Our Small Business Snapshot series features photos that represent, in just one image, what the small businesses we feature are all about. Louis Blaut, founder and creative director of Soul Purpose Designs, explains how this image represents his business.
At Soul Purpose Designs, I design and manufacture wearable art in the form of sneakers based on characters and objects from pop-culture and everyday life as well as hip-hop-themed apparel with positive messages.
So often in our lives we have a conversation with someone because of a piece of their clothing, many of us have formed lifelong friendships this way. I wanted to create a brand that would bridge the gap between the things we love about fashion, but in an artistic way. I started Soul Purpose Designs because I saw something missing from the marketplace, something I wished existed. My whole life I loved sneaker culture, hip-hop culture, sports, cars, comic books, cartoons and art. I know how much other people love these things and I wanted to bring people together. I knew Soul Purpose shoes and apparel would be conversation starters and statement pieces that would inform people of your love of the character or object.
The above photo is of "The Ax," which is one of Soul Purpose's first four shoes. It exemplifies the creative style of our brand where we take the object or character the people love and transform it into a wearable piece of art. These limited edition, numbered collectible pieces are more like a Van Gogh print than a lifestyle shoe. Every detail of the product has been attended to with great care and detail, making it like no other sneaker on the market.
Finding my 'soul purpose'
Soul Purpose started as a hobby and became a passion project. I had been collecting sneakers for more than 10 years while working in the advertising industry for brands like Forbes, Reebok, Marvel, Spotify and Google. In 2013, after a decade of collecting, I was introduced to Dan "Mache" Gamache, known to most as @mache275, who is the owner of Mache Custom Kicks and commonly regarded as the best in his field. Mache's sneaker art inspired me to try my hand at customizing.
After several projects for myself, friends and family over two years, I was getting requests to do paid work. However, I decided that customizing was too constraining. I then began designing shoes, a process that would go on for a full year before a business was born: One shoe a day for 365 days to complete the current catalog. Alongside that project, I began designing apparel to accompany the sneakers.
I formed Soul Purpose LLC and began the long path of building a company. I used network contacts to find freelancers to create rough samples of my shoes and clothes, create content to advertise for the brand including photo shoots and videos, help with social marketing, build a website, etc. Two years and many challenges and exciting victories later, we have suppliers, distribution, marketing, accounting and all the other necessary parts of a business built.
I also wanted to support arts education, because without all the art teachers and mentors I had growing up, I would not have been able to do what I do now. Arts education is at risk today in terms of funding, and we want to do our part to support causes that mean so much to us and to the future of many children. Finally, we wanted to make our products under the safest, most environmentally conscious conditions possible. I manufacture all products under fair trade guidelines and donate 15 percent of our profits to arts education organizations, including the Urban Arts Partnership, Materials For The Arts and Jamaica Center For Arts And Learning.
We face challenges like building a bridge into retail, and continuing to maintain the highest quality product while increasing our support to arts education. We hope to create a company that exists for decades to come, to create high paying jobs for artists, and many other important roles. We intend to expand our support of arts education and to one day be a large enough company to support arts education on a nationwide or global scale. We are ready to start producing our product for our fans. All we need is our initial capital for the initial production run, and we will be following our "Soul Purpose."
Edited for brevity and clarity by Nicole Fallon Taylor.