Ceeze is the brainchild of sneaker wiz Connor Seltz. From DIY operation to industry-renowned customizer, Seltz shares 10 tips for budding business founders.
The story of Ceeze (pronounced “seize”) begins like any other in the footwear industry: an obsession with sneakers. Brand founder Connor Seltz fell in love with shoes in 2010 while working for a local moving company. He bought a pair of “Wolf Grey” Air Jordan 5s with his first paycheck and from that point on he was hooked: he had to figure out how to craft shoes.
Working 80+ hour weeks for the first few years of his career, Seltz mastered the ins and outs of footwear construction, sourcing lasts and materials to develop one-of-a-kind kicks years before “sneaker customizer” became a household term. Fast forward a decade and the current team roster sits around a dozen, executing across project management, marketing, sales, and business development.
Fans routinely shell out thousands of dollars for their unique creations. Clients over the years include A-list rappers and comedians, and consumer heavyweights such as Sprite, Toyota, and Xbox. Perhaps a bigger testament to the level Ceeze operates: one-off collaborations with footwear brands themselves including Nike, adidas, Puma, and K-Swiss.
A success story that didn’t happen overnight, we asked Seltz to lay out 10 tips for budding entrepreneurs.
01. Be flexible.
“Our team’s biggest success has been our ability to jump into different elements of work. If I’m called in to stitch in order to make a deadline, I’m there!”
02. Do your homework.
“When you don’t have experience or don’t know the industry well enough, it’s easy to walk into the wrong situation.”
03. Relationship are everything.
“It’s easy to forget about people in business—especially fashion and footwear—but it’s not the way to succeed. Be there to reciprocate. Support those who support you. It might be as small as checking in on someone, referring a friend for a job, or dropping a comment on a friend’s Instagram. The small things always add up.”
04. Under promise and over deliver.
“We move 1,000 mph and give each project the time and love it deserves. If we miss a deadline or fall short in a customer’s eyes, we make sure to find the means to do right by them.”
05. Expect things to be rough.
“You’ll find yourself short on cash, stressed, and strapped for time. Be resourceful and know that the people by your side are in for the best and worst days.”
06. Take responsibility when things go south.
“Being a leader makes you responsible for every failure, whether your fault or not.”
07. Stay humble.
“With the ‘Aircraft Supply’ Nike x Off-White Air Jordan 1s, we raised over $10,000 off $5 bids to donate to the NAACP LDF and Philando Castile Foundation. That moment really brought it full circle for me.”
08. Stick your neck out.
“We send DMs on LinkedIn and cold-email people. Even with a 20% response rate, the work balances out and we get amazing chances to create stories on an unprecedented level.”
09. Understand your customer’s needs.
“Aligning on the product and rollout is easy as long as we have a clear understanding of what success looks like for the brand we’re working with.”
10. Celebrate success.
“We just launched our first Nike SB Dunks, which is super exciting for me since I grew up obsessed with the shoe!”
All images courtesy of Ceeze.