One Penn student has created shoes for basketball star Ray Allen.
During his freshman year, College senior En Hao began custom painting shoes for individual clients in his business called “EnHaoKicks.”
Although Hao was satisfied with his products, he aspired to design shoes for a greater purpose. In 2011, he partnered with JDRF, the leading organization focused on type one diabetes, and Ray Allen, JDRF’s celebrity spokesperson, in creating a customized pair of Jordan shoes for Ray Allen himself.
“I custom painted a pair for him with his input based on basketball and his hobbies,” Hao said. “We kind of incorporated the JDRF theme into his custom shoes too.”
Following this feat, Hao reproduced Allen’s pair, which was sold in May 2012 for $14,500 at a JDRF gala with proceeds going to the organization.
JDRF strives to raise money for research and research-related education to help those with diabetes.
“[JDRF] is just an important issue for me,” Hao said.” “I wanted to look for ways to do something meaningful with my shoes.”
Hao didn’t intend to start a business when he began customizing shoes.
“I’ve been painting my whole life but I kind of started experimenting with painting shoes and it just grew from there,” Hao said. “First, I started painting for myself, then I started painting for people.”
Although most of his designs are produced on Vans, Hao also paints on other types of shoes, including heels.
“I custom paint shoes to whatever the customer wants,” Hao said. “I’ve done shoes with paintings, favorite musicians, really whatever they’re interested in.”
As he progressed, however, Hao felt that he needed to expand his project. In the fall of 2011, he reached out to JDRF’s main New York office to express interest in creating a customized shoe for them.
“They were really interested from the get-go, but it took a while for a project to fall into place,” Hao said. “I would say that the hardest part was getting a foothold in and finding a good event.”
Aside from his work with JDRF, Hao has also sold his shoes to various members of the Penn community. “EnHaoKicks” vary from between $280- $360, with leather shoes being more expensive than canvas.
“If I had the money, I would definitely purchase a pair of EnHaoKicks,” Isabella Spiridigliozzi, a freshmen in Engineering said. ”It’s really cool that he designed a pair for Ray Allen.”
Economics professor Rebecca Stein did purchase a pair of customized economics-themed kicks. She purchased them in spring of 2011, after he completed her course.
After learning about product differentiation, the concept that explains that if a product is unique it will have more market power, Hao approached Stein and talked to her about his differentiated product, “EnHaoKicks.”
Stein liked his product and agreed to purchase a pair.
“I wanted the shoes to be very connected to my course,” Stein said. “There is a graph of the concept of product differentiation, a Penn symbol, a picture of Cohen Hall, where I usually teach and other [money related] symbols [on my shoes.]”
For Stein, her “EnHaoKicks” are only for special occasions. She wears the shoes whenever she teaches about product differentiation.
“I love the shoes and they were worth every cent,” Stein said. “They are cool and nerdy at the same time. That’s what makes them so special.”
A previous version of this article stated that the sneakers used for EnHaoKicks were Keds. In fact, most of Hao’s work is done on Vans sneakers.