Footwear company Freewaters announced late last week that John Vance has joined the company as president and CEO.
John is well known in the industry, and most recently worked as the president and chief operating officer of Sanuk during that brand's rapid growth. John left shortly after Deckers acquired the company.
I asked John and Eli Marmar, who founded Freewaters with partner Martin Kim, some follow up questions about John’s new role with the young company.
John Vance: I looked at over 50 companies over the last six months, and only a few met my criteria of innovation, scalability, culture and chemistry. Freewaters hit every one.
A selection of Freewaters men's shoes
I have also talked to a lot of specialty retail owners on what's needed in the market and the message came back to me loud and clear: “John, there is a need and want for something new and fresh."
The “newest” shoe and sandal company in our space is now 12 years old. So the idea of providing a fresh and innovative approach to product while also doing something good for mankind struck me as highly appealing.
As a major share holder in Freewaters, along with founders Eli Marmar and Martin Kim, as well as being the CEO, I now have an incredible opportunity to build my own team and work closer with the retail community than ever before. We have the opportunity to actualize our vision without compromise. That’s huge for me. What more could you ask for?
John Vance: Our goal is within the next four to five years to become a highly respected brand that occupies space as a top supplier of casual footwear. I want to develop a culture of opportunity within our company as well as with our retail partners - something they can be proud of and have a vested interest in.
Freewaters women's shoes
I want to stay independent, fast and light on our feet while challenging some of the conventional thinking that is currently going on.
Eli and Martin have brought soul and heart to the company by building the brand around the clean drinking water projects. It’s both admirable and timely.
Each year, more people die from the associated consequences of unsafe water than from all forms of violence, including war. We can do better. That’s a huge motivator for us and should be for everyone in our industry as well.
John Vance: The first step is to create a company culture that empowers the staff to think outside of the box and to have a vested interest in its success. We will be competing with some very well run brands and I have a healthy respect for what they have accomplished.
Frankly there are some others that just don’t fit that profile for me. They tend to be inflexible, lacking innovation and in some cases, sitting on their past success without offering anything new. You need to be ever changing, evolving and innovating or face eventual extinction. I can point to at least three footwear brands that fit those criteria.
So through a combination of relentless creativity, relevant product and our cause marketing efforts, I think we will get noticed quickly even with the limited resources that we have as a young company. I might add that as part of this effort we will help our retail partners stand out as well. I can't wait to watch things unfold over the next 12 to 24 months. It’s going to be a blast!
See Page 2 for our interview with Freewaters partner Eli Marmar about the new CEO role