Florida A&M University (FAMU) student Elijah Rutland, owner of Fix My Sole started his budding business by customizing sneakers. What began as a hobby now boasts big names as Elijah's work has been noticed in the big leagues. He's designed custom Beats by Dre headphones which were worn by the NBA All-Star team, his work was featured at the Super Bowl LV Experience in Tampa, Florida and countless celebrities have collaborated with him including R&B singer, K. Michelle, Chance the Rapper, and social media influencer, Demetrius Harmon. His accolades are many, but his start began like most young entrepreneurs. He saw a need.
In elementary school, Elijah recalled being unable to buy the popular sneakers he wanted and instead took to drawing them and sharing his work with family, and friends. As a sophomore in high school, he saw someone paint on a pair of shoes for the first time and that inspired him to take his work to the next level.
“That was my way of having shoes without actually physically having them and then that continued to the tenth grade when I actually saw someone paint a pair of shoes for the first time and I thought that was the coolest thing,” Rutland said. “I went to [Goodwill] to buy some shoes and to Walmart and bought some paint and started there and over time it just evolved.”
At just 15 years old, Elijah started Fix My Sole. He had no prior work experience and was unsure if he would be able to turn his hobby into a business. However, having two entrepreneurial parents helped him learn how he could turn his passion into a career. His dad saw his potential and took him to meet with Business Consultant, Emery Parker at the Florida SBDC at FAMU.
“I think Mrs. Emery was the first person I talked to, and you know my dad is a great salesman so he was just explaining to her my business and everything I was doing at the time,” Rutland said. “I didn’t even have a website actually so that was the first thing I got from the [Florida] SBDC. I just explained what I was looking for and wanted and either that same week or the next week we set up a meeting with a web developer and got started on everything to get the website going.”
Following the creation of his brand Fix My Sole, Rutland decided that in addition to customizing sneakers, he also wanted to create commissioned illustrations, paintings, apparel, and vintage FAMU pieces. Elijah says he attributes much of his business success to the consulting services he received from the Florida SBDC at FAMU.
“I was very satisfied with the services I received from the [Florida SBDC at FAMU], it was really the start of the professional side of my business,” Rutland said. “I would recommend them to other business owners because I think one of the best parts of the center, is that they met me where I was at the time, because before I had never had a consultation with a business development center like this or even with a web developer and everybody they brought in, all the staff and everybody I met, they’re really genuine and passionate with how they helped, and it felt like they were personally invested in making sure I got the best service and the best help possible.”
As he prepares for graduation, Rutland has many options lined up to choose from. After interning with Warner Brothers and working with Netflix on the show, “Green Eggs and Ham,” he has charted a path to success and is looking for more opportunities to create art and share his work worldwide.
Rutland encourages others to take a chance and pursue their hobbies as a career, and to take advantage of the no-cost services the Florida SBDC at FAMU offers for small business owners.
“I would definitely recommend any FAMU students...but I think a lot of people don't know that these services are available,” Rutland said. "Especially now in our current generation people are aspiring to be entrepreneurs, but this is a good way to set yourself apart with services that are readily available with the people that are here to help you and make those things happen.”