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Boston's newest shoe startup, Category 5, finds a promotional opportunity at Figawi Race Weekend

Posted by Scott Kirsner  May 28, 2013 07:45 AM

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Massachusetts is home to a closet full of big-name shoe brands, from New Balance to Reebok to Converse to Rockport. One of the state's newest shoe startups, Category 5 Boat Shoes, is still trying to achieve that kind of name recognition. So over the holiday weekend, the founders were schmoozing with the entrants in the annual Figawai sailing race from Hyannis to Nantucket. And the Framingham company presented a special-edition pair of boat shoes, pictured at right, to the winning skippers.

The shoes are made in the Dominican Republic, explains CEO and co-founder Jason Shuman. They can be embossed on the side (what footwear insiders call the "eye row") with logos of various college fraternities; outlines of islands like Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard; or an image the buyer uploads. They're priced at about $80, though customization adds $10 to the price.

Category 5 won the grand prize in this year's business plan competition at the University of Miami, where Shuman was a student. The startup's five founders all grew up together in Sudbury and Wayland.

The company is working on retail distribution for its shoes; they're sold at several outlets in Georgia and at Country Club Prep, an online retailer of all things preppy, but Shuman hopes to expand that to the Cape and Islands this summer.

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Scott Kirsner was part of the team that launched Boston.com in 1995, and has been writing a column for the Globe since 2000. His work has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, and Variety. Scott is also the author of the books "Fans, Friends & Followers" and "Inventing the Movies," was the editor of "The Convergence Guide: Life Sciences in New England," and was a contributor to "The Good City: Writers Explore 21st Century Boston." Scott also helps organize several local events on entrepreneurship, including the Nantucket Conference and Future Forward. Here's some background on how Scott decides what to cover, and how to pitch him a story idea.

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