A pair of leather shoes from 5000 euros, handmade in Italy and of course fully customized. It is from today the business of Dennis van de Water. With his startup The Hand he wants to offer the highest segment of men’s shoes online.
“I have always been a shoe lover,” says Van de Water. During his student days in Maastricht he had a job in a chic shoe store. That is where his passion for good, handmade and often expensive shoes came into being.
It is a hobby that brought him to factories during holidays. “A visit if you’re in the area, also to buy shoes.” He immersed himself in shoemakers and in ways in which shoes are made. He used that knowledge again to help friends find the right shoes.
But that was always the case. Van de Water started working at DSM after his studies. “I have been commercially active internationally, I have earned a good living with it, but I also realized: it is even more fun to do something with products with which you have a strong affinity.”
Market above Van Bommel
The idea for a private company was born: The Hand. “It is derived from the handmade character, with thirty hours of manual work in such a shoe.” It is therefore not comparable with the Zalandos and Van Harens of this world. He also targets a market that sits above Van Bommel and Van Gils.
The cheapest brands in the webshop cost around 450 euros. From a euro or 1000 you get shoes that you can put together yourself. You choose your own color and the type of leather you like. From 3000 euros the shoemaker starts with shoes that are made to measure.
No store, nevertheless physical contact
But how do you do that without physical stores and only a webshop? “We want to respond to online first, the new shopping, but in combination with physical contact, for example events.”
He also hopes to cooperate with his company with, for example, tailors and watch vendors. “People who serve the same group of customers”, explains Van de Water. Or even by appointment. The entrepreneur then comes home or at work to measure and fit. It then takes one to three months before the customer has his new shoes in the house.
Shoemakers with a rich history
The shoes are made by shoe makers who have selected Van de Water himself. “It has to be a good quality shoemaker and a fair price for the product,” he says. Through his factory visits he knows many good shoe makers.
“Two shoemakers from England with a rich history, from Italy, of course, well-known shoe-making families, where they have classic and innovative models, in Spain as well.” The entry model comes from the Portuguese shoe brand Carlos Santos.
Van de Water does not yet know how big the target group is for his chic, expensive shoes. But he is aiming at a wider audience. “From the enthusiast, for example a high school teacher, who visits the so many years, to the CEO who does that more often in a year.”
He throws the certainty of a permanent job overboard to dive into this adventure. “I am confident to get a full-time business out of this.” In a few years he hopes to have customers throughout Europe. He has not heard anything from Minister Hugo de Jonge, who is known for his chic, extravagant shoes. Although Van de Water also likes to see him appear as a customer.
About the author: Rick Culpepper
Rick Culpepper is of those journalists who dig the topic to the very bottom. He is often late with the delivery of the piece, but always does it perfectly. In his spare time, he collects data for one of the most high-profile investigations of corruption in the EU.