Sebastian Bär and the ultimate marathon shoe - market and medium-sized businesses

Sebastian Bär and the ultimate marathon shoe - market and medium-sized businesses

Sebastian Bär and the ultimate marathon shoe - market and medium-sized businesses

The pencil, he put it behind his right ear for the conversation. He probably forgot it there. Or it's intentional, because it exudes something so wonderfully old-fashioned, but at the same time solid. And that would look quite similar to Sebastian Bär. The shoemaker, and the 47-year-old is one of those at heart, sticks to his last. Everything around it is new.

Sebastian Bär is Joe Nimble's boss, which is not a big deal in itself, because Joe Nimble has eight employees so far. But if you love numbers, you should take a look at this ratio: Joe Nimble is a brand from the shoe manufacturer Bär, a "manufacturer for comfortable shoes" founded in 1982, which produces very comfortable shoes in Bietigheim-Bissingen, not far from Stuttgart. They are wide at the front, which pleases the big toe. The rest is a matter of taste. 140 employees work at Bär and generate around 25 million euros. Eight of them are Nimbelians, as those who travel for the Joe Nimble brand can call themselves. The eight, however, are already responsible for 30 to 40 percent of sales. In the near future it could be half. How does it work?

Sebastian Bär has to swing back. And the pencil will play a role in this, because ten years ago Bär was already aware that the shoes his father produces in his factory leave room for the toes, which is what really sets them apart. But from a fashion point of view there is still room for improvement. Bär gets down to it and designs - possibly even with a pencil - a sports shoe collection, or at least the beginnings of one.

And he, who runs marathons himself, connects with the tough guys and gals in the trade: the Badwater Marathon runners, who don't stop until they've covered 130 miles from the lowest point in the US over three passes to have reached the goal on the 2530 meter high Mount Whitney. "Some runners cut their shoe caps in order to be able to run better. They use up to twelve pairs of shoes in the race," says Bär, beaming inappropriately. Because: The runners with the new shoes from their own collection got by with one pair. The story is good and Bär tells it to his father, who, however, does not throw his arms around his neck with enthusiasm: "In our family business, which was still run in a very traditional way at the time, we did not immediately succeed in setting up a new production line with sports shoes. The market is occupied, said my father at the time."

Sebastian Bear and the ultimate marathon shoe - Market and SMEs

But the son remains stubborn, orthopedic surgeons and sports physicians burst out, all of whom confirm: With space in the front of the shoe, it walks better. When Bär and his brother Christof take over the management, Sebastian finally has a free hand and founds the Joe Nimble brand. The name says it all, because Nimble means something like nimble and those who start with Joe Nimbels shoes should be nimble. Crowdfunding campaigns bring in enough money to drive development forward. In addition, he succeeds in creating a design that can keep up with the big names in the market, whose names the industry horror from Bietigheim doesn't even mention because everyone knows them: Adidas, Puma, Nike. The trade is paying attention and Joe Nimble could have become the cult brand of the 1920s.

Had. Because then comes Corona. Bär has production in China and the pandemic is preventing ships from getting goods to Europe on time. "First of all, a world collapsed for me with Corona, then my wife had the idea: Have the shoes from China delivered to you by train, she said." It works. Bear walks, so to speak, on the overland route from China in the medieval footsteps of the world traveler Marco Polo, who may also have slipped through a pair of shoes or two.

Bär now draws a conclusion from this that makes you sit up and take notice again, that sounds wonderful and old-fashioned. Pirmasens was the shoe town of Germany until the last century. Then it was globalized and production disappeared from there. Bär now wants to do what he likes to do most: outsmart the trend: "The supply chains are currently tearing everywhere. We have therefore already relocated development and production for some products to the traditional shoe town of Pirmasens," he reports and promises in this plan invest more energy and money.

Speaking of money - will there ever be a Manuel Neuer or a Dirk Nowitzki with Joe Nimble shoes on his feet? Bär waves it away, at least as long as such exceptional athletes don't do it out of conviction. "I don't like paying for people to wear our shoes." He calculates too precisely for that, with a sharp pencil. And besides, he himself has a conviction. That means: "In the market, we now have our foot in the door."