Getting To Know You: Paul Kaniuk, Co-founder & MD, ShoeSpa & BagSpa

Paul Kaniuk

Paul Kaniuk, Co-founder & managing director of restoration company ShoeSpa and BagSpa tells us about his vision to create a global restoration business, focused on sustainability.

What do you currently do at ShoeSpa and BagSpa?

As co-founder and general manager of restoration company ShoeSpa and BagSpa, my role has no strict boundaries as I’m personally involved in almost all of aspects of the business. However, the areas I focus on the most are:

Strategy and development – I try to think about where we would like to be in 3 to 5 years and what we need to do in order to get there. My vision is to create a global restoration business, focused on sustainability, serving global customers efficiently and at the highest levels of quality and customer satisfaction.

Talent development and team building – whatever our plans and ambitions, none can be achieved without a strong team in place. I’m trying to build our team in light of our future needs so that they constitute the foundation of our growth.

Technology – I am truly fascinated by technology and how it changes our everyday lives. Technology is at the centre of our activities, both at the front end where we interact with our customers and at the back end, where the actual restoration (magic) happens. We constantly question our current way of working and are always testing new restoration techniques and solutions. Some of them are not yet fully developed, but others have the potential to bring speed, efficiency and better quality of service.

Strategic partnerships – we are building relationships with key partners i.e. brands, retailers, technology and service providers. It’s a way to help us all grow together and we can learn a great deal from each other, which I find very rewarding.

What was the inspiration behind your business?

 Shoe and bag repair and restoration services were not widely available previously, so people were left with no real choice: they could either approach high street cobblers for simple maintenance or purchase a new pair of shoes or a new bag. We wanted to change that and bring some hope to often distressed people who were on the verge of having to throw away their treasured items.

People are often very sentimental about their precious pieces and are devastated once the condition deteriorates. In many cases, these items can no longer be purchased, which makes the restoration a necessity – it isn’t about having the money to replace the item as they want that particular handbag or those leather boots back.

The environmental aspect is also very important to us, and to our customers. Restoring is much better than buying anew as we not only prevent the items from going to landfill, we also help to limit the consumption. The fashion business (and shoe industry in particular) is one of the heaviest polluting where environmental impact is concerned. So, through restoration, we should celebrate each time something has been reborn.

Who do you admire?

Elon Musk. I know he is a controversial person, but I see that as his strength, he’s an entrepreneurial champion. I admire his ability to constantly challenge the status quo and cross the boundaries in various, niche industries. The common denominator is technology and the way people think and operate – Musk adapts as necessary.

He has also proven that great breakthroughs can be achieved with much smaller financial means than generally anticipated and that is an achievement I admire the most. In my opinion, he has a vision far beyond our current time.

Looking back, is there anything you would have done differently?

We should have championed our online channel, and pickup and delivery service more.  Before COVID-19, it was one of the options but now it’s perfectly clear that a high street shop is not really required to do business. However, there is value in having a physical presence as it allows us to build in-person relationships with our customers, which is highly desired when dealing with valuable items.

COVID-19 has accelerated e-commerce, so more and more services will be provided remotely and/or be completely contactless. We offer a fully integrated online experience merged with offline courier services and that works perfectly. However, we should continue that journey and develop it further. Perhaps we can design a better remote colour-sampling process, or a live-view from our workshop? There are many options and the future is fascinating.

What defines your way of doing business?

 This may sound obvious, but we are trying to create an ecosystem where all stakeholders benefit.

First, our customers are able to give their favourite items a new lease of life whilst making quite a saving from not having to make a new purchase – restoration usually costs a fraction of the purchase price.

Second, our employees feel like they have a job that has real value and purpose in the grand scheme of things. Each of our team members is truly interested in fashion, design and sustainability. Our business venture helps them to pursue those interests and help them to further their professional development.

Third, brands are able to have their items be enjoyed by their customers for longer, reaffirming brand love among consumers. There is a perception that the restoration industry isn’t well-received by manufacturers, but this isn’t something I have experienced, as we are all working together. Brands are interested in long-term benefit and customer satisfaction, which creates a connection with their brand and customer loyalty.

What advice would you give to someone starting out?

Do your homework. A good idea is just a small contributor to success. In fact, the idea does not have to be revolutionary, it should just make sense.

Preparation, planning and persistence constitute the rest. It’s really important to know your future industry inside out. Spend time researching your industry and audience, talk to people in the arena, critique your own ideas, robustly research your market and the business need. Once you are certain the demand is there, have a strategy for how you will meet it, be bold but also realistic. Realism and persistence are key. Contrary to belief, no great venture can be built in weeks, the overnight success stories are incredibly rare, and are the result of an enormous amount of luck – they aren’t the norm. Great things require great effort and time.