Aspiring footwear designers are about to have a new point of entry into the business: Pensole Footwear Design Academy and cocreation company Rooy have just secured $4 million to build a new platform that will help designers launch designs and get free education.
“It’s Quirky for sneakers,” says Pensole founder D’Wayne Edwards, referring to the popular product company that lets inventors submit ideas for potential development, production, and marketing. Edwards, the former design director for Nike’s Air Jordan brand, founded Portland, Oregon-based Pensole in 2010 as an independent school to give designers from all socioeconomic backgrounds access to education and the industry. Pensole graduates have gone on to work at the world’s top footwear brands, including Converse, Reebok, and Nike.
On the new platform, aspiring designers can submit designs for web-based voting, and the winners of each competition will work with Rooy and Pensole teams to develop a finished sample. Consumers can then prepurchase the design before it’s made available for worldwide sale. San Francisco-based Rooy Inc., founded by Ryan Kang, already facilitates such footwear design competitions online, but the new platform with Pensole will focus the competitions in new ways and add a key educational component.
“Say a designer has a great idea but does not know how the shoe can be made,” says Edwards. “We will work with them to redesign their design to make it manufacturable. We will also conduct online classes that are competitions, leading to designs being made which will increase the quality of the products generated from Rooy Inc.”
The platform will also serve as an admissions tool for Pensole. “In order to get into Pensole, you have to submit a design,” says Edwards. “Rooy Inc. will host all of our design submissions, which will increase their database of designers.”
In addition to the platform, the additional funding will be used to create new programs at Pensole, such as a strategic business program, an online design program, and a program for minority students.