“Get a government job with a pension!” joked Steven Sashen, founder and CEO of minimalist footwear company Xero Shoes, when asked what advice he would give to his younger self. Having worked to create his own companies since graduate school, Sashen considers himself a true entrepreneur. He’s never had a job and has never interviewed for a job. He doesn’t even have a resume. Despite this boundless entrepreneurial spirit, he cautions aspiring entrepreneurs of the perilous nature of this career path.
When he originally pitched the idea of Xero Shoes to his wife, she replied, “It won’t make any money. It’s a waste of time. It’s a distraction from other things you should be doing.”
“Yeah, you’re right,” he conceded. That night, after his wife fell asleep, he built the website. A decade later, Xero Shoes has become the best-selling running sandal in the world.
For Sashen, like many entrepreneurs, the outset of his journey was wrought with uncertainty, so now, he advises newcomers to mitigate doubt as much as possible in the early stages of building their businesses. Before you commit to an idea, according to Sashen, you should prove it has legs: “Just because you think people will want it, or because your friends and family tell you it’s a great idea, that doesn’t mean it is. Reduce your risk by validating the concept.”
Sashen also believes that successful entrepreneurs should abandon the notion of a work-life balance. “If you get over the idea that there’s a thing called balance, it’ll eliminate a lot of the stress that you’re feeling when you think you should (or even could) find balance,” he shared. This shift in mindset helps Sashen maintain overall well-being in the face of daily work stress.
Though running a footwear company has been riddled with challenges, it has given Sashen the opportunity to change people’s lives. “If it weren’t for the tens of thousands of calls, emails, reviews, and testimonials that we’ve gotten where people tell us how Xero Shoes have changed their lives, we wouldn’t do this,” he confessed. For some, the natural design of Xero footwear provides simple comfort for walks, runs, and hikes, and for others, the shoes provide the opportunity to engage in all those activities (and many more) for the first time in years or for the first time without pain. For that, Sashen is eternally grateful for his entrepreneurial journey.