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Fancy footwork: Summer Company launches Kustom Kicks

Friday, February 19, 2016

By: Natasha Marar, Business Advisor

Like many teenagers, Zaheem Riberdy is obsessed with footwear. Unlike most of his peers, however, this 17-year-old entrepreneur and finalist in the Young Entrepreneurs, Make Your Pitch competition turned a hobby customizing sneakers and refurbishing old ones into a global business.

Through Summer Company last year, Riberdy launched Kustom Kicks, a company that sells fashionable, custom-made footwear and counts everyone from local retailers to UCLA's basketball team among its customers.

Summer Company is an Ontario government program which provides young people with the resources and knowledge they need to start a new summer business. Full-time students, aged 15-29, receive hands-on business training, advice and mentorship from local business leaders as well as a grant of up to $3,000.

While Riberdy's one-of-a-kind shoes have become a trendy fashion statement, he credits the Summer Company program for helping him build a marketing strategy that helped him reach influential people in the fashion industry. Riberdy's custom sneakers have been featured internationally on U.S. and Japanese websites, and he has thousands of followers on social media.

He says the program also enabled him to purchase the tools he needed to create his unique, handcrafted shoes. Riberdy intends to pursue a post-secondary education with the goal of establishing a career in the fashion industry. With his growing assortment of fancy "footwork" and the experience he got from the Summer Company program, it’s a goal that seems to be a good fit.

The WindsorEssex Small Business Centre is now accepting applications for its 2016 Summer Company program. Visit our website for eligibility and application requirements or call 519-253-6900.