Spira’s High-Tech Running Shoes Get Big Break on “Duck Dynasty”
This might have to be called crowdfunding on steroids: A West Texas startup will today have its product featured in a special on-air segment in between the broadcast of the A&E network’s “Duck Dynasty,” one of America’s most popular TV shows.
Spira Footwear, which has patented what it calls WaveSpring technology, will introduce a new running shoe that will feature the signature duck camouflage pattern sported by the Robertson clan, who are the stars of the reality TV program. “Duck Dynasty” drew in 11.8 million viewers during its season-four premier Wednesday, ranking as the No. 1 nonfiction series telecast in cable history.
“We’re about to reach more people in a matter of seconds than we’ve reached in the last 10 years,” says Andy Krafsur, the founder and CEO of Spira Footwear in El Paso.
Pictures of the “Duck Dynasty Camo” shoes—in either olive green or pink duck camouflage—began to surface a few days before the footwear’s official Friday debut. “With just a picture of the shoe, we have gotten over 40,000 likes,” Krafsur says. “I don’t think we’ve had 40,000 likes in the history of our company.”
The Duck Dynasty tie-in came in because Spira was featured on Project Startup, a collaboration between A&E and the crowdfunding site, RocketHub. Since the start of the year, about a half-dozen startups have gotten featured in minute-long infomercials that are segmented in between episodes of “Storage Wars,” “Duck Dynasty,” and other popular network programming—a fundraising platform not available to many first-time entrepreneurs.
Spira raised $42,000 on Rockethub and pre-sold 800 pairs of shoes, Krafsur says.
“The thing that every entrepreneur on our website is looking for is extra funding and extra awareness for their story,” says Brian Meece, RocketHub’s co-founder and CEO. “This project really epitomizes both of those stories.”
The crowdsourced funding will be used to build up Spira’s manufacturing and distribution capabilities, Krafsur says. He hopes the attention will also build Spira’s credibility with retailers, who generally are reluctant to add to a footwear mix that already features established brands like Nike and Adidas. “The bulk of my sales are direct to consumers,” he says. “But this will help raise our profile and ultimately convince the retailers.”
Krafsur, an El Paso attorney, founded Spira in 2002, after noticing that runs he once easily did as a competitive runner in high school and college, were now taking a larger toll on his body. So he and his brother developed and patented a spring technology that he says creates the first full-length mechanical midsole for footwear. Runners wearing Spira shoes have won marathons in Houston, Detroit, and other cities, he says, because “we have built a better shoe.”
“Duck Dynasty” chronicles the lives of a West Monroe, LA, family whose multi-million-dollar business empire is built on products for duck hunters, most notably a duck call named the “Duck Commander.” The show averaged 8.4 million viewers last season, making it the second most-watched program on cable, according to a feature this week in USA Today.
“We didn’t have the bandwidth to tell our story,” Krafsur says. “I’ve been banging my head against the wall, just trying to keep the doors open for 10 years. And then in one day to have everything turn. It’s astonishing.”