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Bespoke shoe biz signals successes to come 

Meet the Future: Gage McVicker

Name: Gage McVicker
School/grade level: Sixth grade, Kent City Middle School
Passion: Art, especially shoe customization

Kent City — Artist Gage McVicker loves to be creative, first and foremost, but he’s also a budding entrepreneur with higher education in mind. The sixth-grader has started his own shoe customization business and YouTube channel to help him achieve that goal. 

When did painting and customizing shoes become something you were interested in? Last year, Gage came across a YouTube channel where an artist described how he customized his own shoes. Already interested in painting, Gage said he seized on the opportunity: 

“Instead of me customizing (shoes) for myself, I thought I could do it for others and gain a little bit of money from it,” he said. “So now I have this small business where I’ll take shoes (from a client), wash them if they’re dirty, and ask (the client) for a theme; then I’ll take Posca paint markers and basically just go from there to paint something.”

A finished pair of Crocs designed by Gage (courtesy)

Gage charges $5 for regular sneakers and $3 for Crocs. He’s spread the word about his services both through word of mouth and by hanging up posters around town. He also has a YouTube channel, Fun With Gage!!!, where viewers can check out some of his work. 

A few related accomplishments: “I’ve probably had 15 clients or so and made maybe $40. Mainly I’m just trying to save up for college and go from there. College is expensive.” 

What do you enjoy most about this endeavor? “I like doing it because you can see a shoe and think of it really as a blank canvas. And I get to do different things depending on what (the client) asks for. I’ve had two or three people tell me to just (paint) what I want to do, and that is fun.

“It’s really something to do that can get you involved with other people and make new friends, and things like that. I like going around (school) and see stuff I did; it’s like, ‘Hey, I did that; that’s pretty cool.’” 

Gage painted these sneakers for one of his clients (courtesy)

Do you plan to pursue this professionally? Envision yourself 10 years from now. Gage said he wouldn’t be opposed to one day expanding his business, but “I would probably have to buy more art materials and try to hire people to help me and things like that to make it happen.”

“I was thinking about going to (Grand Valley State University) and hopefully getting into one of their art colleges. From what I’ve seen, they have really nice art classes and teachers and things like that.” 

The biggest lesson you have learned from your involvement in this is… “You really just have to take your time with it. There’s nothing that you can rush with (customizing someone else’s shoes). They’re giving you shoes that cost $40 to even $100 or more, and so you can’t screw up at that point. If you do, you have to pay them back that money and you just wasted a bunch of ink. So, you’ve really gotta take your time.” 

Other hobbies/interests: Gage enjoys playing basketball and listening to music. He’s also a big gamer, mostly playing Fortnite on his Nintendo Switch at home.

Read more from Kent City: 
Third-graders visit Capitol, examine real laws
‘No day is the same, and that’s why I enjoy it’

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Beth Heinen Bell
Beth Heinen Bell
Beth Heinen Bell is associate editor, reporter and copy editor. She is an award-winning journalist who got her professional start as the education reporter for the Grand Haven Tribune. A Calvin University graduate and proud former Chimes editor, she later returned to Calvin to help manage its national writing festival. Beth has also written for The Grand Rapids Press and several West Michigan businesses and nonprofits. She is fascinated by the nuances of language, loves to travel and has strong feelings about the Oxford comma. Read Beth's full bio


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