Bokos bring the world to Minnesota

Sandal company based out of Plymouth garage seeks world stage

By Alexander Fox

NerdWallet rated Minneapolis the fourth best city for young entrepreneurs, but let’s not forget its suburbs. Bokos, a sandal retailer, was founded by brothers Matt and James McManus in 2013, when Matt graduated from the University of Wisconsin, and the brothers have been managing and growing the company out of their mom’s Plymouth garage ever since. Bokos’ product is an interpretation of what James thought was a particularly excellent pair of sandals that he found while living in Beijing.

As with all businesses, location is everything, and the two-car garage and residence in Plymouth has been Bokos’ storehouse and center of operations since the company’s inception. Matt argues that using resources such as this have allowed the company to expand without costly overhead. “We converted the two-car garage to a warehouse space, which can house roughly 12,000 pairs of sandals,” he says. “It's a great way for us to keep costs down while we are still getting the brand off the ground!”

With management based in Plymouth, Bokos’ manufacturing is taken care of in Guandong, China. But finding an overseas partner is a gauntlet on its own for those with little experience (to learn more about finding an overseas partner, click here). “We spent over a year finding the right manufacturer, reaching out to potentials and seeing if a relationship was going to be feasible,” Matt says. “It certainly helps to either have somebody overseas that you know and trust, or have somebody on your team who is comfortable with overseas business relationships. In our case … James speaks fluent Chinese and lived there for several years.”

While finding a partner for manufacturing is common practice, selling sandals in Minnesota is not. The long winter could be a business killer, but Matt sees this as opportunity. “I think, in a way, it's an advantage. It gives us another hook. 'You guys run a sandal company out of Minne"snow"ta? Hey, that's pretty cool, how do you make that work!?’”

To add to his plate, Matt was only 23 when first starting up Bokos. He credits his success to his previous role as founder and operator of t-shirt manufacturer Check Your Six, mixed with an eagerness to learn and an entrepreneurial spirit. “Industries can be learned and skills can be taught, but owning a business is not for the lazy and it is not for the thin-skinned. You've got to be willing to work longer hours, be more creative and overcome obstacles.”

Bokos can be found all over the country in retail shops such as Penn Cycle or Joe's Sporting Goods, with the internet giving Bokos a worldwide storefront. Matt hopes to grow Boko’s retail presence as well as producing new styles of Bokos.

Though the winters are frightful, Bokos are an example of how entrepreneurs in Minnesota bring together creativity, family and international relationships to produce a strong company, and a product with its own with international flair.