Long Story Short: Ryan Babenzien on Making Great Sneakers

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Ryan Babenzien is the founder and CEO of my favorite sneaker company, Greats. Before starting his own sneaker company, Ryan tried different career paths including being a talent agent, a manager, and a producer before realizing his entrepreneurial spirit and starting his own business. Greats offer timeless sneaker designs that are crafted in Italy for the same price as a lot of designer sneakers. We talk about how to go out on your own, designing great sneakers, and trusting your gut. Listen to the full episode here.

On why he wanted to make sneakers…

My dad was a public school gym teacher. His uniform was whatever he wore and sneakers. My dad had 10-15 pairs of sneakers. That for sure influenced my obsession with sneakers way before Greats. I was always into gear and sneakers were one of those things. Then I went on to work at two sneaker companies. My brother became a creative director of Supreme. That for sure was the influence.

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On how he got the idea for Greats…

We wanted to innovate around the greatest silhouettes in sneakers. That is how the design thesis was being developed. And we thought, why don’t we just call it Greats? Like the greatest of all time.

On what keeps him up at night…

A founder’s vision never gets translated the way it is in here. The more you let people do their jobs, the more risk there is that it’s not exactly how you wanted it. It doesn’t have to be exact, but it needs to be within a tolerance of like 3% and when it goes out to 8%, you think, I gotta get back in there.

On the one piece of advice he gives…

This has probably been told 100 times, but trust your gut. The reality is most people are going to tell you don’t do it, you can’t do it, you’re never going to do it. That is what you’re going to get. You have to be obsessed with whatever this idea is, and if you’re not, don’t try it. It is a total onslaught of beat-downs daily, every day, all day. You have to just be obsessed.

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