I have two pairs of sneakers that I do not wear.

Something about the fit and the design doesn’t sit right with me.

I recently got in touch with a friend who designs and sells custom sneakers and I’m thinking about changing them. I’ll probably wear them right after.

My friend tells me that he makes a lot of money just from customising sneakers.

I had to sit him down, learn some things and find out how he can make a decent living from this business.

If you have a knack for buying good sneaker shoes, you do not have to just buy them anymore.

You can make them. Customising sneakers is a very interesting way to make money. 

What are Customised Shoes?

Customised shoes are shoes that are made as per the choice and desire of the customer. 

As a customer, you will choose the size and design of your final shoe outlook. 

Customising sneakers is much like walking into a tattoo parlour and having a tattoo artist accurately draw the arm tattoo design you have chosen.

If you want to make money through customising sneakers, you should be ready to get your hands on deck because there is a lot of handy work you will need to do.

Is Customising Sneakers Profitable?

Customising sneakers is one of the most admired and sought after businesses in Kenya. There is high demand for customised sneakers by many youths around the country. They are the usual target group, alongside celebrities. There is always a market to sell your customised sneakers to. Because of this, you will find that so many people want to start a custom sneaker business. If you have any doubts about starting this business, I will tell you that it is considered very lucrative and profitable. Risk of loss is very minimal.

Is it Illegal to Customise Sneakers and Sell Them?

When you buy a shoe, you have ownership of it. It is rightfully yours. But do not go with this mentality into your custom sneaker business. There are shoe companies that have trademarked their shoes. You do not want to be sued for trademark infringement because you have modified the company’s product and are still selling it under its original brand name. Do thorough legal research on the shoe brand you want to customise. You have to understand the ethics and legality of custom sneakers. Nike has had legal problems in the past with custom sneaker artists using the shoe company’s brand name to identify their customizations. It is however now possible to customise Nike sneakers as long as you buy the sneakers from  legitimate sources.

Is It Hard to Customise Sneakers?

If you are making handmade custom sneaker designs, the only thing you will be working on most while making custom sneakers is painting. It is easy if you are keeping the sneaker design as simple as possible. It can be hard to keep steady lines and that is what you will need to focus on more. You also have to be a good artist, if you do not want to get worked up about making a mess or having a design that won’t sell.

How Can I Make Money Customising Sneakers?

You make money in a custom sneaker business by designing your customer’s preferred choice of final shoe outlook. 

You also get to charge for your services because your artistry is very valuable in this business venture. Your customers should be willing and able to pay full price for your services.

How to Start a Custom Sneaker Business 

You can start a custom sneaker business by either creating and selling your designs or taking inventory of already customised sneakers and selling them.

Here is how you can start your custom sneaker business. 

  1. Do your research. Look into the type of sneaker shoes you want to customise. Check into the legalities. Know what you will need to get them ready. Do not forget to research your market base. Who is your target group? Have a plan on how you will promote your customised sneakers as you research.
  1. Get your shoes ready. Once you have selected your shoes, start painting. I would advise you to customise limited pairs of sneakers so that you can grow your customise base as you learn what it is they want or like. 
  1. Find a supplier. If you are choosing to go the supplier way, you need to find someone who is reliable to get you the customised sneakers. He should also get you the correct and accurate design of what you ordered for.
  1. Market your products. Go online. Create a website. This is one of the fastest ways to promote your customised sneakers as well as finding  customers. In no time, you will be making sales and making a lot of money once your business breaks even.

What Do You Need to Customise Sneakers?

If you are making your handmade customised sneakers, you will need to assemble the necessary tools to get you started.

Here is what you will need.

  • Acetone, otherwise known as Nail polish remover. This will remove the protective coating on the sneaker shoes.
  • Cotton swabs. This you will dip into the nail polish remover and use it to wipe your sneakers.
  • Professional leather paint, usually Angelus Acrylic painting that you can order online or buy at the store. This costs around Ksh. 3900.
  • Soft painter’s tape 
  • Acrylic finisher (Sealant)
  • Airbrush, this is highly recommended because it will make cleaning and easy on your customised sneakers.
  • Fine line brush.
  • Q tips. 

How to Customise Sneakers 

Over the past few days, I have seen a ton of posts on customising and how to customise sneakers. There is some poor advice and wrong information being given out about how to make custom sneakers and I want to give you a good platform to start making good custom sneakers. 

Here is a step by step process of making your first customised sneakers. 

  1. Shoe selection. For starters, do yourself a favour and pick a shoe base close to what you are hoping to achieve. This will save you a lot of heartache and work. You can select from the available shoe brands for customisation listed later in the article.
  1. Preparation work. I cannot emphasize how important this phase is. This will make or break your whole shoe. The first step you will have to do is to take off the shoe laces and clean the shoe with cotton swabs dipped in nail polish remover. We do this because most shoes have a protective wax layer. This layer is very horrible with paint so you will have to remove it first. Use pure acetone because some brands have additives that are bad for the shoe. Use gloves for this. To confirm that you have removed this coating, take off your gloves and feel your shoes. They should have a sticky surface. Do it over a number of times again. A pair usually takes about 45 minutes to finish prepping. You cannot overdo this step so do not be shy.
  1. Taping/ Masking. This depends on what you are doing with the brush and stencils. If you are using air, taping is a must. Use it to mask off any area you do not intend to paint, to save you a lot of cleaning up. 
  1. Painting. The first thing you have to do is select the best paint. Angelus acrylic is one of the best affordable paints you will get. You can get it in stores or order online. I recommend buying several small paint pots if you are going to use a mixture of colours for your custom sneakers. Once you have gotten your paint all mixed up, start applying thin coats on the shoe, allowing dry time between each. Let them sit for an hour or use a dryer to fasten up the process. Multiple layers of coating will give it the nice factory look.
  1. Clean up/ Finish. Once you have finished painting your shoes and they are all dried up, it is time to take the tape off. You can go over the edges with a fine tipped brush in case of any bleeding. Next step is to seal off your good work with a sealant. You only need a light spray coat to give your final shoe that ordinary look. Do not overdo it. With that, your customised sneakers are ready. 

How Much Time Should It Take Me to Customise Sneakers. 

This will depend on your expertise and the design complexity.  For simple projects, it should take you around 3 to 4 hours to get your work done. If you are handling more complex designs, a single pair of shoes will cost you around 15 hours, rounding up to a day.

How Much Does It Cost to Customise Sneakers?

The overall cost of customising sneakers will depend on all the expenses that you are going to incur to get your final shoe design. 

These are some of the expenses that you will have to pay for customising sneakers. 

  1. Base shoe cost. What is the cost of  a plain and clean pair of sneakers that you want to customise? Different types of sneaker shoes will have different prices. A pair of original Nike Air Force 1 Sneaker Shoes will go for Ksh. 3000
  1. Cost of materials. Your paint, paint brushes and stencils will also need to be bought. You can buy them from the supermarket or stores. If you are in Kenya, you can walk into the House of Leather and get these materials at affordable prices.
  1. Shipping costs. If you are ordering your sneakers online, you will have to pay for the shipping costs so that the shoes can get to you. However, most of the shipping costs are paid for by the customer when he or she makes an order. 

How Much Should You Charge For Custom Sneakers?

You will want to know how to charge for custom sneakers so you will not end up at a loss instead of making a profit. There are certain things that are put into consideration for pricing of customized sneakers.

If you want to make money out of a single pair of sneakers, here is how you should come up with the final quote of the sneakers. 

  1. Include the cost of the base shoe.  Since you will be painting on a clean and blank canvas, you will have to include that in your final quote. For example, the Nike Air Force 1 which costs Ksh. 3000 should be included in the overall charging. 
  1. Type of design. When your customer makes a pick on the design they want,charge on how complex the design is. Simple projects will take you less time and are easier to paint because you will only be using simple colours and light stencil work. You can add Ksh. 1000 on top for that. If your customer needs cartoon characters and portraits of an actual person, these are more complex projects and it will take you more time and resources to complete. You will need to charge an extra Ksh. 2000 for that.
  1. Your experience. If you know you are highly talented, why not get paid for your expertise. Raise the bar. If you are a talented sneaker artist, there will be more people looking to buy your sneakers. More experience means more demand,which means more money.

You can also factor in the cost of labour, shipping costs and the cost of materials. The overall cost should be three times more than the original cost of the shoe.

How Much Money Can You Make Customising Sneakers?

Customising sneakers has a very high profit margin with low risk involved. From a single pair of sneakers, you can get around Ksh. 2000 to Ksh. 3000. This is really good money and with persistence and dedication, you can make up to a million in a year.

What Website Can I Use to Customise My Sneakers?

These websites allow you to design your own shoes, get them done and have them delivered to you. 

Here are some of the sites you can use to customise your sneakers. 

  1. YourReebook
  1. NIKEiD 
  1. Vans Customs
  1. Myswear
  1. Alive Shoes
  1. Adidas

What Shoe Brands Can You Customise?

Nike is one of the most admired sneakers in the world. Their customised designs always look attractive and comfortable. However, Nike is not the only shoe company that allows you to customise their sneakers.

Other shoe brands that you can customise include:

  • Vans 
  • Adidas
  • Reebok
  • Puma
  • Airforce 

What Software Do Shoe Designers Use to Customise Sneakers?

These softwares will help you to develop the perfect three dimensional prototype for your customised sneakers.

  1. Shoemaster. This software is very good for beginners. You get to choose your design and you can also get customised shoes for your customers.
  1. InkXE. This software allows you to get better visualisations of your customised shoe projects so that you end up with something accurate and cool.
  1. Romans CAD. This software allows you to create ideal shoes as well as get them customised to your liking.

How do I Promote My Customised Sneakers?

Here is how you are going to market your products so that more people will get to know about you and your sneakers. 

  1. Create a website. The first thing you will want to do is to build a website so that potential customers  can find you. On your website, provide your information, talk about the designs you make and allow customers to place their requests for your services, either through email or telephone calls.
  1. Social media. Social media platforms like Instagram, Pinterest and Snapchat will allow you to promote your services through photos of your customised sneakers.
  1. Write blog posts. Blogging is another way to put yourself out there and reach new clients. Write something about the designs that you create and how you do it. This will drive more traffic to your website.
  1. Have a referral program. When your clients are happy with the designs you make, they will refer new clients to you. Give discounts and giveaways so that they can send more people your way.
  1. Word of mouth. Tell your friends about what it is that you do. They will be your first customers to try out your designs and pair them up with their outfits. They will also recommend more people to you.

Tips For Customising Sneakers 

These tips will help you design the best sneakers for your customers and you can make a lot of money if you consider them.

Designing sneakers is all about art. There are certain elements about art work that even the best artists like Picasso had.

  1. Let your design have a personal significance. Your sneakers should mean something to you, besides being a way to make money. You should have a passion for it. If you are taking it up as a career, then this is very valuable to enable you to grow.
  1. Let your sneakers tell a story. When people ask you why you started customising sneakers to make a living, you should give them a reason besides money. Your sneakers should talk to you in a way that nobody else can. This will always be a motivator. 
  1. Use the best materials. Whether it is the paint, the brushes or the stencil machines. You must have quality end designs if you want more people to demand your services.
  1. Always look for more inspiration. Do not just stick to what you know. Over time your designs may start to look boring. Go on Pinterest or YouTube or your Google search and find the best sneaker designs that you can incorporate into yours. Always train your creativity muscles. 

Other Ways to Make Money From Customising Sneakers

Instead of just customising sneakers, you can always aim for more ways to get you extra cash.

  1. Sell your designs. If your world is unique and valuable, you can sell them to shoe companies and make money. Most shoe companies want to work with very experienced custom shoe designers.
  1. Sell the materials. If you happen to get the best materials needed for customising sneakers at an affordable price, you can sell them to other people in your trade at a profit.
  1. Be a supplier. You can supply shoes to people to sell them, so that you do not have to focus on making sales. All you have to do is to design the sneakers.

Creative Ideas For Customizing Sneakers 

There are many ideas up on Pinterest that can help you come up with attractive custom sneakers.

Here are a few inspirational ideas. 

  1. Animals. You can use drawings of animals and animal prints and customise your sneakers. I have seen leopard prints on black Nike Air Force 1’s and it looked amazing.
  1. Nature. If you have fallen in love with the sunrise and sunset vibe you can use that on your sneakers. Plants like roses and sunflowers also create a beautiful shoe landscape. 
  1. Cartoons and anime characters. This is usually per the desire of your customers. They will ask for designs of their favorite cartoon or anime character on their shoes.
  1. A person’s portrait. It could be very iconic leaders like Nelson Mandela, a favorite music artist or even yourself.
  1. Texts. You can use texts that are nicely calligraphed on your sneakers. You can use comic texts or favourite quotes and have them on the sole of your shoes. 
  1. Mythical creatures. You can have werewolves, vampires or shape shifting creatures drawn on your custom sneakers.

A lot of people want to have comfortable shoes and designs tailored just for them.

Starting a custom sneaker business in Kenya is one of the wisest things you will do in your life in this day and age.

If you are a good artist, do not just sit on this talent when you can monetize and grow yourself. 

If you are already in this business, I recommend following our tips to help you make more money and customise more sneakers in your business.




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Online Businesses / Online Work in Kenya