shoes

I remember senior year of high school just like it was yesterday. Getting accepted to the Rutgers School of Engineering was the highlight of my senior year. I felt like I found a home that I have been looking for all my life. The next step after my commitment was to get college apparel! I could not stop thinking about the events where students got to show off their school spirit, such as football game tailgates, engineers’ week, and more. While looking online at apparel stores, I felt like none of the items fit my particular style. I thought I could make something that really resembled my personality more and was more unique than the one’s everyone would wear. That is how I ended up starting a small business called CollegeShoes. 

CollegeShoes is a business, that I spearheaded, that takes old or used canvas shoes (like Converse or Vans) and customizes them with hand drawn designs. I originally started off with Rutgers University inspired shoes for myself(of course) however, I did not like some of the designs I did for my first pair, so I decided to sell them (thinking no one would buy them). To my suprise, someone reached out to me saying they wanted to purchase them. This was my first milestone in starting my small business. Later, more and more people were contacting me to design their shoes for the colleges they were attending. I initially had no intention of continuing to do customized shoes, but because of the peaked interest in the industry I decided to look further into it. 

CollegeShoes was not originally supposed to be an environmentally sustainable project. I initially created designs for my personal enjoyment and also to make a little extra money. As my business grew on social media, I began to look more into the amount of waste shoes and college apparels created. I learned that nearly 300 million pairs of shoes end up in landfills after they have been worn, and 20 billion pairs of shoes are mass produced annually. Surprisingly, some shoes last nearly 1,000 years in landfills, as most are not biodegradable or compost friendly. This statistic really changed the mission of my business. I decided that shoes can live a second life, if given the chance. From then on, I provided special discounts to requests from customers who had shoes they already owned that they wanted to get repurposed instead.

From then on, CollegeShoes has greatly influenced my perception on the amount of waste created from people’s wardrobe. I am happy that I can make a positive impact on our environment, even if it is small. Since the start of my business, I have been able to reach students from Rutgers University, Syracuse University, Boston College, West Virginia University, Sacred Heart University, Stanford University and many more. This project taught me marketing, leadership, communication, networking, and project management skills. My advice to other aspiring entrepreneurs is to do something that you are passionate about. I found a greater purpose in my project and is why I believe I am able to succeed far beyond my initial expectations. 

-Alice CBE ‘22