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Fancy Feet These custom-made shoes have personality-in billions of ways.

By P. Kelly Smith

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Dave Ward is an extremist. But in his line of work, the moreextreme, the better. As CEO of, an online shoemanufacturer that allows footwear fans to design their ownsneakers, Ward and co-founders Irmi Kreuzer, Mikal Peveto and DavidSolk are using their Nike and Adidas backgrounds to bringcustomization to the masses.

Based in Santa Cruz, California, Customatix allows customers tolog on and choose from billions of colors, materials, graphics andlogos to create their own online portfolios of designs. Theblueprints are then transmitted to the company's factory inChina, where the shoes are manufactured and shipped to thedesigner's doorsteps within two weeks. The shoes retail for $70to $100 per pair, which includes import duty and delivery charges.Says Ward, "The biggest problem we have is, people don'tbelieve we can do what we do."

When you look at the history of Customatix, however, itdoesn't seem so unbelievable. Ward and his co-founders had kepta careful eye on the customization trend that was picking up steamin the late '90s, and by the time they launched Customatix in1999, things just fell into place. "[Customization] seemed tobe talked about a lot," says Ward, but the door was wide openfor an online venture like Customatix. "We felt with ourbackgrounds, especially on the manufacturing and logistics side,that we had the expertise to get [the job] done."

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