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Scott Gabrielson is the founder of OliverCabell.com, a direct to consumer sneaker brand that has been featured in The New York Times, GQ, High Snobiety and TechCrunch. Gabrielson’s shoes are highly reviewed and gaining popularity around the world. We interviewed Gabrielson to learn about his background and why he decided to leave his extremely successful corporate career to pursue selling sneakers online.
What’s Your Background?
I was born in Fargo, North Dakota and went to college at the University of Minnesota where I studied design and finance. After I graduated I worked for 2 years in investment banking and realized I hated it. I packed up and moved to England to get my graduate degree from Oxford.
How Was England Different Than North Dakota?
It was an incredible experience but night and day different. The school has a pretty strict dress code. Most days we were required to wear formal wear and dress shoes, and on exam days a white bow tie, dark suit, matching socks, and a cape.
Did You Say A Cape?
Yes – Like Superman.
Why Did You Decide To Start Your Own Company?
Family is most important to me, and I wanted a job that gave me the flexibility to be with them whenever I needed. During my time working in finance there was an unwritten rule that you should not leave work until your boss had left for the day. And since my boss worked every day, all day, that meant I was in the office 80-100 hours a week. I knew that life wasn’t for me and had to get out and being my own boss felt like the only way to do it.
While studying abroad I had to wear dress shoes everyday and a nice pair was over $400. For a student or really anyone can be a terrible burden. These expensive shoes were high quality but because of my background in finance, I knew retailers, wholesalers and middle men were marking these shoes up a ton.
I started Oliver Cabell to solve my own problem, I wanted shoes that were high quality, not overly flashy and fairly priced.
What Do You Consider Fairly Priced?
$100 – $200 For an Italian made, leather shoe that would normally retail for $300 – $400.
Do You Consider Yourself Successful So Far?
We have a long way to go, but I’m really happy with the progress we’ve made. Building Oliver Cabell from scratch that allows me to not have to work for anyone else, I wanted to build a business that supports my wife, daughter, and gives me the flexibility and freedom that is important to me.
How Does Your Family Feel About You And The Business?
Everyday of running a business and balancing the needs of my family is extremely hard. Luckily, my wife is incredibly supportive. We almost always talk about the business and I share all of Oliver Cabell’s successes and struggles with my wife, who is my biggest cheerleader. No one else knows the ins and outs of the business better than her.
You’ve Launched A lot Of Products, Which Are You Most Proud Of?
Very hard to say, but if I had to pick one it would be our Phoenix, which is 3D printed out of recycled water bottles. While the construction and manufacturing is really complex, this style was created to tackle the growing plastic problem. The end result is a lightweight and breezy shoe that is machine washable and naturally odor reducing. Plus, it’s most comfortable without socks, which is how I prefer to wear my shoes!
What Is The Part Of Your Business That You Enjoy Doing Most?
Making customers feel confident and look good without having to spend a fortune to get there. I receive many emails and get tagged on Instagram from customers that have worn our shoes to their wedding, an important dinner, or another special event. My favorite part of my job is seeing those photos and realizing that we played a small part in a really special day for them.
Have Any Advice For Aspiring Entrepreneurs?
I’m a big Shark Tank fan, and Mark Cuban once said that you should do everything possible to not raise funds. It allows you to control your own destiny and gives you the flexibility from both a business and personal perspective to adapt as needed. We’ve been able to follow that advice and be in control of our own destiny!
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