Digitally native brands are buzzing at the moment, with innovative companies like ethical cashmere start-up Naadam making headway in the direct-to-consumer luxury goods space. Ryan Babenzien, the CEO and cofounder of a sneaker line called Greats, is doing the same for sneakers. Founded in August 2013, the brand has successfully raised more than $15M in funding in the past three years alone with nothing more than a brick-and-mortar store in New York’sSoho neighborhood and placement in select Nordstrom stores. But a cornerstone of the business’s success is e-commerce.
The unisex sneakers are offered in a single, minimal silhouette—the Royale—in a selection of core colors and rotating seasonal hues. They retail for $99 or $179, for the knit or leather version, respectively. The simple construction combined with luxury materials makes for high style at an accessible price point, and the brand caters to millennial consumers who gravitate toward Greats’ social-first marketing.
Babenzien’s fashion entrepreneurial roots took shape consulting for shoe companies like Eckō Unltd., Mecca, Puma and K-Swiss. In 2010, he became the CEO of Boast, a retail tennis brand known for its Japanese maple leaf logo. It was with this vast knowledge of fashion retail that Babenzien founded Greats in 2013 with his friend Jon Buscemi.
In six short years, Babenzien’s brand has shifted the traditional sneaker supply chain. He came to ONE37pm’s headquarters in Hudson Yards to chat business. His succinct comments on entrepreneurial advice, pivotal-moment strategies and the biggest pitfalls of venture capital money are gold.