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Student uses COVID quarantine to build sneaker customization business

October 28, 2020 By Chelsea Hylton

When UW–Madison first-year student Matt Burzec was sent to isolation after contracting the COVID-19 virus, he spent most of his free time building his customized shoe business.

He won a $1,000 Dream, Big Grant, from UW’s Startup entrepreneurial community in Sellery Hall, which he’s part of. He used it to help buy supplies and get the word out about his business, Kicks of Chicago.

Matt Burzec. Submitted photo.

“Once I got into isolation I knew I had so much time on my hands, so I launched my website and got other things done,” the Chicago native said, and he also filled out the grant application.

As a Business Management and Marketing major, Burzec knows a thing or two about the business world.

A few years ago after coming back from coding camp, Burzec customized a pair of shoes, and then a few more. At first, he did them as favors for close friends and family but then got the idea to expand.

“One of my friends asked if I could recreate a pair I had posted (on social media) and then more and more people started asking for them,” he said.

He saw potential in this, so he took the steps to establish his business.

“I asked a friend to help me make a logo and it started from there,” he said.

Kicks of Chicago started off slow but has grown to a point where Burzec struggles to keep up with the amount of orders.

Picture from @kicks_of_chicago


His business works in two ways. Customers can either order a pair of shoes from his website, which includes the total cost of the shoes and the customization; or contact him through social media and send in their own pair of shoes be customized.

“Once we work out the details, we’ll get down to business, and within a few weeks you’ll be rocking a one-of-a-kind, never seen before pair of custom work,” says Kicks of Chicago’s website.

A lot of his designs consist of taking the blank white canvas from the all-white Air Force 1 shoes and transforming them into colorful creations. He does designs ranging from cartoon characters to a creative paint drip effect.

“I usually just ran the business from my dorm in Sellery but I needed more space, so I moved in with my brother in his apartment and I’ve just been running it from here now,” he said.

He has big plans for the future of Kicks of Chicago’s future.

“By the end of college, I plan to kind of have an art studio with a combination of a consignment shop and a vintage shop. Have one floor where you can buy the newest Jordans (shoes) and then on the second floor you can customize your stuff and take classes,” he said.

Picture from @kicks_of_chicago