Fernando Rojo walks in nobody else’s footsteps, nor their shoes for that matter.
The would-be College junior is taking a semester off to work full-time on the launch of his shoe company, PATOS Shoes, a brand that offers high quality footwear with a positive social impact.
The design of the shoe combines a modern, minimalist sneaker with authentic Latin American textiles. It is currently offered in canvas and leather. Each pair is made by hand in a small factory in Peru, and each purchase ensures a skilled team of local artisans can continue their centuries-old trade.
Rojo was first inspired to start PATOS while visiting family in Argentina. He noticed the vibrant, well-made shoes in local markets and recognized their potential in the American fashion industry.
“There’s no reason that an impoverished area with a good product should be left out of the game,” Rojo said. With this in mind, he sought to introduce the footwear to a new market.
PATOS Shoes is currently seeking funding on Kickstarter, an online platform where creative projects receive financial support from a global community. The company hoped to reach $10,000 within its first day; it hit $11,000 within the first six hours.
PATOS has raised over $21,000 and is on its way toward reaching its goal of $45,000 by Oct. 14. The brand has also received grants from the PennApps Accelerator,a student-run organization, and the Penn Wharton Innovation Fund.
The up-and-coming shoe brand has been featured in CNBC and Philadelphia Magazine and is “one of 2016’s coolest college startups,” .
Wharton sophomore DJ Corbett, who is part of the brand development team, is more than pleased with the current state of PATOS.
“I’m in love with the product and our story and our mission,” Corbett said. “And seeing the fact that other people are also falling in love with that and want to support it is amazing.”
PATOS’ recent success may come as no surprise to those who know Rojo well. The ambitious 20-year-old started his entrepreneurial ventures at age eight, when the Ann Arbor native turned his yard into a parking lot during University of Michigan football games.
Rojo saw Kickstarter as the right platform to launch his business because it would push him to fully invest while still allowing him to retain creative freedom.
“It’s better to just jump right in and not spend 90 percent of your time on a business plan you’re not trying to follow,” Rojo said.
Correction: A previous version of this story stated that the Penn Wharton Innovation Fund is a student-run initiative, but is is actually run by Penn Wharton Entrepreneurship with a student selection committee. The DP regrets the error.
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