After several years in the telecommunications industry, Warren Barthes founded The Cobblers, taking a step into fashion this time. The company takes the classic art of cobbling to the 21st century, satisfying the demand of people who require the practice of traditional cobbling methods.
At The Cobblers, Warren Barthes looks to revive the art of cobbling while adding some spice to it. The company also aims to “meet the seemingly insatiable demands of an explosive sneaker enthusiast culture around the world.” Through its work, the company wants to empower people to “replace manufacturers’ dusty and antiquated linear approach of ‘Make, Use & Dispose’ with a more thoughtful, cyclical ‘up-cycling approach.’” With this approach, you can “Keep, Customize, Restore & Reuse” your most prized accessories, your shoes and your handbags.
Prior to The Cobblers, Warren Barthes started his journey as an entrepreneur very early. In 1998, he left school to join his brothers in launching Vip Telecom Company, where they sold mobile phones in the South of France. At the time, he was only 16 years old.
Now, Warren Barthes and The Cobblers have come out with a “sophisticated multi-pronged e-commerce, brick-mortar, B2B and B2C venture.” Just because you offer people tradition doesn’t mean you can’t spice up with modernity.
We believe in our brand and business, and we’re on mission to share it all with the rest of the world. Warren Barthes, The Cobblers
Jerome Knyszewski: What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Warren Barthes: It’s hard to give just one example! The Cobblers stands out at every touchpoint!
Most notable is our customer-centric approach. Our innovative online platform and personalized technology help afford a consumer journey that provides superior care to meet consumers’ individual needs as well as unprecedented transparency for our clientele along the way.
And so, our thoughtful use of technology is another big difference. We’ve digitized and systemized the arguably outdated and otherwise archaic process of going to a traditional ‘shoe repair’ store. You could say we’ve taken the whole experience ‘from dusty to digital’.
A third differentiator is our insanely comprehensive menu of service offerings (not to mention the astounding level of expertise per each of our select artisans and their unique disciplines); not only did we ‘resurrect and repackage’ traditional cobbling services in a very thorough and robust e-commerce platform, we beefed up our value proposition with the never-before convenience of finding expert sneaker restoration and customization services in the same place, under one roof — a one-stop shop for nearly all of the items in your closet.
And well, we can’t not mention our exigent work ethic and the personal integrity that goes into every one of our restorations. The level of dedication behind the work is evident and makes for top-quality results. Not only is this our mission, but our promise. Our reputation is our business, so we take the results very seriously.
As for a story, most everyone is blown away by our retail environments as well as the services they receive. Likes kids in a candy store, they can’t wait to bring in their next pair or purse.
Jerome Knyszewski: Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Warren Barthes: You have to truly love what you do! We most certainly do; it is our unremitting passion for what we have set out to do and the purpose and will with which we toil that gets us up every morning. We believe in our brand and business, and we’re on mission to share it all with the rest of the world.
Learn from your experiences, and do it better with each go.
Jerome Knyszewski: None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
Warren Barthes: My carefully selected team members mean everything to me and the success of The Cobblers. I would however point out that our Master Cobbler Guillaume Bertaud and his father Jacques are at the core of our expertise, resources, and operations. It was the acquisition of their generations-old business and loyal clientele that gave us real credibility to stand on and run with. Then, my business partners and core executive team are tremendously important to me. I have a long-lived business relationship with most all of them.
Jerome Knyszewski: Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. The title of this series is “How to take your company from good to great”. Let’s start with defining our terms. How would you define a “good” company, what does that look like? How would you define a “great” company, what does that look like?
Warren Barthes: A good company is a profitable one. A great company is one that is able to weather all sorts of adversity along the way, because it is not only rooted in an original idea or better iteration of something tried and true, but because it is purposeful and stands for something, namely a brand people love, trust and subscribe to forever.
Jerome Knyszewski: What would you advise to a business leader who initially went through years of successive growth, but has now reached a standstill. From your experience do you have any general advice about how to boost growth and “restart their engines”?
Warren Barthes: Learn from your experiences, and do it better with each go. If you’re doing the same thing you were always doing, chances are you are not evolving. And in an ever-evolving world, change is par for the course. My advice would be to take inventory of what people respond to and how, then continuously reinvent and refine accordingly.
A good company is a profitable one. A great company is one that is able to weather all sorts of adversity along the way, because it is not only rooted in an original idea or better iteration of something tried and true, but because it is purposeful and stands for something, namely a brand people love, trust and subscribe to forever.
Jerome Knyszewski: Generating new business, increasing your profits, or at least maintaining your financial stability can be challenging during good times, even more so during turbulent times. Can you share some of the strategies you use to keep forging ahead and not lose growth traction during a difficult economy?
Warren Barthes: The secret is to stay on top of- and ahead of- consumer trends/behaviors, making sure to stay innovative, and malleable. Our consumer service offerings intersect with retail goods, accessories and apparel in a sophisticated multi-pronged e-commerce, brick-mortar, B2B and B2C venture that cleverly calibrates in order to meet the demands of our ever- changing world, while remaining profitable. It’s an invariable case of ‘evolve or die.’
Jerome Knyszewski: In your experience, which aspect of running a company tends to be most underestimated? Can you explain or give an example?
Warren Barthes: As someone with a rather extensive background in the technology sector, as well as someone who loves running numbers, I would have to say that keeping a close eye on your financial prize (and accounting books) is critical; the numbers have to make sense on the daily. A lot of people fail because they think it’s enough to simply have a great idea, insight or love for something; that’s all important, don’t get me wrong, but at the end of the day it’s a business and needs to be effectively run as such.
Jerome KnyszewskI: Great customer service and great customer experience are essential to build a beloved brand and essential to be successful in general. In your experience what are a few of the most important things a business leader should know in order to create a Wow! Customer Experience?
Warren Barthes: The world has gotten a lot smaller and continues to do so by the minute. People of humble socio-economic backgrounds now carry $1,000 iPhones in their pocket — an iPhone is something of a luxury product. Goat cheese now comes on pizza, and so on. The point is consumers expect more these days, both in terms of products and services as well as customer service. Our customer experience is rooted in a brand positioned to be synonymous with luxury without all the pretense, just bells and whistles.
Our online shipping kits, for example, come with surprise shoe trees (complimentary) placed even inside our customers’ sneakers, along with branded tissue paper and a little envelope containing a mini insert featuring well-written info about our processes and quality standards. This is stamped and hand-signed with the date by a real life Quality Assurance person, and is sealed with a little “wax kiss”.
Our customer-centric approach puts the customer first, across the board. This also entails a certain level of thoughtful hand-holding along the way, as well as some “laissez-faire” breathability; one of the reasons we keep things so transparent along the way is so that our customer can go about their day without any unneeded stress.
Jerome Knyszewski: What are your thoughts about how a company should be engaged on Social Media? For example, the advisory firm EisnerAmper conducted 6 yearly surveys of United States corporate boards, and directors reported that one of their most pressing concerns was reputational risk as a result of social media. Do you share this concern? We’d love to hear your thoughts about this.
Warren Barthes: We preemptively mitigate the risk of reputational harm by doing our job well. Why give anyone a reason to complain, right? Then, yes, there will always be someone looking to pick a fight who finds fault with the world even when there is seemingly none to find. And, yes, the customer is ALWAYS right, so we make certain to placate any of these matters at their inception, at light speed. Whatever they may find wrong, we make right. It’s as simple as that. There is no room for anything but 5-starts at The Cobblers.
Your people can be one of your greatest investments. Warren Barthes
Jerome Knyszewski: What are the most common mistakes you have seen CEOs & founders make when they start a business? What can be done to avoid those errors?
Warren Barthes: I’d say they either scale too quickly or not quickly enough. It’s a balancing act. One of the things you can very easily control is your payroll; this needs to make sense as an investment, or lack thereof without carelessly hurting anyone or negatively impacting the very real lives they have outside of work. So be realistic in what costs your company can incur without going broke, while evaluating opportunity costs. Your people can be one of your greatest investments.
Jerome Knyszewski: Thank you for all of that. We are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Warren Barthes: Well, I’m currently excited about our company, The Cobblers, and who we are becoming. Ultimately, we aim to give back to our community, and beyond; we feel that there is a world of less fortunate people out there who could use a pair of shoes on their feet, to say the least. I don’t really want to spill the beans as they say, but we already have something cooking.
Jerome Knyszewski: How can our readers further follow you online?
Warren Barthes: We encourage people to not only visit The Cobblers’ website but also follow us on Instagram and on Facebook at The Cobblers. In just a few months we’ve already managed to get a lot of attention on IG, and are steadily building a like- minded community of many admirers and loyal clients that pay it forward, continuing to inspire others about what we do through our social media platforms.
Jerome Knyszewski: This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!