Entrepreneurs stem from a different breed of human beings. These people enjoy the hustle and live for the blood, sweat, and tears that go into building a company. While this lifestyle is definitely not for everyone, for some, it’s all they know.
Meet University of Pennsylvania undergraduate Fernando Rojo: a 20-year-old who embodies what it means to be an entrepreneur. He’s using his business-focused mindset to build PATOS Shoes, a disruptive sneaker company that provides jobs for Peruvian artisans.
Where it all started
Being an entrepreneur is all about seeing a problem and creating a solution.
While visiting his grandparents in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Fernando came across a shoe stand at a flea market. Behind the stand stood Rafael, a local artisan with a knack for creating high quality, handmade shoes.
Rojo was intrigued by the fact that Rafael wasn’t making a lot of profit, even though his products are fantastic and of high quality.
As he probed deeper into the issue, he realized that the answer was representative of a larger problem with artisans in South America. While tourists loved the shoes, the economy of the cities were often stagnant.
Speaking of his early experience, Rojo explains: “I saw a clear disconnect between the products they [the artisans] were able to create and having the access to bring them to the world.”
Over time, he realized that that was not the only problem in Argentina.
“I became obsessed with the shoes, and realized that there weren’t anything like them back home.”
And so, without any hesitation or experience in the fashion world, Fernando brought home a suitcase full of shoes and made a website.
They were extremely well-received. Rojo’s sister, Florencia, received compliments all the time whenever she wore them, and his friends loved them as well. So much so, that they thought Rojo should turn them into a business.
Rojo took their idea and submitted his business idea to Penn’s business plan competition, where he was rejected in the first round.
Now, two years have passed, and that rejected business has sold over $11,000 in under six hours on Kickstarter.
The road ahead
“Shoes are the first step. We want to create an efficient way to sell any handcrafted products across the world.”
Rojo has a vision for the future of fashion. Adding an admiration for the speed of Zara’s production, Rojo walked us through the future for PATOS. They plan to invest in technology and operations in order to eventually diversify their product line.
“There’s no reason an impoverished community with great products should be left out of the game.”
Technology has always had the power to make a big difference in the world. For PATOS, it will help support artisans who may lack the resources themselves. But also it will provide a really high-quality product to customers.
“We want to be the most efficient company of our kind while staying true to our social mission.”
The team is excited to showcase its shoe line on Kickstarter. They advertise their products as “one for the adventurers; people that want to travel the world and share their stories.”
Their shoe represents a story that is far greater than any one pair. It’s one of a young student’s dream to show a product he loved to the world.
You won’t find anything else like it. I swear.
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