COLLEGE FOOTBALL: UTPB defensive back continues small business of customizing shoes
Jalen Thompson never envisioned himself customizing shoes for other people and having his own business.
However, after his friends in high school saw how good he was at designing sneakers, word soon got out and it wasn't long before he had his own small business.
The UTPB football player from Eaton High School in Haslet, who will soon be entering his junior year, has seen his business grow as he continues to help design shoes for other people including his teammates.
"It's a small business that I created myself," Thompson said. "It wasn't something that I saw myself doing in the future but I did it as a something just for fun because I’m artsy and I like things that are really crafty. I thought I could paint shoes someday just for my sake only. My friends then told me that I should start a business where I customize shoes for people because I have a talent and they felt that I should put it to use. That's what I did and now I have my own small business where people contact me to customize their shoes."
Thompson plays at defensive back for the Falcons and is currently a business major.
His love of customizing other people's shoes began from his love of art in middle school and high school.
"I like drawing," Thompson said. "As a kid, I was always in an art class from middle school up through high school."
One day, Thompson said he got bored from drawing on paper all the time so he decided to draw on one of his old shoes that he wasn't wearing anymore.
"I picked up one of my old shoes and decided what design best fit that shoe and I started to freestyle," Thompson said. "I didn't take it seriously. I was just finding a different canvas to put my art on. One day, my friends saw it and from there, I started designing their shoes. I started designing beat-up shoes and people liked it because I turned the shoes into something cooler."
From there, his business started to take off.
Currently, Thompson is thinking of a couple of name changes but he currently calls it J.T. Customs since it's simple enough.
As for a logo, that's still in the process.
"I have a little logo that I use as my profile picture but as far as a main logo that I want to stick with, that's still a rough draft," Thompson said. "It's still in the works."
For now, his main focus is school, football and customizing shoes when he can which can be a little tricky balancing everything out.
"Right now, we lift in the morning and then the rest of the day it's free," Thompson said who is also taking classes this summer. "For my priorities right now, school and football come first. But basically, I keep a calendar and keep track of my school work. But I keep a calendar and keep track of my schoolwork and football practices. I work on shoes when I am free. During the school year, I’m going to be busy throughout the week so I’ll text a customer that I’ll work on their shoes when I have free time. But with me, I have some online classes so I’m able to get my work done pretty fast."
When Thompson first started his business, he said he charged people around $20.
"I didn't want to charge people so much that I had done for a little amount of time," Thompson said. "That's how I built a base of customers. My senior year, I started charging a little more because of the labor. I started charging about $40-$60. It wasn't a drastic change. Now with all the new stuff that I have, I’ll charge anywhere from $70-$120. I want to up my prices but I still want to make it affordable for people."
The majority of his clients are people that he knows or goes to school with.
"It started with people on the football team and my friends in high school," Thompson said. "When I got to college, it started with the football team and went to random people around campus. When I do some shoes, people will like to show if off and tell people where they can get them customized and then they come to me."
Thompson talked about the process of customizing other people's shoes.
"When it comes to painting shoes, you can do it free hand or with a machine," Thompson said. "I do a mix of both. It really depends on what the customer asks for and the shoe and depending on whether I can do it free-handed. I have what's called a cricket machine which cuts out stencils to place on the shoe and then I use an air brush to fill in the shoe. I use an air brush to fill in the paint when the surfaces are too big to use my hand. Anything that's simple, I’ll use a stencil with an air brush but if it's too complicated or there's too many designs, I’ll free-hand it with a paint brush so that I don't mess up the details."
For Thompson, one of the things he loves about his business is the interaction with people.
"I’m mostly a quiet person," Thompson said. "I didn't really talk much growing up which is why I was scared about doing this business at first. But as I grew my business, it helped with my communication skills of course, I’m a business major and it has helped me manage my money and build my way around customizing this job that I have."
He hopes to continue this business as long as he can.
"Since I started my business in high school, it's just now growing to where I want it," Thompson said. "I want to take it more serious than I had. I had doubts about it at first but as people kept telling me they like my shoe designs, they’ve encouraged me to take this serious and maybe take it beyond college. Even if it's just a side project, it's still fun to do on my free time."
For more information about Thompson's business, visit his Instagram page at instagram.com/jttcustoms.