SNEAKER RESCUE: Repair – saving the world one shoe at a time
It all began in Pankow, Berlin in 2018. After setting up his shoemaking and grinding machines in his tiny flat, Hagen Matuszak, a young shoemaker from East Berlin, founded Sneaker Rescue, his online startup.
His idea was to fix old, well-worn or somehow damaged sneakers and get them ready for the next stage of their life. Evidently filling a market niche, this idea has already brought his little startup astounding success.
“Who in the world even trains to become a shoemaker these days?” This is often the first question people ask when they meet the 25-year-old Hagen. So he gets in front of it by explaining first off that he followed in his father’s footsteps. He, like him, is an orthopaedic shoemaker. The idea behind Sneaker Rescue came to Hagen one day while he was operating the grinding machine in Switzerland. He had moved there in 2017 after his training for a change of scenery. And hey presto, his business idea took off right away. It seems that a lot more people are emotionally attached to their worn, torn, shabby sneakers than you’d think.
“A lot of people have shoes that stood them in good stead on their extensive travels, which explains their almost sentimental connection to their shoes,” Hagen explains. Just a few months after launching Sneaker Rescue, he had generated so much business in his little flat slash workroom, that he was able to rent his own professional workshop in Neukölln, Berlin. What proved to be more of a challenge was finding colleagues for his young, flourishing business venture. But he is now happy with his team of five – all of them around his age.
His success is partly thanks to the media, who also found him by word of mouth or on the internet. Across the board, they were all so enthusiastic that he didn’t need to give any more thought to promotion and advertising budgets.
Out of respect for other people’s work
And Hagen doesn’t tend to throw around the word “sustainability” or other modern buzzwords either. For him, repairing goods is the most sustainable model there is. “I think we can all agree that sneakers that are thrown away after 6 to 12 months should be so 2005,” says Hagen, for whom 2005 is as obsolete as the past century. He is passionate about his rescue approach and points out that his repairs are an expression of respect and appreciation for other people’s work.
Each month, he and his team revitalise about 400 to 500 sneakers. 90% of them come from Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Customers send in a photo of their sneakers and then receive a precise quote for the repair of holes in the toe box, chafed linings or worn-down soles. The shipping is handled by the postal services. Of course, the average price of 50 euros per repair, including shipping, does not leave much of a margin. But it’s important to Hagen to “familiarise a lot of young people with this idea that you don’t need to throw things away just because they have a slight patina or other signs of wear”.
Pick-up store for sneaker rescuers
Each year, 24 billion shoes are made worldwide, and 10,000 tons of shoes are thrown away in Germany alone. Hagen is committed to doing his bit to counteract that. With his first pick-up store right at the Schönhauser Allee underground station in Berlin, he also wants to be physically present with his message and forward-looking service. More stores are to follow. We’ll be there! // Uta Gruenberger