An Athletic Brand With No Limits
We’re going to put the work in needed. Our whole team is psychotically competitive, excuse my word use; we’re non-stop.Kente Mixon
And Another One
There are possibly more than 1300 athletic brands here in the USA, supporting the global activewear market that will be worth $380 billion by the end of 2022. From basketball shoes to branded t-shirts, there is no shortage of athletic and activewear competition. The market is so vast beyond the major players that, as they say – anyone can make it.
However, it takes a movement. A voice. A village. A committed community. That is what STRIA SPORT is pushing the limits for; a hometown advantage in the windy city of Chicago.
Enter the court, Eric Porter and Kente Mixon who finished their Lake Forest college basketball careers with one thing on their minds; we need to make a better shoe! Trading in their team captain jerseys for company branded polo’s, the two set out on a 10-year journey learning the ins and outs of R&D, the challenges of overseas manufacturing, and how to execute a perfect alley-oop with their approach to design, function and price point.
The goal of these two teammates is to bring to market a performance shoe that was functional and affordable. Meaning, at $120 you are getting a very unique design that can out-perform and out-categorize your average b-ball shoe. What makes STRIA unique is that the design of their 107 Series (named for 107 consecutive three-pointers made by Porter) is that it is not your average basketball shoe height. It’s a mid-top. Barely covering a player’s “Achilles Heel”/Ankle when tossing the rock.
There is a method to the madness and the duo understands that what they created was not only a functional basketball shoe (if you think mid-tops don’t work in the game, talk to Puma and LaMelo Ball), they also inadvertently expanded their category and found that the 107 Series is actually a multi-sports shoe.
Like A Deep-Dish Pizza
Chicago is home to a plethora of noted athletes and sports shops vying to capture the attention of the next Hall of Famer and hometown hero. That would be the dream of any college athlete; to make it to the “big league.” But sometimes the universe has other plans.
Team STRIA started off the usual way when it came to marketing. They needed a notable pro-basketball player to endorse their shoe. But with little in the budget, that idea would have to wait. What about a high-profile sneaker store to sell our shoes? Without a sales team, cold calls and traveling from state to state doing clinics and talking up the brand would see their launch on their own ecommerce platform. They got some notice but not the kind that made the shopify bell ring till their ears fell off.
So now what? What’s next was a little off the mark and out of the box. What they did not expect was that their shoe helped the aching feet of many athletes in their division and their town. Like the deep-dish pizza, the 107 Series was invented in Chicago and loved by many.
With athletes giving feedback ranging from golfers, to volleyball teams and gym enthusiasts wearing the 107 Series, they unknowingly managed to change the way we view a basketball shoe. In that moment of realizing that they could capture multiple markets, they soon saw their inventory status read: SOLD OUT!
Going To The Playoffs In Their Own Way
Eric Porter, now CEO of STRIA SPORT took some time to tell me a bit about his athletic upbringing and building a brand with his collegemate, Kente Mixon. Playing ball in college is a minor testament to what’s to come in the major franchise league. Suffering from injuries and feet that would constantly hurt, prompted an idea that would take the two from Chi-town to China. In less than two years the 107 Series was a real thing. I hit Porter with some additional questions that I think helped shape and materialize what STRIA SPORT and the 107 Series is all about.
As athletes yourselves, explain the problem you solved when you created STRIA.
EP– The idea of developing our own shoes was made out of necessity. We had trouble finding shoes that were extremely comfortable for high performance athletic shoes. We used our experience as lifelong athletes to create our product.
KM – You of course want a shoe that can mesh with any type of athlete. It’s an impossible task but I think STRIA’s done a good job tailoring the shoe to fit a variety of athlete preferences so that it can be a shoe everyone can vibe with from the performance end.
What was the process like developing your own shoe line so early on in your careers?
EP– It’s been really exciting and challenging at the same time. We had to learn as we went. We took our time making sure the shoe was exactly how we wanted it. The good thing was we did not have any timelines so moved at our own pace. I’m so grateful that we had the opportunity as best friends to develop the shoe. Our team has made this challenge extremely gratifying.
KM – for me it was completely unexpected; that being said I hadn’t been so excited to start something in my life. This is EP’s baby, so when he came to me about the possibility of helping him put all of this together I was overwhelmed with excitement. The bumps and bruises of the journey don’t really feel as such because we’re so blessed to even be able to pursue this. The process has been filled with joy.
Chicago is a city of legends. How does STRIA fit? Where do you see your brand growing in your own backyard?
KM – you’re absolutely right and I think STRIA can fit right in as time goes on. However, to be a part of Chicago’s history we’ll need support from our own; we have to find ways to continue to grow that support. The more Chicago from all sides is rocking with the brand, the better, so this summer we’ll be really pushing to get the community at large on board. We have some great things planned in different states/cities as well.
Athletic shoes come with no shortage of challenges including competition, consumer behavior shifts and a struggling retail industry. How have you managed to keep STRIA going?
EP – We believe in our product and with the loyalty of our customers, we’ve been able to have a strong first year 1/2. We have created niches by having the ability to customize orders for customers which has been really popular.
KM – The grind, simple. We’re willing to do whatever it takes. Whether that be staying up until 3:00am working or driving 20+ hours to different states/cities for opportunities, we’re going to put the work in needed. Our whole team is psychotically competitive, excuse my word use; we’re non-stop.
Are there plans for expansion or is keeping it simple, slow and steady the strategy?
EP – Yes, we have expansion plans in the works. We want to continue to grow the brand.
KM – We’re creeping up on two years and have done pretty well with just one model shoe. Time will tell; but due to manufacturing decisions we weren’t able to have more lower sizes for more women and kids. That’s a huge market we can tap in to so hopefully that will be in the works soon.
You mentioned STRIA as multi-sports footwear. How does this impact further development outside of basketball shoes?
KM – With STRIA’s advantage being that the shoe can be used for multiple activities, it allows the product offerings outside of just shoes to touch any athlete. Whether it be apparel or equipment we’ll be able to correlate those things with the shoe for the given sport.
Side bar: What pro or minor teams did you and or Kente play for?
EP – I played collegiate Basketball at Loyola Chicago and then at Lake Forest College
KM – I played collegiate Basketball at Lake Forest College.
With concerns on climate change, industrial impact and goals to improve the footwear output; does STRIA currently have a sustainable manufacturing plan? Or have plans to develop one?
EP– Definitely, we have plans to implement sustainability in the coming plans for our shoes and future product offerings.
What was the most memorable moment during the process of developing the STRIA line you’d like to share?
EP – It’s been really exciting seeing a dream turn into a reality. None of it happens without the support from our friends and family which is what we’re so thankful for. It also will never get old seeing other basketball players wearing our brand.
KM – I could pick from so many. The opening drop of launching the brand felt amazing. But I think the most memorable for me was when our team got together for the end of our first year dinner. My main thought during the time was just thinking how blessed we are to be doing this with each other; you know? Sounds corny but I don’t think I stopped smiling that whole dinner. My other thought was that we’re going to be doing these for a long time, because we’re going to put in the time to get this brand to its maximum potential. Whatever that may be.
The 107 Series is the breakout shoe for STRIA SPORT that should see its time in the shoe businesses as a successful staple. What this team needs now is a strong e-commerce distribution channel while building the brick and mortar experience with their range of athletic clinics. Anything is possible here. Porter and Mixon are a couple of Chicago kids looking to make a slam dunk in the footwear industry. What they may not yet know is that the time could not be any better. As athleticwear, and active lifestyles are increasingly showing signs of no slowdown, STRIA SPORT has the potential to be one of those brands that gives consumers what they really want; a shoe that can do everything AND be seen flying through the air.
Today, STRIA SPORT is an approved vendor of the National Basketball League (NBA). A check off the bucket list for this brand. The dream of getting their shoes worn during the playoffs is that much closer to reality.