Small business month spotlight

MATH Sport’s custom-made running shoes is changing the way shoppers buy sneakers

Entrepreneurs are the heart of Canada’s small business community. Every year, the Canada Post E-commerce Innovation Awards specifically recognize these risk-takers with the Award for Most Exciting Start-up. This year, the judges gave that honour to Quebec City-based running shoe company MATH Sport and its founding president, Mathieu Raymond.

In his acceptance speech for the Most Exciting Start-up award, MATH Sport founder Mathieu Raymond offers a glimpse into how he’s planning to grow his company.

MATH Sport is not your typical shoe retailer. Raymond, a former track and field star, has created a made-to-order, custom-fit sneaker company – an idea he dreamed up while studying business at Laval University in 2012.

The company uses a 3-D scanner to create an image of each shopper’s feet, and saves those measurements in the company’s database. The shopper can then go to the website, at any time, to choose the style and colour of their shoe’s laces, upper, midsole and outsole. Their customized and personalized shoes get assembled in Montréal, and end up costing less than store-bought, big-brand competitors.

In the post-Awards interview, Mr. Raymond talks about how the prizing can help him compete with his larger competitors, and gives advice for would-be entrepreneurs in Canada.

Canada Post spoke with Mr. Raymond to get more insight into the man behind the company, and what the future holds for MATH Sport.

Q: What’s behind the name of your company: MATH Sport?
A: We do custom-made running shoes, so the link is regarding the mathematics involved in calculating the fit of each individual’s shoes. And, also, because my name is Mathieu.

Q: Your father was a mechanic and your mother was a special education teacher, so who taught you about entrepreneurialism?
A: I picked it up on my own. Entrepreneurship has always been in me. I conducted my first contract negotiations when I was 10, with my father, when he asked me if I wanted to mow the lawn. I charged him $2.50 for the front and back yards, total. The next year, he asked me if I still wanted to mow the grass, and I said, yes. He said, name your price. So I named a price of $2, and he didn’t understand why. I said, $2 for the front yard and $2 for the back.

Q: Is there a business leader that you look up to and try to model your career on?

A: I’m not the kind of person who looks to somebody and tries to do the same. I want to be different from all the others. That’s how I’ll be successful.

Q: The running shoe business is very competitive, with a few massive companies dominating the industry. How will your business succeed?
A: What we are doing is, we take care of each client. We make sure that the shoe they’re going to have fits what they do as a runner and helps keep them happy – and with a custom made insole, all the factors are in line for a long and easy run.

Q: Who are your target buyers?
A: Our target is not really the specialist runner who has been running in the same pair of shoes for the past 20 years. What we are looking at is more recreational runners – the person who will go and train two or three times a week. It’s hard to step up and go train, so at least if we feel really comfortable in our shoes it’s a little easier to get out there.

Q: You were a track and field star in high school and university. So do you still run?
A: I run to try to keep in shape. I wouldn’t be a very good ambassador for my brand if I got a little belly! So I’m trying to run three or four times a week, but it’s hard right now because we’re so busy as a company.

Q: When you go for a run, what’s your style? Country roads or city streets?
A: I like to do interval training on a road or a track. It’s always been my favourite thing about track and field: Seeing how much you can ask of your body and how many times you can repeat that.

Q: What does the future hold for MATH Sport?
A: We are growing the custom-made running shoe part of the business, but we have been asked to make clothing, too. We want to make t-shirts that are personalized, where you will choose small, medium, large or extra-large in the shoulders, and then you will also choose a body size from one of two sizes. And when you receive it, you know that it’s going to fit on your shoulders and also the waist. That way, a tall, skinny guy will finally get a t-shirt that doesn’t show off his belly, and the smaller guy will have something that fits and doesn’t look like a dress.

MATH Sport will be featured in the upcoming Fall 2016 issue of Canada Post’s Delivering the Online World magazine, which offers insights, tips and trends for retailers across Canada.