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Startup Corner: John Sharp, Just for Kicks

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Minimally viable product …
Founded in 2015, Just for Kicks provides local schoolchildren with new shoes. I’m 17 years old and I manage the nonprofit. In just three years, Just for Kicks has received more than $25,000 in donations and provided more than 600 pairs of high-quality athletic shoes. Giving shoes to economically challenged children is a universally popular notion. The concept receives great financial support but also receives swift feedback from the community and beneficiaries.

Problem solving …
The value proposition is simple. Children helping other children is a compelling concept. Donors and volunteers find this idea difficult to refuse, and in fact, become very eager to help and donate. I have worked with outstanding educators, volunteers and vendors, who remain patient and supportive as they work with a teenager.

Seed money …
None. My family provided the necessary administrative supplies, so 100 percent of funds go to purchase new product.

Hurdles overcome …
In the first year, I had to prove my maturity and professionalism as I negotiated with and communicated with educators, donors, vendors and children. Of course, this became easier with experience. I continue to learn common business practices, challenges of elementary educators, and the likes and dislikes of enthusiastic young children. Community Foundation of the Ozarks obtained nonprofit status for this organization and files all necessary legal and tax paperwork.

Greatest need …
Sadly, the greatest need is identifying children, families and schools with significant need. Unfortunately, there is significant need very close to home. Just a few miles from my high school, I identified Robberson Elementary School as a school where more than 90 percent of students qualify for free or reduced lunch programs. The school also has a helpful and patient administrator in Kevin Huffman.

Next phase …
After distributing 220 shoes in September 2018, I still have funds to provide more shoes in spring 2019. I plan to identify another deserving school and provide each student there with shoes.

Best advice …
Follow your heart. This is one example where decisions made by the heart supersede decisions made with the head. This program benefits children and families in need. Donors and volunteers do not want to hear specifics of a business plan, but instead want to see new product on the feet of smiling children. Thankfully, this has been achieved hundreds of times.

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