RYKA: BE STRONG
What does it take to compete in the athletic shoe busi¬ness? Some experts think you need lots of celebrities hawking products, an incredible array of products for every form of exercise and recreation, gimmicks such as lighted heels, and hundreds of millions of dollars for ad¬vertising. If so, who would believe that a young woman named Sheri Poe of Massachusetts could succeed by sell¬ing a limited line of athletic shoes with no money for ad¬vertising? Maybe no one, but after eight years of hard work, that young woman's company, RYKA, is finally profitable, and its sales are growing at more than 40 per¬cent a year. By combining niche marketing, a good un¬derstanding of customers, creative promotion, and pas¬sionate marketing, RYKA has more than survived. When Sheri began exercising, she could not find an athletic shoe that fit her foot. After spending months talking to shoe salespeople, retailers, aerobics instruc¬tors, and exercise enthusiasts, she found that there was no athletic shoe designed specifically for women. Shoes sold to women were made simply by shrinking male shoes to smaller sizes. Such shoes did not accommodate women's higher arches, narrower heels, and broader forefeet. With the help of a Texas investment banker, Sheri founded RYKA with just $4 million, most of which was used to design and produce shoes. Even though it had little money left over to spend on sales efforts, the com¬pany convinced Lady Foot Locker to carry the RYKA brand. But without funds, how could the company pro¬mote its shoes? Noting that aerobics fitness fans place much trust in aerobics instructors, the company began sending promotional materials and discount offers to U.S. fitness instructors and personal trainers. Sure enough, the instructors liked the shoes and pushed them to students, who in turn bought them. Today, RYKA has more than 30,000 instructors and trainers in its "RYKA Training Body" program. Each receives promotional materials four...
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