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Portland's shoe design academy readies expansion, seeks $7.5 miln
2014/9/18 10:24:10 Source: Portland Business Author: 点击率:

Pensole Academy founder D’Wayne Edwards on Wednesday said he wants to raise as much as $7.5 million to expand the Portland shoe design school.

Edwards, a former Jordan brand footwear designer, founded Pensole in 2010. He has resisted raising money from outside investors until he established the viability of the business. Instead, he self-financed it with $600,000 over the past four years.

Now that Pensole has a track record of placing students in design jobs at places like Nike and Adidas, Edwards said he’s ready to take a big financial leap.

“I’ve spent my own money to get it to this point,” he said. “That’s been strategic but it’s now outgrown my finances. I didn’t want to even consider allowing investors until I built it to a certain point so I could show people more than tell people.”

The new Soleholder program will enable the public to buy "shares" of Pensole for $150 each. Edwards wants to sell as many as 50,000, which means Pensole could net $7.5 million.

The money would be used for a variety of expansion efforts and solidify the financial foundation of the company.

Importantly, the shares won’t be stock in the traditional sense. The money will be donated to the nonprofit arm of Pensole — the No. 2 Foundation — and not be an equity share in the business. Pensole will remain a private company owned by Edwards.

Each person who buys a share will get invited to the company’s annual meeting and get to weigh in on Pensole’s priorities. Contributions will also be tax deductible.

Edwards hopes the program furthers establishes Pensole as a hub for the footwear community. In a phone interview, he outlined a series of initiatives he hopes to launch with proceeds from the sale:

A scholarship endowment that would make Pensole free. Most students already attend for free, many paid for by Edwards or corporate sponsors.

A sample room that would enable students to build prototypes from scratch. Edwards wants to eventually make the sample room a public resource. Most Oregon shoe companies wait weeks for Asian factories to build prototypes.

An expanded diversity program.

"We’re just trying to provide a more complete academy that offers what the industry is missing," Edwards said.

Edwards worked for more than two decades as a shoe designer before he founded Pensole. He's developed relationships with numerous shoe companies. Pensole also offers classes through Parsons The New School for Design in New York City and the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena.

More than 85 students who graduated from one of Pensole's classes have been hired in the industry, at companies ranging from Nike to Kenneth Cole to the North Face.

“(Footwear companies) see the value of what we’re trying to do,” Edwards said. “They’re getting employees. For me that’s proof of concept. I like the (Pensole) is right now with the exception of capital.”

Edwards got the idea for the somewhat nontraditional fundraiser from the sports world. The Green Bay Packers offer a similar share program for its fans.

"I didn’t really want to do a fundraising in a traditional sense, a dinner or a golf tournament," he said. "It didn't feel like me. It didn't feel like Pensole either. I've always been a fan of what the Green Bay Packers did."

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