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College Game Plan

PATOS Aims to Make a Positive Impact in Peru Through Sneakers

In an as-told-to essay for College Game Plan, Fernando Rojo, founder of PATOS, reveals what he learned navigating the business development process as a student.

The CEO: Fernando Rojo

School: University of Pennsylvania, Class of 2018

My dorm room pitch

I grew up between Argentina and the United States. I realized the sneaker industry is dominated by European inspiration, and as a result, the mainstream fashion industry often neglects Latin America’s textiles and exploits its workers.

Fernando Rojo, founder of PATOS. His advice for his high school self? "There are no prerequisites to doing what you want to do with your life."

That’s where PATOS came in. I thought, it’s time to turn this idea into the world’s coolest sneaker brand.

PATOS provides customers with shoes handmade by local Latin American artisans, meaning when you buy a pair of these shoes, that money is helping the very community in which they were made.

Along with free shipping, I offer a 31-day risk-free trial during which you can return shoes. I want people to feel completely confident when they buy their shoes.

I launched the company on Kickstarter. We sold over $60,000 of shoes — in under 30 days — to people in over 15 countries.

PATOS shoes are handcrafted in Peru by local artisans, with "traditional textiles" stitched onto the heels. PATOS

A day in the life

I wake up at eight, I always read the paper, and then I usually have class until noon. Then I’ll respond to emails for a few hours, followed by more class until either 4:30 or six.

In the evenings, because of time changes, I’ll have calls with either my warehouse or suppliers. As it gets later, that’s when I start doing the stuff that is less time sensitive, like homework. I try to get seven hours of sleep and I generally exercise more towards the evening. I think that’s also really important.

Finding a support system

The fact that so many people on campus — hundreds of students and even alumni — have been customers, and have been there from the beginning has been huge. Not only has it given me a way to test the product, but it’s shown me actual customers I can deliver to more quickly. My parents have also been incredibly central to me being able to push through this.

Katy Tur: Why I Chose UC Santa Barbara 2:51

What I’d tell my high school self

I would tell my high school self there are no prerequisites to doing what you want to do with your life. You don’t need investors to get your first customers for a business, and you don’t even need to graduate to start a business.

The fact is, if you spend majority of your time in a given day doing something for a long period of time, you’re going to get really good at whatever that is.

How I define success

For me, success is spending the majority of my time doing something I’m obsessed with. That obsession for me stems from solving a problem by creating something that doesn’t exist.

There might be constant difficulties running this business, but my belief that there can be a better sneaker industry pushes me through it.