Steven Sashen

Steven Sashen

What is www.InvisibleShoe.com?

We sell Invisible Shoes “barefoot” sandals. Invisible shoes are the closest thing to being barefoot, but with the protection people want, and some fun style. Invisible shoes are worn by people from 8-84 for running, walking, hiking, boating, beach going, or by people who just like the feeling of being “better-than-barefoot.” You can buy either easy-to-make “custom-made for you… by you” kits, or we’ll custom-make your sandals for you.

That’s a very specific niche.  What made you get into it?

I’d heard about huaraches running sandals – the sandals made out of old tires that the Tarahumara Indians of Mexico wear to run (and win) ultramarathons. And I had just gotten into barefoot and minimalist running. So I made a few pairs of Invisible Shoes for myself and my wife – who isn’t a runner, but who likes to walk and hike – and some other members of the Boulder Barefoot Running club. People really loved their sandals, and the coach of the club, Michael Sandler, said if I started an actual business he’d include me in his book, Barefoot Running. So, I thought, “Well, let’s give it a shot and see what happens.”

What happened?

It totally took off. We launched on Novemeber 24, 2009. We were profitable from Day 1, and within 4 months www.InvisibleShoe.com was a 6-figure business.

Some of that success was the good luck of being in a niche that was just starting to take off, and some was from having a good and inexpensive product, and some was from the marketing advantages that being in a tight niche gives you (and knowing how to take advantage of them).

Like what? What are the advantages and what did you do?

One advantage is that you can easily find the places that your market is already hanging out – the blogs, the forums, the newsletters, Google groups, Facebook pages, etc. So it’s easy to find out what people are talking about and what problems they’re trying to solve, and what they want. If you honestly participate in the conversations going on, you can establish your value in the eyes of your market.

Also, in a tight niche the Search Engine competition is low. If you create a lot of valuable content – articles, videos, podcasts, etc. – and spread them around the Internet – on Web2.0 sites, article sites, video sites – you can dominate the search engines. If you search for “barefoot running sandals”, about 40 of the top 50 results belong to me.

And on Twitter, it’s even easier to target people who want what you have.

Any disadvantages?

Yes. Since straight advertising isn’t always as effective in a niche, you need to spend more time actually participating in the conversations that are happening. That can get pretty time consuming.

Even searching for bloggers who might review your product and contacting them, following up with them, keeping those relationships going… that can take a lot of time, too. Eventually, you can probably find someone to do that full-time, but at first, before you have the cash to hire someone good, it can lead to some late nights.

What are the most effective ways of marketing for a niche?

Participate, don’t over-sell.

If you have a product that people want, you don’t have to beat them over the head with it. Let them know it exists and give them a good reason to come check it out – In our forum and blog posts our signature file says that we offer free videos to show people how to make the very product we sell, without having to buy from us.

Also, create lots of valuable content of all sorts – audio, video, PDFs, whatever you can think of. And give it away. The more value you give away, the better.

And look for partners. Look for others who are already catering to your niche and see what you can do to help them. If you help raise the tide for their boat, yours will float higher, too.

Curated by Deepak Gupta.

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5 Comments on Steven Sashen – Founder of Invisible Shoe

  1. dgupta5150 says:

    Andy,

    I would love to. Btw, how do I get my picture to show? I already loaded it up, but it does not come through? Settings change? You must be in the UK?

    Deepak

  2. Andy Bailey says:

    that was a really insightful interview. He makes some really good tips for a niche business owner. Thanks for writing that up.

    • dgupta5150 says:

      Thanks Andy – we feel honored by your presence. Andy is the King of CommentLuv!

      • Andy Bailey says:

        well I’m not sure I can be called a King! lol.

        Have you considered becoming a guest poster on comluv.com? all you have to do is request to become a contributor using the support tickets in the dashboard of the site and when the new theme is ready (in a few weeks) I’ll upgrade you to contributor and you’ll be able to make a post there and get more exposure for your own site.

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