It’s no secret that Sole Academy’s (SA) five stars symbolize the five men whose dreams enabled the premiere lifestyle sneaker boutique in Manila to become what it is today. With the establishment of Sole Academy Online (SAOL), SA’s #BESTINCLASS reach increased exponentially, giving access to the best sport-inspired lifestyle sneakers not just to sneaker fans in Manila, but also to everyone across the archipelago. This perpetual inspiration and innovation eventually brought SA’ICHI to life, in the hopes of encompassing the lifestyle scene more profoundly. And with the coming of Sole Mini this year, another star has arrived with it. In September 30th of 2011, what started out as a humble five-person store in Katipunan is now six stores strong and six solid years wiser.
While we often see the skilled shoe specialists in-store, there are also dedicated team members who work behind the scenes to make sure everything is executed effectively and efficiently in the brick and mortar doors: from product assortment, to employee training, to human resource and administrative duties. SA’ICHI presents an exclusive look at the other side of Sole Academy’s World-Class Service, which, as you might’ve guessed, happens to be SA’ICHI team’s creative space as well.
A couple of years prior to SA’s conception, the MJ46 Outlet Center was the original project of two of the owners and is situated in a modest compound inside Brgy. Sun Valley, Bicutan, Parañaque. With the recent move and renovation of MJ46 inside the compound, the huge vacated warehouse has been remodeled to what now stands as the Sole Academy headquarters. The entire HQ officially transitioned last March 22, but for many years prior to moving offices, SA’s HQ shared the small working space together with MAGCON Graphic Design, a highly-experienced, all-in-one service platform from conceptual design to production.
Stepping inside the new headquarters gives you a refreshing industrial vibe. The foundation and structure are made of steel but it is softened by incorporating wood elements. Majority of the materials used are pieces from the old office such as the wooden desks, glass tables, and comfy chairs. Most fixtures are recycled items as well, making the office not only cost-efficient but also environment-conscious. The owners occupy aptly themed, compartmentalized offices which perfectly capture their personalities as innovators.
The new office was built to become an inspiration. "We want everyone who works in the office to be inspired. Inspired when they go to work, inspired when they leave the working place, and inspired to be an inspiration to each and everyone who works inside." said Mike, the elusive president of Sole Provider Trading Corp. He believed that an office separated by many walls and doors becomes a hindrance to communication. After all, an open environment becomes a breeding ground for creativity to flow and where ideas can be exchanged freely. Instead of cemented walls, their individual offices were replaced by glass, giving a sense of openness and assurance that everyone has each other's back.
"We wanted to have a bit of New York, a bit of Japan, a bit of Europe, and a bit of whatever the retail store look is. In so doing, the entire space is actually a photoshoot haven. It works for that same purpose. 'Cause we needed to have multiple looks when we do our shoots since Sole Academy has always been known to have really nice photos of the products."
Jojo, SA's Merchandising Director, shared with us the reason behind his zen-styled office. “Since I’m exposed to the great cities of New York and Tokyo, I wanted to be reminded of how inspiring and life-changing the cultures of these two cities have been to me on a daily basis. This dynamic retail business that we compete in day-in and day-out demands a lot and I always want to feel grounded when I begin my day. Thus, the New York and Tokyo vibe.”
For Carlo, SA's Marketing Director, his office space is a reminder of the many things he will always be grateful for. “The flooring I chose is unfinished cement - an exact replica of the flooring we had in Fiamma Ristorante Enoteca - my first Job. When I step foot into my office it brings me back to the very beginning - it also keeps me grounded and reminds me of where I started in my work life. It reminds me to be grateful to all those people that helped me along the way to get [me] where I am. It teaches you to value relationships, failures and experiences.”
Sole Academy is made up of people who are team players at the core. Aside from being motivated and driven, they place a high value on respecting teamwork. It is a place of character and values first while skills only come second. The technicalities of work can be taught but being loyal and trustworthy comes from within.
“We want to be a global leader," according to Mike, "So as a global leader, you have to look the part, act the part, walk the part, and talk the part in every regard.” Sole Academy will continue to become a better version of itself, be it another six years or even twenty years from now, and shows no signs of stopping.
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