Two Taylor basketball players take socks to the next level
By Katherine Yeager | Echo
They may be shooting hoops, but they’re reaching for the Sky. That is, Sky Footwear, a company co-founded by Taylor basketball teammates senior Eric Cellier and juniorKeaton Hendricks who are scoring on the court and in the business world.
Their vision, began in 2010. After volunteering at a local homeless shelter in his hometown of Bloomington, Indiana, Hendricks’ eyes were opened to the suffering in his community.
While the city provides many free resources, Hendricks says many homeless people are unable to find shelter. Serving with his church at a low-barrier shelter, one that provides refuge to all regardless of sobriety or drug-related issues, Hendricks saw the challenges of getting people off the streets.
“People often stay on the streets because they can’t get in the normal shelters,” Hendricks said. “Shelters perform breathalyzer tests, and if they don’t pass, they don’t get in.”
Through serving at the shelter, Hendricks developed relationships with the individuals and families he met. His church sponsored one homeless couple and helped them find an apartment and jobs. Hendricks saw hope, but he also noticed the challenges of the homeless, many of whom had mental health issues preventing them from retaining a job.
Hendricks and his family connected with the stories of those in the shelter and on the streets of Bloomington. “One thing my mom does is say, ‘We won’t give money, but you can sit down and have a meal with us,’” Hendricks said. Helping those in need became a family mission Hendricks hopes to continue.
Hendricks approached Cellier about the possibility of creating a company with a higher purpose: providing a high-quality product and helping the homeless. They began a 3–4 month brainstorming and research process.
Hendricks pitched an initial idea at Promising Ventures’ annual campus entrepreneurial competition, Shark Tank—a Taylor spin-off of the ABC TV show—and tied for second place. His original concept, Soul Purpose, was an online shoe company. Customers who bought a pair of shoes could write a note to a homeless person, pairing the shoes with a backpack sent to an organization of their choice.
Providing both backpacks and shoes required a level of capital that would be difficult to achieve. The duo began to look for a simple solution that reduced costs. “So, we decided socks,” Cellier said. Sky Footwear was born.
Cellier and Hendricks, now co-founders, smile as they remember the car ride to Cellier’s home in Toledo, Ohio, where their ideas became a reality. The duo began organizing a plan for their company which solely sells socks. Tossing around several names for several months, they finally settled on Sky Footwear.
“We did this because we wanted to build our brand on optimism and encouragement,” Hendricks said. “We believe that a blue sky can be viewed as a symbol of hope, which is exactly what we are trying to provide to people in need. We also wanted something that was short and easily recognizable, and we think Sky Footwear does that.”
Cellier and Hendricks’ families and friends have been sources of encouragement and support throughout the process. Hendricks’ father has a background in web design and created the company logo. The upward point of the arrows, according to Hendricks, has a positive feel and is easily identifiable. Their sisters contribute largely to the sock design.
Utilizing a “buy one, give one” model, Sky Footwear gives one pair of socks to a homeless individual for every pair purchased.
“Keaton and I have talked to some people in Indy about backpacks and stuff they need,” Cellier said. “Everything helps, but the number one requested item from homeless shelters is socks. We think this is something the community could buy into, not just literally by buying socks but also by raising awareness.”
Each month, Sky Footwear highlights a different homeless shelter. This month’s shelter, Wheeler Mission, is located in Indianapolis. According to Cellier, Wheeler Mission serves about 220 people each night.
By partnering with Wheeler, Hendricks and Cellier have set a goal to provide 250 pairs of socks to the homeless by the end of September. Then, they plan to hand-deliver the socks to the homeless served at the shelter.
“(Homeless people) love to talk to people,” Cellier said. “They need a voice to tell their story.” Hendricks agreed and gave an example of a homeless man in Indianapolis Cellier and Hendricks spoke with over the summer. After a 20–30 minute conversation, Cellier and Hendricks prayed with the man, who offered to pray for them in return.
Now the business partners are spreading the news about their company, largely through word-of-mouth. Cellier and Hendricks have distributed pairs of socks to their teammates to wear and raise awareness throughout the year. In addition, they recently launched a website and social media platforms on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.
“It’s been a cool experience for us to see the fruits of our labor,” Hendricks said. Customers can purchase the socks, sold in pairs and packs, online at https://www.sky-footwear.com or in person.