The sneaker superstar started, like every other business venture, as an idea that sparked into life in the mind of their creator.
Vans history is not just a story of show making – but a story of a dream coming to life and with style no less.
Time to delve into this amazing enterprise and understand what makes it tick.
From the dawn of time, humankind has been fascinated with the growth of empires.
From the Roman to the Ottoman to even McDonald’s, we want to understand the energy and will power that has made them become a reality.
Maybe it’s partly because we want to replicate it ourselves, maybe it’s because we want to understand our reality better, but the bottom line is that empires create a genuine curiosity in most of us.
The Van's empire is no different than the rest, and it’s time we quench this thirst and start talking business – how did they become the empire of style they are today?
To answer that we first need to go into more detail about the name.
Yes, the iconic logo wasn’t present at the beginning, and after getting to know the original name? we understand why they changed it.
Originally called “Van Doren Rubber Company”, Vans was officially created in March 1966 in Anaheim California.
Manufacturing and selling shoes to the public, the Van Doren Rubber Company only had 3 types of sneakers, ranging from 2.99 to 4.99 dollars total.
It had every ingredient for a perfect failure, displaying empty boxes instead of the pairs of shoes that they did not yet manufacture.
But it wasn’t.
12 customers, 12 custom made shoes, that was how the story started.
Without any shoes in stock, the Van Doren Rubber Company took “orders” from each customer, made the shoes in one afternoon and only received the cash, thanks to nothing but the kindness of their customers, only a day later – when they remembered to get change for their cashier.
That was the beginning of an empire, but not the beginning of the emperor’s career.
How come every success story starts with dropping out of school?
You can’t say that you don’t feel betrayed after finishing high school and college.
Vans founder was another one of those success stories, dropping out of school at the age of 14.
At least his mom straight up forced him into the workforce – introducing her son, Paul Van Doren, to the world of shoe manufacturing.
Paul started his work in “Randy’s”, a shoe manufacturing chain, as a cleaning person no less.
Learning the ropes of shoemaking and business, Paul slowly managed to get a high executive job at the factory in Garden Grove.
Just to realize he could do better and start an empire of his own.
That’s the American Dream for you, from rags to riches and all.
Partnering with his brother James, the Van Doren Rubber Company, sorry, Vans had come into all of our lives.
Started with only 3 styles of shoes to choose from, Vand shoe collection grew by the day.
Starting marketing towards skater culture in the 1970s with the new skateboard logo, Vans has gone out of their way to create new and exciting products for their public.
It’s a bit redundant to talk about all of the collections and shapes of shoes you can find in Vans now, it is just more than you can count, but we should mention the rest of the expansion.
Skater boys all over the world turned to Vans not just for their shoes anymore, but for their apparel, accessories and skating related paraphernalia to this day!
Amazing what a little change in marketing can do, and the audience and customers it will get you.
Old Skool, Off the Wall and many many others – are names that we just got to know by heart, even if we aren’t sure which collection is which, we can identify the great force behind them – The Vans Empire.
Opening on Anaheim, a part of the L.A metropolitan district for those who don’t know, Vans slowly but surely evolved into what we know today.
Rome wasn’t built in a day, but Vans did not wait long to grow into enormous proportions.
After a whole 1200% of expected sales on their first day (it was 12 purchases, but still) their road was already paved for greatness.
This store was the hub for Vans in the early years of creation, where new collections were not just debuted – but also manufactured.
To say it was divine intervention might be a little pretentious, but it is the city of angels ain’t it?
The fact to the matter is that the location was just the right one, at the exact right time.
Skater culture was just the hype of the day in L.A, the culture that just by chance was the bread and butter of the whole enterprise.
At the end of the day, we have got to admit that the old saying is true and that regarding a business it all comes down to location, location, location.
If empires are what we started with – an empire is what we got!
Going fast from a 14-year-old dropout to a successful executive at Randy’s, to a small business owner and ultimately to the owner of a company worth millions of dollars – the timeline of Paul Van Doren is pretty impressive.
To state a few dates, just to make things clear, Paul dropped out in 1944. In just 22 years, in 1966, he already opened up shop.
22 more years will go by until the next big step in his development when on 1988 Vans was sold for over 74 million dollars.
If you couldn’t follow – it took Vans a mere 22 years to go from a store that has no shoes in stock to a power to be reckoned with in the world of footwear and apparel.
After our short investigation of the history of Vans, nothing can be said but admiration for the tenacity of Paul Van Doren, or maybe that of his mom who kicked him into Randy’s factory where he first started his journey.
Starting a company at the hub of a new rising culture, realizing the potential of it and addressing that audience in your marketing – knowing exactly where to be, at the exact right time is an art of its own, and a fruitful one at that.
The story of Vans is not a mere marketing agenda or the story of corporate growth.
It’s a story of believing in one’s clientele, to come back the next to pay, or to return for the latest collection made with them in mind.
It’s a story of taking your abilities and profession to the extreme.
It’s a story of building oneself from the ground up, with the limited possibilities that were presented to you.
It’s the story of success, and by god, we can all hope to do as well in life as Paul when we are presented with the same jobs as sweepers, in a Vans factory this time.