Zander Sheffield spent his high school years purchasing shoes at department and wholesale stores, then reselling them online for a profit. He would then use his profits to buy more shoes.
“I was kind of like a shoe hoarder at one point,” he said.
Now a third year industrial technology and packaging major at Cal Poly, Sheffield is using his knowledge of the footwear industry to pursue a new business endeavor and build his own startup, Yardy Shoes.
Yardy Shoes is providing greater longevity for children’s footwear with an extendable shoe system that can be adjusted to several different sizes. It’s a cost-effective solution for the 65% of children who wear ill-fitting shoes, Sheffield said.
Sheffield’s began developing Yardy Shoes in 2020, when he discovered the Cal Poly Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) Hatchery.
The Hatchery is an on-campus resource designed to help Cal Poly students develop their startup ideas. Sheffield stumbled across the Hatchery while looking through the Cal Poly website during quarantine.
“When COVID first broke out, we all got sent home, and I just didn’t know what to do with my time,” Sheffield said. “I was going through the Cal Poly website and found the Hatchery. I’d always had an idea for a shoe business, so I just thought, ‘Why not?’ and applied.”
The Hatchery introduced Sheffield to the basics of entrepreneurship and provided opportunities to learn and network.
Sheffield also found mentorship through the Hatchery program. CIE director of student innovation programs and Cal Poly Orfalea College of Business lecturer Jose Huitron connects Sheffield to resources that can help grow Yardy Shoes.
Other student entrepreneurs like Alexandra Joelson and Samuel Andrews, co-founders of Intego Technology, a startup creating the most durable and sustainable footwear on the market.
The Intego Technology team began participating in CIE programs in 2019, when Joelson won the CIE Elevator Pitch Competition (EPC). They joined the Hatchery shortly after their win at EPC.
Now, the Intego Technology team is able to share their experience with new CIE entrepreneurs, like Sheffield.
“They’ve been a big help, especially when I first started out,” Sheffield said. “I had no idea what a patent was, I didn’t know the steps that were needed to make a shoe business. Sam and Alexandra have been a big help mentoring us.”
Sheffield’s team also includes computer science junior Arden Ozdere, general engineering junior Vincent Corella, entrepreneurship sophomore Erin Powers and materials engineering junior Chris Murray.
The startup team is currently working to generate prototype ideas and assess the viability of those ideas. Once their prototypes are completed, they plan to reach out to potential customers — parents whose children can wear the shoes and test the product.
The Yardy Shoes team hopes their product will eventually “change the world in a positive way,” Sheffield said.
Shoes put, on average, 30 pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, according to Sheffield. Yardy Shoe’s extendible shoe will reduce the overall number of shoes needed, and therefore reduce carbon output.
“Long term, I just want to create something that’s good for the world,” Sheffield said.