Fresh kicks, bright future

New footwear brand founders bring light-up shoes to a new generation 
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A time-lapse image of Reza shoes ascending a staircase. Photo by Michelle Cuppy.

Jack Krebsbach is a student at Hope College, where he’s studying mathematics. He also happens to be the co-founder of light-up footwear startup Reza, which he started with his childhood friend, Mustafa Syed.

Reza started with a simple question: How can we create a unique product to help walkers and runners stay visible at night?

Mustafa Syed and Jack Krebsbach of Reza footwear. Photo by Michelle Cuppy.

The question first popped up in high school, when Syed approached Krebsbach with an idea for light-up shoes after a close call with a vehicle while running at night. From there, they started playing with the idea, attaching electroluminescent wire to their shoes to create wearable, eye-catching footwear. They wore them around their home town- Ann Arbor, Michigan, and the response was incredible. “People loved it,” Krebsbach said.

From there, the pair took their concept to Techstars and was selected as one of ten startups selected for the Techstars Sports Accelerator Powered by Indy class of 2020. The accelerator program put them in touch with investors and designers from brands like Crocs and New Balance and reaffirmed what they already knew- Reza wasn’t just a shoe with lights, it was a tool for connection and inspiration.

“For us, it wasn’t a gag,” Syed said.

Then, in 2021 the unexpected happened. Unbeknownst to Krebsbach and Syed, a Reza investor with a pair of Reza prototype shoes got in contact with prolific EDM artist and DJ Steve Aoki, who wore them on stage.

“The rest was history,” Syed said. “From there, Jack built the drop website. We made an application and we sold out of 500 pairs in under two hours.”

Almost overnight, Reza went from unknown to in-demand, a huge validation for the startup. Thousands of footwear enthusiasts signed up to receive the shoes, filling out online applications to make the exclusive Reza shipping list and get a pair delivered.

In 2022, Reza sold 2,000 pairs of shoes, each equipped with a charging pad and lit with cutting-edge Fibrance Fiber laser diode lights. The look, Krebsbach said, is “futuristic, simple and elegant.”

Now, Syed and Krebsbach are poised for even greater growth. With over 70,000 on the waitlist for the next product drop, Reza is ready to take off with a second iteration in production for 2024.

“Whenever we reach customers who say how happy they are, to me that is worth it,” Syed said.

 

 

 

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