Noah Waxman loves shoes. “I love the smell of the leather and the glue, the craftsmanship, and the mix of art and engineering. It’s intoxicating,” he says.
Waxman is one of the 25 members of the 2015 class of Design Entrepreneurs NYC (DENYC)—a free, “mini-MBA” program developed by FIT and the New York City Economic Development Corporation for New York-based fashion businesses. Now in its fourth year, DENYC provides designers with the business acumen, resources, and community to grow their companies. This year’s program kicked off on May 28. After three intensive weekends of classes at FIT, the designers work, with the guidance and support of FIT faculty and other industry experts to refine and finalize business plans tailored to their company’s needs. On October 1, 12 participants will present their plans to a panel of executives, who will award the $100,000 first prize to the designer with the best business plan; the second-place winner will receive $50,000.
Waxman’s love of shoes and fashion began when he inherited his grandfather’s clothes and accessories. He liked being able to take those “old-fashioned” pieces and make them modern. While traveling in Amsterdam, he was so taken by an unusual collection of shoes in a home’s window that he rang the doorbell. The man who answered the door explained that he had made them, and offered to introduce Waxman to the skilled craftsmen who taught their artistry in the nearby city of Utrecht. Waxman settled in Amsterdam for a decade, devoting his life to learning traditional cobbling techniques under masters in the field. Since 2013, he has run his eponymous footwear company, creating fine men’s shoes, from casual sneakers to lace-up ankle boots. All of his designs are the result of an American aesthetic combined with European training. With his vision and workmanship in place, he is now seeking to move his business to the next level, with the help of DENYC. “I know about my trade,” Waxman says, “but I don’t have a business plan.”