by Wendy Kadon, 2Y 2020, and Sarah Han
When Dave Costello first walked through the glass doors of the Global Hub in the Spring of 2018, he had exactly three things in mind. One, he knew he had a bit of an entrepreneurial itch that he wanted to satisfy. Two, he had recently committed himself to a greener lifestyle and was in search for something more mission-oriented in his career. And three, he had a thing for shoes.
And one night, while Dave was brainstorming ideas for his New Venture Discovery class with Professor David Schonthal, the seemingly mismatched puzzle pieces came together. That’s when Dave first pitched the idea of Scoots, the world’s first plant-based shoe venture, to his classmates. It was the beginning of something that would become an incredibly impactful part of his life at Kellogg.
Needless to say, trying to build a company from the ground up is not an easy process. After all, there was no handbook with rules or steps guiding the way. For Dave, the beginning felt particularly lonely, especially when things weren’t going as expected, as they often don’t when starting a business. But when he was accepted into the Zell Fellows Program this past fall, Dave found himself surrounded by a community of fellow student entrepreneurs who were going through the same challenges. He had newfound access to Kellogg professors and coaches ready to provide mentorship and structure around a relatively unstructured process, along with a network of venture capitalists in Chicago. And after reaching out to other Kellogg classmates, Dave put together a team dedicated to saving the planet one pair of Scoots at a time.
From there on, Dave was in and out of the classroom, getting more hands-on in both the entrepreneurial and shoe-making industry. He even started taking classes at The Chicago School of Shoemaking three times a week, where he built the prototypes for Scoots. He found various ways to gain insight into potential consumer bases to inform changes to both the shoe design and the brand positioning. He began searching for factories around the world that produced cork, a key material for the shoes, and eventually traveled to Portugal to set up meetings with these facilities.
Throughout this growth, Dave was still taking classes at Kellogg oriented toward entrepreneurship. Through New Venture Development with Professor Rick Desai, Dave found a personal mentor who has helped him with negotiations, branding, and customer acquisition. And while Kellogg classes equipped them with the tools to build the Scoots brand, Dave and the team knew that launching a Kickstarter campaign was the best way to test the product on the actual market.
Before long, Dave was on a flight back to Portugal, where he spent three weeks perfecting the shoes with his Portuguese manufacturing partner. Not only did he learn a ton about shoe production and product development, but he also gained important lessons on building outside relationships through the support of Kellogg. While having dinner with the factory director one night, Dave showed him an email from Northwestern Magazine requesting to do an article on Scoots. Upon seeing the factory director’s excitement, Dave realized that creating a company wasn’t just about the product. It was also about the people impacted along the journey that made the hard work all the more worth it.
Over the past few months, Dave and the Scoots team continued to secure funding by competing in various venture competitions like the Kellogg Venture Challenge, all while putting together a Kickstarter campaign that launches today. Although the past 15 months were spent pouring time and resources into the final big test, Dave knew that Kellogg provided the best environment to pursue his goals through numerous opportunities, insightful advisers and a community of motivated students. After seeing so many different people come together to make Scoots a reality, excitement prevails over nervosity for Dave, who is ready to finally see the last puzzle pieces come together.