Former UW student starts sandal company
Classroom business plan becomes a reality
Inside the walls of the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Business building just a few years ago, Matt McManus drafted a business plan for a product made for people like himself with an active lifestyle. Not long after graduation, that business management and human resources classroom project became a reality, and the Bokos Footwear Co. was born.
The idea for a one piece, one strap, easy-to-clean sandal came even before McManus took the UW class. When Matt’s brother James McManus was living in China, he grew accustomed to a similar sandal style that could be worn while being active.
Both brothers had an active lifestyle and knew this product could be used for activities they enjoy like riding bikes, camping and gardening. Since there was nothing quite like that one strap sandal in the U.S., they decided to launch their own design.
“We really wanted a utopian sandal- with everything that a consumer might want into one simple package,” Matt says. “This product can keep up with how busy everyone is.”
The sandal is anti-odor and anti-slip, and Matt says it can be worn in the garden, the locker room, on the beach, camping or virtually anywhere else. The sandals’ purpose is to keep up with an active lifestyle for athletes, those who love the outdoors or just any busy bee, he says.
When figuring out a name for the sandal, Matt says him and his brother were brainstorming fun and airy made-up words with symmetry. When they put together the letters to make the word “Bokos,” it just fit, he says.
At first, Matt says creating the right packaging design and display as well as working with suppliers was challenging. However, the company’s relationships with stores have progressed over time–Bokos sandals ($18) are now sold in 42 states across the nation, with 30 retailers in Wisconsin.
Matt says part of the reason his business has become so successful is because him and James have complementary skill-sets and rarely clash. They have been working together for a few years now, and know who is responsible for what. The UW class helped Matt create a guide as to where he wanted the business to go.
When asked to give advice for future entrepreneurs, McManus responded that things take time.
“You’re not going to wake up the next day and have it on every store in the nation, it takes time to advertise, make connections and to develop and grow your own brand,” Bokos said.
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