Blue Springs man's shoe designs are a slam dunk

Blue Springs is becoming known for its custom shoe designers.

Both Blue Springs High School graduate Brandon Laskowski (featured in an Examiner story June 21) and Blue Springs South High School graduate Ty Woods started designing custom shoes out of art class boredom.

But Woods never imagined being bored in art class would lead to a successful business, though that is exactly what happened.

“I was sitting in my senior art class and I was finished with all of my (projects),” Woods said. “I was bored and I didn’t like how every guy had the same shoes as me, so I went to the supplies closet and got some paint.”

After seeing Woods’ shoes, many of his friends started asking about them, wanting a pair of painted shoes for themselves.

After graduating in 2006, Woods took classes at Longview and Penn Valley community colleges in graphic art, but had to stop when his business, Zebra Shoe Company, grew.

“I’m on a temporary leave from school,” Woods said with a laugh. “I had to quit because my business just became too busy.”

Woods said one pair of shoes take about six hours on average to paint.

“It depends on the amount of detail that goes into it,” Woods said. “I did a pair with a face about two weeks ago that took about 12 hours.”

But where does Woods get the ideas for so much detail?

“It kind of comes to me,” Woods said.

Woods said when someone asks for a pair of shoes, he asks for a good idea of what they want the shoes to look like. Then he stares at the shoes until he gets his idea, and just starts painting.

“I really like when people open their shoe box and see their shoes for the first time,” Woods said. “Their eyes light up and they get really excited.”

Woods said he also enjoys the work because of the company’s growing popularity.

“I’ve been really impressed that I’ve come this far along,” Woods said. “I didn’t think I’d have this much success and popularity.”

Woods said he has even made custom shoes for DJ AM and Snoop Dogg, along with many pairs for friends and local customers.

But through the success and excitement of selling 41 pairs of custom shoes so far, owning and running a business by himself has taken its toll on Woods.

“Sometimes I have so many orders and not much time to sleep,” Woods said. “Last week I think I had three hours in three days.”

But Woods said the lack of sleep has not affected his work.

“I’m getting used to it by now,” Woods said.

Woods is in the process of applying for a community grant, which would allow him to create signature series of clothing and shoes.

There would be a total of 10 series and each series would consist of 100 pairs of shoes, each of which Woods would have to create himself.

If Woods receives the grant, he said he has plans to test out Zebra Shoe Co. through retail or in California.

“I got a business mentor and we want to open a kiosk at Independence Center or Overland Park at Oak Park Mall,” Woods said. “We might move to L.A. for a month and see how they do there.”

For additional information, visit Woods’ Web site, www.zebrashoecompany.com.