Everybody shleps. That is, according to Eduardas Jeriomenko and his business partner Liudas Karalius.
Shleps are short for šlepetė – the Lithuanian word for slipper and the brand name for this one-of-a-kind sustainable climbing shoe company.
Four years in the making, climbing enthusiasts Eduardas and Liudas finally brought their dreams to life with the help of their family, a team of Lithuanian artisans, and a Zyro website.
A socially conscious business with sustainability at its core, Shleps is an experiment with a lesson that everybody should learn.
Read all about Shleps and the small army of Lithuanian grandmas who make it all possible.
What could you do with $,1000 dollars?
I and Liudas met in the UK, where we both used to study. We had all of these crazy ideas of the things we wanted to do.
One time, we tried to build a sauna in our backyard made only from materials we found on the street. It was a challenge, searching for the bricks and clay and everything else, but we did it.
Of course, these silly projects were all for fun, but still, we would occasionally share ideas and think of all the things that we could do if we just had $1,000 dollars.
Now, we have full-time salaried jobs. Liudas works with solar panels, and I work in advertising.
So, we actually had the $1,000 that we could get started with, and we thought:
‘Let’s try to see how business works. Let’s see what kind of challenges we are going to face and how we’d be able to solve them.’
We decided at the very beginning that Shleps was going to be a non-profit business. We want to reinvest in the product and see how far we can take the idea and let it support itself.
The idea is to study, learn, and create an outstanding product that is useful for climbers everywhere, while supporting our local community in the process.
Social responsibility and sustainability is at the heart of Schleps
When we were setting Schleps up, the first thing that we want to do is try to help people in a slightly more vulnerable part of society.
Sadly, it is quite common for people to find themselves at a social and economic disadvantage as they get older.
Our initial idea was to employ grandmas across Lithuania and give them a way to make a little money. Right now, we have 10 of them.
Actually, I can’t call them grandmas per se; somebody could take that the wrong way. So, we employ 10 ladies and they knit slippers for us 😊
There is the social aspect to it all too; we don’t want to just send in the order and forget that there are actual humans fulfilling them.
When we hire the ladies to do the knitting, we visit them and we communicate with them all of the time. For us, it is essential to be transparent about every aspect of this business.
We pay a fair price for their work too. Of course, that is reflected in the product in more ways than one. Sure, you could look at it and say Shleps are three times more expensive than shoes made in Bangladesh.
Or, you could look at it and see what actually went into making them.
Everything we get for the slippers is sourced locally and sustainably: the wool, the threads, even the leather for the sole (we use old sofas).
We want to make people aware of all the individual parts of a product, and not just the final product itself. That brings a certain quality to a product.
The climbing shoe – reinvented
We are avid climbers, so it made sense to produce a product that we felt was missing in this industry.
If you go to the climbing gym three or four times per week, your feet get tired in the regular shoes because they are just so tight.
I use my Shleps to keep my feet warm while I am stretching and warming up.
But if you’re new to climbing, you probably wouldn’t notice the difference between this slipper and the regular ones.
The inverted leather sole gives you plenty of friction on the climbing wall. The shoe itself is tight enough, and we have shoelaces to tighten it as you need to.
We wanted to create this feeling of having your foot surrounded all the time without it ever becoming too tight.
They’re perfect for the easy climbs, but you could do your full session in it and practice your footwork. It gives you a sense of climbing barefoot, which is very important.
At the moment, we sell our products throughout climbing gyms in Lithuania. We prefer that to selling directly, which would mean packing and fulfilling each order individually.
That said, the next step for us will be advertising to get new clients in. And for that, we needed a website to become the source of ‘our story.’
Zyro is seriously powerful
We can both code. So, we could have created our website from scratch, but it would have taken too much time for us to manage.
We started with Wix, but then my coach introduced me to Zyro, and I wanted to give it a try. We wanted useful integrations, and we wanted it to be fast and easy.
Zyro had all that.
Specifically, the advertising integrations work so well.
I work in advertising, and I know how to use Google Analytics and how to use Facebook advertising and Google ads.
The ease with which Zyro allows you to connect to those platforms is seriously powerful.
It couldn’t have taken longer than 2 hours to connect to the search console and Google Ads, Facebook ads, and Google Analytics.
We also wanted flexibility. That was quite important because my sister, Viktorija Jeriomenko, designed the website. She is a professional UX/UI designer, so we wanted to give her complete creative freedom.
Last, we wanted a map because we wanted to show all of the climbing gyms where you could buy Shleps on a simple interactive map.
The best part of Zyro has to be customer support. It has been splendid and I cannot imagine it being any better.
They respond on Wednesday, they respond on Sunday, they even respond at 2AM at night! It’s really been great, because we have full-time jobs and work on this project at random hours.
And they communicate beautifully. That’s the game-changer. That’s the winning point.
Making your first sale is incredible
It takes the Schleps ladies about 2 hours to knit the design. They are insanely fast. Some of them will start at 6 am and knit all day long, and they love it.
Obviously, for them, it is a joy and a lifelong hobby.
As a product, it is straightforward for them to create because the pattern is simple compared to some of the other things I’ve seen them make.
After that, the product comes back to us, and we take it to the shoemaker next door to attach the soles, and then it is done. It’s a local process.
But we do have plans to expand and sell Schleps products in climbing gyms in other European countries.
That’s because we don’t have that many potential clients here compared to other places.
That said, it doesn’t matter if your first orders come in from acquaintances, friends, or even your parents. It’s an incredible feeling.
To have a final product in your hands and to ship that to a buyer is very special.