If you ask Justin Kittredge how business is going, he’ll answer with one word: boomin’.
The 39-year-old entrepreneur founded his sandals company, ISlide, in Norwood back in January 2013. After spending a decade in the basketball division at Reebok, Kittredge saw growth in the slides market and wanted to start his own company. Little did he know a few years later that he’d be working with the NBA and smoking cigars in DJ Khaled’s backyard.
“We have revolutionized the custom footwear business,” Kittredge said. “We design [the slide] and have it done within a couple of hours. A company can have the product for sale on their site just hours after. No one has been able to do custom that fast.”
Khaled, the well-known music producer turned social media star, discovered Kittredge’s startup and started gifting the shoes to his celebrity friends, including Justin Bieber and Ellen DeGeneres. The custom slides have rippled footbeds that massage your feet as you walk and were designed and wear-tested by footwear industry veterans, Kittredge said.
In early December 2015, Kittredge got a call from a “friend of a friend” who told him that DJ Khaled loved his slides and was about to start a merchandise store at wethebeststore.com. Khaled and his team wanted to put their logos such as “We The Best” and “Bless Up” on the slides.
“We thought they might do 20 to 30 pairs in first couple of weeks,” Kittredge said.
The first day, the company sold 800.
“It didn’t let up. No one could keep up with sales,” Kittredge said. “It was insane. So then a little while later, I’m down in Florida and [DJ Khaled] has me come over. I bring some presents for him, some slides, I’m there to celebrate the new partnership. I brought some cigars, and we were out back smoking and he put me on his Snapchat saying, ‘This is my slide guy.'”
A few seconds later, Kittredge’s phone was blowing up.
“I had 100 text messages from people I haven’t talk to in years, wondering what I’m doing on DJ Khaled’s Snapchat,” he said.
ISlides can be designed online by a customer buying one pair or a business buying 1,000. Kittredge said that about one-quarter of sales is from individual buyers. Pretty much any non-copyrighted image or logo can be placed on the slide. Kittredge also has an exclusive contract with the NBA and can create slides with any official NBA team logo. Each pair costs around $50.
In addition to the social media buzz, Kittredge said that ISlide has another advantage to its competitors: speed. For bulk business, a large order elsewhere could take three weeks to three months, he said, but his company can turnaround a large order in just a few hours.
Kittredge won’t give away his secret sauce, but the ISlides are custom-printed and shipped out of an old mill building in Norwood, which helps with turnaround time, and the sandals are manufactured overseas.
“We developed a printing capability and process, but we don’t share how we do it. We are constantly evolving,” Kittredge said.