After Having a 'Hell of a Year,' This Entrepreneur Rewarded Himself With the Car He Wanted, Not the Car He Needed

'Anyone who says money can't buy happiness has clearly never driven my car,' says Steven Sashen, CEO and co-founder of Xero Shoes.
After Having a 'Hell of a Year,' This Entrepreneur Rewarded Himself With the Car He Wanted, Not the Car He Needed
Image credit: Courtesy of Subaru
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This story appears in the September 2018 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Most entrepreneurs are concerned first and foremost about making payroll. If they accomplish that, they start to think about making some money themselves. And if they accomplish that, maybe they think about splurging on something they’ve wanted for a long time -- an extravagant watch, a second home, a fancy car.  

For Steven Sashen, CEO and co-founder of Colorado-based Xero Shoes, it was…a Subaru. “I’d see a car on the road about once a week,” he says. “Every time, I’d think, Wow, that is supercool. What is it?” And every time, it was a Subaru BRZ -- known as a snug, affordable little speedster.

For a long time, Sashen was in no position to buy a new car. He and his wife, Lena, had founded Xero Shoes in 2009, an evolving line of lightweight, minimalist shoes and sandals that feel like going barefoot. The company grew methodically, year by year. 

Related: Marketing To A High-End Consumer, Using The Luxury Strategy

Then they had, in Sashen’s words, “a hell of a year.” In 2017 they moved their distribution to a logistic company’s warehouse, which then went out of business. They moved to another one, which couldn’t handle their volume, so they decided to open their own warehouse. Then they had to deal with production problems and the loss of two hard-to-replace employees. But by the end of the year, things were looking up. The warehouse was “humming along,” they had their best quarter ever, and they did a $1 million-plus equity crowdfunding raise. “I think we can relax a bit,” Lena told her husband. She suggested giving out bonuses, or bumping up their own salaries.

By 2017, they’d been driving the same car for 12 years. Sashen’s mind went instantly to that little Subaru, and he went hunting for one. It turns out most dealerships don’t carry the BRZ he wanted, but he found one eight hours away, in Wyoming, that had been sitting on the lot for six months. He had it sent to a dealer two hours away, drove there, and traded in his old car for the BRZ.

Now he makes the most of it. “There’s a traffic circle between our house and our office,” he says. “Every day, twice a day, I approach the circle, downshift into second, floor it and fly around that circle, pinned to my seat and laughing or shouting, or both, as the car catapults out of the roundabout. Anyone who says money can’t buy happiness has clearly never driven my car.”

Related: 14 of the Most Ridiculous Luxury Gifts to Spend Your Money On

Almost a year later, his ardor has not waned. “I’m happy every time I look at it, parked right outside my office window, and giddy every time I drive it,” Sashen says. “And at least once during each drive, I’m grateful for our business, for the people who helped us build it, for my smart CFO-wife, for the amount of luck we’ve had and for what’s taking us into the future.”

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