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.
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.
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.
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.