NU alumnus launches “first plant-based footwear brand” with compostable loafers


Photo courtesy Dave Costello

The “world’s first plant-based footwear brand” boasts an ergonomic design with a cushioning heel and every pair sold funds a tree planted.

Yunkyo Kim, Reporter

Dave Costello’s (Kellogg 19) footwear brand, Scoots, makes compostable loafers out of pineapples, corn and cork, helping the environment one pair at a time.

The first Scoots collection will launch at the end of October at $95 a pair. The “world’s first plant-based footwear brand” boasts an ergonomic design with a cushioning heel, and they plant a tree for every pair sold.

Costello, a self-proclaimed footwear enthusiast, said he was inspired to found the ethical shoe company after working at a luxury enterprise in New York City.

“I enjoyed making products that people wear and interact with, but felt that there was something that was a bit more mission-driven and mission-oriented missing,” Costello said.

Costello and his team of fellow Northwestern graduates crowdfunded the startup earlier this year, raising more than $50,000 on Kickstarter and Indiegogo.

Scoots originally started as a class assignment, Costello said. In the spring of 2018, he pitched the plant-based loafers in his entrepreneurship class, New Venture Discovery with Professor David Schonthal.

“It’s wonderful that someone wants to create their own destiny and be their own boss,” Sconthal said. “It’s even better when those individuals are trying to solve a real problem that improves people’s lives and the world around them.”

Schonthal said eco-friendly startups like Scoots deserve more support. Though fashion isn’t commonly regarded as environmentally-forward, he said he respects people that are trying to change the world.

As director of the Zell Fellows Program, an interdisciplinary entrepreneurial program at Kellogg, Schonthal also was able to work closely with Costello.

“Every month we would check-in and he would update me on the progress and I would challenge him on some of his assumptions,” Schonthal said. “He (took) that as an opportunity to improve himself and improve his business.”

In 15 months of development leading up to the launch, Costello said Scoots went through numerous revisions. He originally envisioned a Ferragamo-esque brand, cutting the middleman to sell high-quality goods at a cheaper price. However, he said he learned from user feedback that the high-end men’s dress was “the absolute wrong market” for his product.

Costello said he spent the summer of 2018 interviewing more than a hundred people in Chicago and Los Angeles. He promoted the idea in a Chicago-based vegan Facebook group and found 12,000 people interested in plant-based shoes. He also began taking classes at the Chicago School of Shoemaking and Leather Arts and traveled to Portugal to look for partnerships with cork companies.

The Scoots team also participated in the residency program at The Garage. Through this opportunity, they competed in the Venture Cat, a contest where startups make pitches for funding.

Costello now works full-time at Scoots, and the startup has moved out of The Garage to New York City, he said. He plans on building a founding team devoted to creating a completely compostable version of the loafer as well as a “Stan Smith-style” lace-up sneaker.

Elisabeth Wright, who oversees marketing at The Garage, said it’s important for Northwestern to support companies like Scoot.

“When people think about entrepreneurship or startup, they automatically think of technology innovations,” Wright said. “Northwestern is such an interdisciplinary place that we can’t ignore those students that are making these innovations and coming up with these ideas that truly will just make the future better.”

A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Scoots crowdfunded more than $97,000. Scoots raised more than $50,000 on Kickstarter and Indiegogo. The Daily regrets the error.

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