When former banker Bart Walker couldn’t find what he was looking for in a golf shoe, he decided to take matters into his own hands. “I only intended to make one pair of golf shoes—for myself,” Bart said. “But every time I wore my new invention, I received a lot of compliments and inquiries from people who wanted a pair like them.”
ACK GRACE was born, totally by accident, and in response to Bart’s quest for a platonic ideal that didn’t exist yet. In his vision, interchangeable saddles could create endless design options rotated onto a single pair of shoes. One pair could have several looks and evolve with a person's individual style—going from the office to the 19th hole, from East Coast to West, and beyond. Wearers would be able to customize their go-to shoes, creating infinite looks without having to break in (or break the bank on) another pair. “We refer to our shoes as continually customizable,” Bart said.
Deciding to walk away from a comfortable life in banking was no small feat. But shortly after Bart and his wife (and now business partner), Erinn Walker, were married, Erinn’s grandmother gave the couple a print that still hangs in their home. The print is titled “21 Suggestions for Success,” and it includes the following tips:
Rule #2: “Work at something you enjoy and that’s worthy of your time and talent.”
Rule #17: “Be decisive, even if it means that sometimes you’ll be wrong.”
Rule #19: “Be bold and courageous. When you look back at your life, you'’l regret the things you didn’t do more than the ones you did.”
“Each of those rules resonated with us as truths for a happy life, so we took the plunge,” Bart said. He spent nights and weekends tooling around at the kitchen table with a pair of kitchen shears and old golf shoes purchased at secondhand stores. Once the couple had nailed the design, they entered the fray as business partners. They named the company after their kids, Jack and Grace.
While innovative design has no doubt contributed to JACK GRACE’s success, Bart is quick to acknowledge that building a great company takes a great team. “For anyone considering entrepreneurship, surround yourself with people smarter and more talented than yourself,” he said. “Start-up entrepreneurship isn’t for the faint of heart. If you can’t get comfortable with a great deal of uncertainty, stick with the nine-to-five job.”
That’s meant letting their circle grow beyond their immediate family, too. “Having large, well-established companies as customers is evidence that we’ve created something pretty unique and cool,” Bart said.
We look forward to following these footwear innovators through every step of their journey.