Xero Shoes dives into the Shark Tank

Boulder, Colo.-based Xero Shoes makes its television debut tonight on ABC’s “Shark Tank.” SNEWS catches up with founder Steve Sashen about the experience and his products.
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Steve and Lena Sashen have spent countless nights during the past two years parked in front of their computer, captivated by ABC’s "Shark Tank" episodes on YouTube.

The premise of the reality television show is this: People pitch their business plans and products to a panel of potential investors. If the investors like their product, they’ll make a deal. If not, at least the businesses got some free publicity to the show’s average 7.5 million viewers.

Tonight at 9 p.m., Central Time, the Sashens will make their television debut on one of their favorite shows.

“They’ve been teasing it as, “Two self-professed granolas from Boulder try to get the sharks to run in their barefoot sandals,’” Sashen said with a laugh.

“I don’t even eat granola,” he exclaimed. “I don’t even think I know how to spell granola.”

Sashen has been showing his shoes at Outdoor Retailer markets for the past few seasons. The products are modeled on the simple rubber huaraches (or sandals) Mexico’s Tarahumara Indians wear to run double-digit miles across arid terrain. Those are the same Tarahumara Indians who are prominently featured in Christopher McDougall’s “Born to Run,” which pretty much spurred the barefoot running movement.

Sashen and his wife had applied to be part of the show by emailing a video to the producers. Right before Sashen’s birthday in July, he received a call informing him Xero Shoes had been chosen. While Lena Sashen was happy at the news, it derailed plans for her husband’s surprise birthday party. Then again, getting to make his company’s case before the “sharks” was surprise enough.

“It was the best birthday present,” Sashen said.

It was surreal, he said. He and Lena Sashen presented to the sharks for about 45 minutes and were both happy to do so.

“I told my wife, 'We’ve been watching this show for years; do you realize what we’re doing?'” Sashen said.

At Outdoor Retailer Winter Market last week, Xero Shoes debuted a new item called the Sensori, MSRP TBD, and a split-toe booty to go over the sandals when people are hiking through rockier terrain or need to give their feet a little bit of added protection.

Previously, Xero shoes only offered customizable sandals. A person would size their foot, pick a sole, poke a hole in it for the thong, choose their laces and decorations and make their own. Or they could order a customized sandal from the website. Sashen said retailers were asking him for something more grab-and-go for consumers. That’s what the Sensori offers: A grab-and-go product with silicone tread that is easily adjustable to fit anybody.

Sashen obviously didn’t tell us whether he’d received an investment from any of the sharks (he didn’t want to spoil the fun), but the jolly fellow from Boulder was just happy to get on the show and get the publicity. Tune in tonight at 9 p.m., Central Time to see what happens.

--Ana Trujillo

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