Experimenting with an idea in the basement of his parents' house could make Myles Doak's idea bigger than he ever imagined.
Back in the summer of 2012, Doak thought a pair of flip-flops could have an appealing look with hockey laces as the sandal bridge back. So while he was home from college in Newmarket, Ontario, Canada, Doak started sewing hockey laces together, built a few dozen prototypes and looked for a manufacturer.
The result is SummerSkates, which now offers multiple products and gained NHL preferred vendor status and a multi-year global NHLPA license. SummerSkates recently became a manufacturer member of the Hockey Dealers Association (HDA), which is a division of National Sporting Goods Association (NSGA).
"More retailers and consumers are discovering SummerSkates are the perfect match of form, functionality, value and sports fashion on an individual and team basis," said SummerSkates President and CEO Kevin Hennessy.
"I really wanted to prove to myself that I could do this," Doak said. "Everyone has ideas but it takes something more to turn that idea into a reality. To turn an idea into a tangible product that is available for sale was the only goal.
"I committed myself to that and from that point on there was no turning back. I know my personality and my competitiveness, which has been shaped, over my whole life in sports. The classic line of hating losing more than liking winning definitely applied to myself."
In the summer of 2013, Doak had finished his second year of college and was working full-time building pools. He also had the first 3,000 pairs of SummerSkates from floor to ceiling in the basement where everything started a year earlier. He drove to houses and retailers and pushed on-line as much as he could to sell through nearly all 3,000 pairs.
"I was getting ready to go back for my final year of college," Doak said, "and I knew that there was something special about this product. Some type of change needed to happen to take this to the next level."
Late in August, Doak got an email from Hennessy, who received a pair of SummerSkates through a mutual friend. A meeting was set up where Hennessy shared his passion for startup businesses and how his North American consumer product experiences in corporate finance, strategy and retail provided the knowledge and connections to activate SummerSkates in the marketplace.
Hennessy envisioned the ultimate performance and comfort sports sandal, at an attractive $29.99 price point, where the hockey laces forming the sandal bridge could be customized with embroidered logos for teams. The custom logo team product would need to have minimums of 20 pairs so a team could purchase them with a turnaround of less than 15 business days.
"We didn't know exactly how we were going to get there," Doak said, "but I knew we could create some magic and a partnership was formed."
Doak and Hennessy worked tirelessly to bring their vision of SummerSkates to reality in April 2014. They were fortunate enough to outfit players in the NHL Winter Classic and from the St. Louis Blues. And the new St. Louis Blues SummerSkates were available in their True Blues retail store at the Scottrade Arena for the first game of their playoff series with the Chicago Blackhawks.
"The consumer reaction was something I will never forget, not to mention it was my first NHL playoff game and it went into triple overtime," Doak said. "That was the start of the new and improved SummerSkates and I could not be more excited. I was pumped and ready for anything."
Doak and Hennessy hit charity golf tournaments, minor hockey events and the NHL Awards in Las Vegas to get SummerSkates in front of more people. Los Angeles Kings captain Dustin Brown has ownership involvement and key accounts of SummerSkates are Molson's Canada, Wayne Gretzky's Fantasy Camp and the Scotiabank BayCrest Hockey Pro-Am.
"SummerSkates has strong support from many professional hockey players," Hennessy said, "with their social media pictures and videos often showcasing them wearing SummerSkates.
"The launch of NHLPA SummerSkates is anticipated to accelerate the growing brand awareness. With high grades for consumer satisfaction on social media, carrying the SummerSkates product line is a strong opportunity to engage consumers."
Doak and Hennessy said plans are in place to meet the increasing demand for SummerSkates, which have already been customized with team logos and graphic by more than 500 sports teams.
"The energy around SummerSkates feels like the business is going to explode," Doak said. "My expectations from when I started this have been blown out of the water. The team is incredible, the product is elite and the next steps are going to be like nothing the industry has seen before."