Tech-savvy entrepreneurs create world’s first coffee sneaker in ethically sustainable fashion brand

Rens Original saved more than 250,000 plastic bottles from going to landfills and oceans

“We realized how there are so few sustainable sneaker options that really look great. Most of the time, durability equates to sacrificing style and vice versa,” Jesse Tran, founder of Rens told me. . “That’s when we set out to create the lasting pair of sneakers that not only ourselves, but also the sneakerheads we know would love to wear every day.”

Based in Finland, Vietnam-born Jesse and Son Chu met at Factory Finder, where they worked together. Jesse, who was the founder of Factory Finder, hired Son Chu to join his team as a developer and the couple quickly became friends. One day, they decided to meet in a local café to talk about their common passion: sneakers. They realized that there was a gap in the market when it came to sustainable sneakers that look great and are also environmentally friendly. That day, their idea for “Rens Original” was born.

“My co-founder Son Chu and I founded Rens in 2018. We are both passionate about sneakers and have known each other for quite some time,” Jesse said. “One day we met in a cafe and talked about our favorite subject: sneakers. We realized how few sustainable sneaker options exist that really look great. Most of the time, durability equates to sacrificing style and vice versa. That’s when we set out to create the pair of durable sneakers that not only ourselves, but also the sneakerheads we know, would love to wear every day. .

“After months of trying and failing with different materials, we came across the innovative coffee yarn with all the cool functions and features. Turns out the place we met was pretty prophetic, the idea for the Rens coffee shoes arose from a meeting at a random cafe. “

Through crowdfunding, they were able to raise funds for their initial product – the world’s first coffee sneakers. The vegan, waterproof and stylish shoes are made with coffee yarn, for flexibility, functionality and comfort. They launched their product in 2019 and a year later launched their online store right before the pandemic in early 2020. However, the couple struggled through the pandemic as they struggled to distribute the products. to customers on time.

Despite the challenges, they were successful in growing their brand and selling their products on the websites of major retailers, including Zalando. “It was probably one of the most exciting and uplifting experiences in the whole process, traversing brands through the COVID era,” Jesse said. “Production was delayed, logistics were severely disrupted, and we struggled to deliver products to customers on time. However, at the end of the day, we were able to weather the storm and grow the brand’s global presence through our own online store and Zalando with our biggest markets including US, Germany, Finland and the United Kingdom. ”

They then launched their second product, NOMAD, on crowdfunding platforms and managed to raise funds in less than two hours. Rens Original has now grown into a sustainable global business, creating eco-friendly sneakers for customers in over 100 countries around the world. They produced 40,000 pairs of sneakers, recycling over 750,000 cups of coffee waste and saving over 250,000 plastic bottles that go to landfills and the ocean each year. They’ve grown their team from two to 20, taking their business to the next level in just the past two years.

Jesse and Son Chu aim to bring Rens Original to the international level and create a leading sustainable brand. They also hope to incorporate more waste materials including bamboo, coffee and pineapple peel into their products. “We see Rens becoming the global leader in sustainable sport recreation in Europe,” said Jesse. “Rens’ current and future offerings will be made from waste-based materials and filled with innovative technologies. My wildest dream would one day see the world run out of trash because society and the fashion industry both understood the concept. sustainability and recycling. “

In a few words of advice to other SMEs, Jesse said: “Your early investors are the most important, although they may not be the most important. They will shape the growth of the business and help you grow and become the best founder. and HR processes should be focused on people with skills that match the vision of the business.However, the diversity of thoughts, backgrounds and culture should always be considered and encouraged as they will offer new and different perspectives. international perspectives. is not easy. Success never comes at a low price and sometimes personal sacrifices have to be made. As you grow as a founder and leader, it’s important to learn how to find a work-life balance to avoid burnout and have a clear mind. “

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