We recently spoke with the man behind Lanona, Ben Ransom, about seeking inspiration, personal hobbies, and how wanting one pair of custom shoes turned into the creation of many shoes for his very own company.
How was Lanona founded?
Ben: Our brand first started when I went on a search for a custom pair of shoes. I found a shoemaker in the US that had been hand-stitching shoes for over 30 years and recently setup a small operation out of his garage. Through the process of working with him, adjusting designs and observing what a quality shoemaking process looked like, it sparked my interested to start a footwear brand. I continued to work with this shoemaker for over two years before our brand was launched. In addition to product development, I’ve been lucky to partner with @ocupop for our brand identity and overall design, they’ve been instrumental in telling our story and connecting the dots with where we want to go as a brand.
Were you always interested in starting your own business?
B: I was. I studied Entrepreneurship in college and have family members that ran their own businesses. After school, I focused a lot on experience and sought out diverse opportunities to build a broad range of skills like - marketing and sales for a manufacturing company, field work - installing towers for wind energy farms, and selling vintage gadgets to name a few.
How did you learn the trade of boot making?
B: I don’t personally construct each boot from start to finish and don’t want to take away from the talented craftsmen and women we work with on a daily basis. But all of my knowledge within the industry has been self-taught. I can attribute most of where I’m at now to - getting out there, not being afraid to ask questions, being humble, and building a network of people you can trust and rely on.
How do your hobbies influence what you make?
B: I enjoy sailing, we have a sailboat on Lake Superior. The Spaulding boat shoe is a direct inspiration from being on the water. It’s definitely my go-to shoe while sailing. Our Harrier outsole is super lightweight and gives surprisingly excellent grip on the boat and dock.
How do you get ideas for new products and photo shoots?
B: A lot of ideas come from vintage footwear. Gokey was a footwear manufacturer based in Minnesota that offered a wide variety of styles and I’m always scanning eBay and other sources for interesting designs they had. As for ideas that are finally produced, we try to envision the customer and how each style will be used on a daily basis. With that in mind, we work towards structuring a photo that would resonate with that vision. Additionally. we’ve been lucky to partner with some really great brand ambassadors who naturally work well with our existing styles and we give them freedom to be creative with our products in the field.
What's been your biggest challenge?
B: Our biggest challenge has been getting our brand in front of people. Lanona is a true bootstrapped operation and we don’t have investors or a trust fund to dip into to put towards a sizable marketing and advertisement budget. We have to rely on word of mouth, and let our products speak for themselves. This is a slow growth approach, but we believe that operating lean now, will pay off down the road.
What are your inspirations?
B: A big part of my inspiration for Lanona is weather related. Having a home base in Minnesota, the elements can get pretty harsh, especially in the winter. Our products need to accommodate for that fluctuation in temperatures and weather conditions. Another inspiration is the focus on sourcing and producing all of our products in the US. Working closely with everyone involved with our production of our brand is inspirational and motivation to continue to grow our business and be competitive within a global market.
What's been your best advice you've been given?
B: As we continue to grow as a brand, I like to keep this saying in mind, which was given to me from @leatherworksmn - “little pigs get bigger, big pigs get slaughtered”
What has been your biggest lesson?
B: Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Focus on what products or services resonate best with your company and build off of that. Don’t compromise quality to accommodate growth.
What's your favorite thing about sharing Lanona with others?
B: The favorite thing is seeing our product out on the streets. It’s great to see what was originally a concept/design/sample, turn into a boot that someone wears around town.