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Interview: Jason Markk

We talk clean kicks and business with the man behind "the world's most trusted shoe cleaner"

Posted by Khairun Hamid

Any sneakerhead worth their weight in leather knows that keeping them clean can be a mean feat. For Jason Markk, his love for sneakers, coupled with the absence of a cleaning solution good enough for them, was all it took for him to hit the market with his own sneaker cleaning product. Today, Jason Markk Premium Shoe Cleaner is the leading remedy for those kicks that have been worn a little too hard. We asked the man a few questions about building his brand from a three-person operation to signing with a national distribution company and becoming “the world’s most trusted shoe cleaner”.

What was the initial catalyst for you to create your own premium shoe cleaner?

I’ve loved sneakers since I was a kid. I’ve used the generic shoe cleaners that were on the market back in the day, but mostly used home remedies such as Oxyclean, Tide and/or a bleach solution of some sort. Sometimes it worked, other times I wasn’t so lucky. Then one day, I realised there wasn’t that ‘go-to’ sneaker cleaner – or any cleaner made specifically for sneaker enthusiasts like myself.  And that was my ‘Aha!’ moment.

You’re now the go-to shoe cleaning product. Are you surprised at its continued popularity?

Once the product was developed, I knew if the heads gave it a chance, they’d love it and I am truly grateful. I am surprised at how large the sneaker industry has grown. I think it’s great.

You seem pretty hands-on with every aspect of your business. How important is it for you to maintain that level of involvement?

I am very hands-on. I’m very particular and am bit of a perfectionist. Starting off, it was just myself, my sister Amy, and my marketing guy Ric. Today, I’ve got a great team that shares my passion, not only for the brand, but for culture as well.

You’ve now got distribution firm NRI taking care of your fulfillment. What will this mean for the expansion of your brand?

Yes, we’ve recently partnered with NRI, which has helped out tremendously! Prior to partnering with them, we were doing everything in-house in our small 1000 sq ft office. With NRI, we are more efficient and are able to enter larger markets with confidence.

Your latest product, the Quick Wipes, is definitely not your average wet wipe. Tell us about the development of that product

The Quick Wipes were something I’ve wanted to do since day one. I’ve always wanted to make a better sneaker wipe, but honestly, for what I wanted to do, I couldn’t afford it because of the high production costs. So I’m super excited now that it’s finally available!

What differentiates our wipe from others’ is, most notably, our unique dotted substrate [wipe material]. One side has these tiny dots that provide a slight abrasiveness to aid in working out tougher stains, while the softer side is great for general cleaning. Plus, the solution is a modified version of our original Premium Shoe Cleaner. Lastly, they come individually packaged for convenience.  You can tear off a couple and have them on you at all times.

And how has the response been so far?

The response overall has been great! Of course there are skeptics, who think they’re just glorified baby wipes. [Laughs.] But those were the same people who said our Premium Shoe Cleaner was just ‘soap in a bottle’. Until they actually gave it a try. Now they’re believers.

Any plans for a similar product for more delicate footwear? Suede, for example.

The challenge there is the ability (or lack of) to control the amount of liquid absorption. With our Premium Shoe Cleaner, you are able to control the amount of liquid being used. But don’t worry, we’ve got something else in the works for all the suede lovers!

Your most recent premium cleaning kit with Footpatrol was another sellout. Any more collabs in the works?

We’ve got a few projects in the works. I’ll just say the next few months are going to be exciting.

What’s the biggest shoe care mistake you’ve ever witnessed or heard of?

Cleaning suede definitely tops the list – which is understandable. Because of its textured nature, open pores, and the various grades out on the market, it can be somewhat unpredictable. That said, with our product and proper technique, you’ll be good!  Just check out our How To Clean Suede vid on our site first!

Besides obviously using Jason Markk Shoe Cleaner, what would your top shoe care tip be?

Store your kicks in a cool, dry place, avoid leaving in direct sunlight, and give them a good cleaning before storing them away. Lastly, not really a cleaning tip, but wear your shoes! Have fun and enjoy them – it ain’t that serious!

www.jasonmarkk.com

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