Curtis and Shawna Johnson’s two-car garage appears like a cross between a shoe boutique, a warehouse, and a funky art gallery. There are four long work tables running the length of the space, adorned with rows and rows of pretty, hand-painted Sanita shoes, prepared for cargo. Curtis is busy with mailing labels and boxing tape, targeted on getting the shoes out the door fast and into the hands of excited consumers around the globe. Ask Curtis or Shawna when they last had a day off, and they'll likely laugh. Just 3 short years ago nevertheless, they couldn't have even dreamed they’d be where they are today. It all commenced when Shawna, who worked long shifts on her feet as a nurse, came home one night and discussed to Curtis that she wished her black Sanita clogs–a longtime favorite in the medical care community for their comfort and stability–were as pretty and colorful as the brightly patterned scrubs she was wearing to work every day. Fortunately, Curtis took note, and an idea was born.
Hand-painted clogs! . “We worked tough to develop the right formula for our collection : the ideal paint, the right sealant, the most pretty designs,” says Curtis. “But one thing that was never in question was our canvas. We chose Sanita. You can’t beat hand craftsmanship and over a hundred years experience.” . The couple now work with 15 local artists to make hand-painted designs sold exclusively at theswanx. In this down economy, when more and more artists and designers are forced to search for work outside their field, The Swanx is able to provide more than enough work for these gifted painters! . “Working with The Swanx has been a great opportunity,” says Jeanie Lewis, who was one of the first artists hired by the Johnsons.
“It does not even feel just like work!” . The unique shoes, which feature a massive spread of designs, including custom orders and pet portraits, attract consumers from all over the world and all walks of life–people looking for something special and one-of-a-kind in this era of mass production. Virtually three years have gone by since their original idea, and The Swanx is still continuously growing their sales, month on month. In fact, this February–typically a slow time for retail sales–was one of their most busy months yet. Their Facebook fan base is nearing 12,000 and shows no sign of slowing. They have recently been featured on NBC and in the Puget Sound Business Journal. The Swanx is living evidence that there are still small enterprise success stories out there.
The company is such a success, actually the Johnsons will soon outgrow their garage warehouse and move to a larger commercial space, which will permit them to grow further. . “Right now we're just enjoying the ride and looking forward to the future,” Curtis asserts of their newfound success. “The sky’s the limit! “.