How I Came Up: Jeremy Sallee, Reebok Sneaker Designer & Entrepreneur
Younger designer make practical, stylish kicks.
For some, sneakers are just for working out, but for Jeremy Sallee, a cross-trainer is his Mona Lisa.
In 2009, the Indiana-born Sallee was selected by Reebok International to be one of its three footwear apprentices after completing a shoe design project for the company. The 11-month apprenticeship extended into a four-year career with the sneaker giant where Sallee's creations have included the Reebok Classic Jam and the Swizz Beatz collaboration, the Kamikaze.
We spoke to Sallee about his entrepreneurial journey, from creating his own major while a student at the University of Akron to becoming co-founder and CMO of PRIME$TAKE, a mobile "matchmaking" service that connects investors, mentors, and startups.
Loop 21: What was your first job?
Jeremy Sallee: My first job was at the Kings Island amusement park in Ohio as a game operator.
Loop 21: Did you always know that you would be a sneaker designer and/or entrepreneur?
JS: Pretty much. Like I said, I've been drawing shoes since the sixth grade. Not to mention they were always under my own branding, i.e. "The Jerms," "J.Salleeps," etc.
Loop 21: Do you feel that college prepared you for your job?
JS: College may not have directly prepared me program-wise but being able to create my own curriculum and study things that normal footwear designers don't get to study definitely gives me a different perspective now that I'm in the industry.
Loop 21: How important has your professional network been to your current success?
JS: In terms of footwear, my professional network did little to get me where I am. My success has been the result of numerous blessings. I've been blessed with opportunity, talent, work ethic, and the desire to fulfill my dreams. So actually, God is my most important contact. With that said, the professional network I've generated within both footwear and the entrepreneurial community will be huge in the near future as I dive into the startup scene.
Loop 21: What tips can you offer on building a professional network?
JS: The best way to build a good professional network is to act, work, and live in a manner that attracts good professionals. Of course, staying involved and being a visible member of whatever network you'd like to be a part of is good but having the added value to back it up is priceless.
Loop 21: How important was having a personal vision to your success?
JS: Personal vision was and is a huge part of my success. I actually have a vision board that keeps me on track with what I'm going to accomplish in the next 10 or so years.
Loop 21: Did you have personal or professional mentors that played a pivotal role in your success?
JS: During college I was fortunate to have two mentors who were CEOs of their own footwear companies, Chad Birenbaum of 100 Styles and Running, and Coleman Horn of the Vael Project. Although we only spoke over the phone or email, I soaked in all I could from these two guys and really got a good feel for what it would be like running my own footwear company. Within the last couple years I've just truly gotten involved with the entrepreneurship scene. The good thing about startups is that there are plenty of people within the community that will help you out as long as you show that you're passionate and are willing to put the work in. Plus, the Internet is everywhere and knows just about anything!
Loop 21: What has been your biggest challenge to date?
JS: My biggest challenge to date is definitely patience. However, I've learned that faster isn't always better. God's time management is superb, so I've got nothing to worry about.
Loop 21: What personal quality makes you successful?
JS: My success has been the result of numerous blessings. I've been blessed with talent, the ability to adapt, a good work ethic, and the desire to fulfill my dreams.
Do you have a favorite sneaker brand? Tell us what it is in the comments.