For high school soccer players Ben Abrahams and Johnny Ehrling, the idea they submitted to the Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge provides a real solution to a problem they experience every day during soccer season.
Working with classmate Karim Rahman, the team devised the concept for Aptad. It won third place in the 2018 Challenge teen track.
In its plan, the team explained that soccer is played on three different surfaces: turf, grass and indoor. Each surface requires a different type of cleat, requiring parents to purchase at least three different pairs of shoes for their growing soccer players. This is both expensive for parents and burdensome for the athletes.
The answer: Aptad, an adaptive soccer cleat. According to their plan, “Aptad solves this problem with a cleat with interchangeable soles for the three different surfaces. The soccer cleat would have a patented clip on the bottom of the shoe, which would allow other soles for the other surfaces to simply clip in. This product eliminates the need to carry around three different pairs of [cleated shoes], which are more expensive than our product. Aptad sells a shoe with a pack of three soles as our main product and a variety of different designed shoes will be sold separately.”
The plan started with a quip. “Someone made a joke about creating a shoe for all sports,” Rahman, 15, a sophomore, remembers from their initial brainstorming sessions.
“We all just laughed,” said Abrahams, 16, a sophomore. “And then, me and Johnny both play soccer, so we kept brainstorming and came up with the soccer idea. I always have to carry around cleats and it’s always a hassle. Buying new cleats is very expensive.”
Their first challenge was to ensure the product’s design was viable. They worked with Gulliver’s engineering program to build a virtual clip. The computer program allowed them to determine how many pounds of force the clip could withstand.
Abrahams reached out to a former neighbor who designs shoes for Nike and Adidas. “[He] helped us tackle some of the fundamentals of the clip to figure out if the shoe is possible, and he said that it was completely possible,” according to their business plan.
Once they established that the shoe could be manufactured effectively, they realized they could capitalize on an untapped market in the athletic footwear industry. Since the three dominant players — Nike, Adidas and Puma — have a combined 58 percent market share, they figured the remaining 40 percent left opportunity for smaller companies.
So how did it feel to be sitting on a potentially golden idea?
“We thought about why Nike or Adidas hadn’t done this yet,” said Abrahams who plans to study business in college and become an entrepreneur. “Maybe because they didn’t think of the idea, but also they’re already making 10 times the markup on what they produce. They’re making cleats for about $20 and selling them for $200, so they would make less money if they sold one cleat with different soles. Right now, it doesn’t benefit them to make this, but for us, it would benefit us.”
Their teacher Josue Basterra, a member of the Prep International Business and Entrepreneurship faculty, was impressed with the Aptad team’s drive and self-direction. “They know the resources they have at school, but beyond that, it’s up to them to figure it out, to find the way, to find the people, to do the research. This is driven by them.”
Abrahams says his entrepreneurial spirit comes from his father who worked as an investor at a big bank before starting his own company. “Now, he’s his own boss and he’s loving it,” he says. This summer, he’ll travel to Jamaica where his extended family lives and work at a printing company where his aunt is an accountant. In the past, he’s taught youth soccer there.
Ehrling, 16, a sophomore, wants to study business and learn about the stock market in college. This summer, he’ll travel to Maine with his family where he plans to get a job. When it comes to entrepreneurship he’s attracted to both the benefits and the risks of the proposition. “You don’t have a guaranteed paycheck, but if it works out, you get all of these extra benefits that are really nice,” he says.
Rahman also wants to study business in college and is inspired by his father, a CEO who has founded and sold companies. This summer, he’ll travel to Vancouver and plans to get a job to “learn how to be responsible and disciplined.”
So what’s next for Aptad?
In the future, they see the company either licensing their technology or continuing to grow their proprietary brand.
Rahman says, “For now, we’ll keep working with the engineering team and stay in contact with shoe designers to develop a prototype. We’ll try 3D printing to see how it would look. We’ll just keep trying to make the perfect design.”