Going barefoot has many benefits, but doing so isn’t always appropriate. This is why Lena Phoenix and Steven Sashen designed Xero Shoes, a brand of minimalist footwear. The founders didn’t get a deal on Shark Tank, which was a missed opportunity for the Sharks. As of 2024, Xero Shoes is worth $20 million.
About the Founders
Lena Phoenix and Steven Sashen are a married couple and long-time business partners from Colorado, United States. Lena graduated from Naropa University, and Steven is an alumnus of Columbia University.
Steven is a former All-American gymnast currently hailed as a Masters All-American sprinter, meaning he is one of the fastest men aged 50 and above in the US. He has a diverse background, previously he was a tai chi coach, stand-up comedian, and creator of the film and television word processor, Script-Ware.
Like Sashen, Lena is a workaholic. Her first major role was president of a mortgage company she founded in 1989, Preferred Capital. In 2000, she ran another firm, Garuda Management Services, Inc.
Founding the Company
Sashen got serious about sprinting when he turned 45, but he constantly got injured at the start. A friend told him to try barefoot running, and it changed his life. However, it still led to some minor injuries.
So, he got some advanced sole materials and made huaraches. Other sprinters loved it, and another friend suggested he turn it into a business. Steven told his wife, and they did just that.
Originally called Invisible Shoes, Xero Shoes was founded in 2010. Steven and Lena started selling DIY sandal kits and custom sandals through their website.
Shark Tank Appearance
By 2013, Lena Phoenix and Steven Sashen were on track to generate over a million dollars in revenue. They needed more capital and an investor to scale the company. The duo appeared on season 4 of the show, asking for $400,000 for 8% equity.
Robert Herjavec was initially skeptical of the product, but when the presenters let him try the footwear, he changed his mind. After this, the Sharks started talking serious business.
When they got back to the product itself, the Sharks showed no mercy, stating that it was just a piece of rubber with a string. Kevin O’Leary offered them $400,000 for 50%, but they couldn’t give away that much equity and left the tank without a deal.
After Shark Tank
Although they didn’t get a deal, appearing on the show gave Xero Shoes a hefty bump in revenue. They got 3,000 orders shortly after their episode aired, and the website kept crashing. They sold three months of product in just a week!
Desperate to raise money, they ran a crowdfunding campaign in 2017 and raised an impressive $1 million. In December 2020, Xero Shoes sold $12.5 million in equity to TZP Group. This helped the company make more shoe designs, which are now available on Amazon and XeroShoes.com.
Their shoes and sandals have over 57,200 5-star reviews, according to the website. The company is doing better than ever. In a podcast with Beyond 8 Figures in 2019, Steven shared that Xero Shoes made $12 million in net revenue in 2019. The company’s 2021 annual net revenue was $33.6 million. The Sharks surely missed out on this one!