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UM grad sells shoes as art in South Beach

Started business out of car trunk

By: Kendall Sale // Contributing InSight Writer

Issue date: 7/8/08 Section: Insight
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While most college seniors spend their final year applying to grad schools or going to job interviews, 2007 graduate Jason Fishbein had it all figured out. In his final two years at the University of Miami, the Baltimore native went from selling sneakers in the back of his Buick to becoming one of Miami's hottest entrepreneurs.

The shoes Fishbein carried in the trunk of his car included modified and customized versions of the shoes he received directly from manufacturers

"At first I just did it to make a little extra cash," Fishbein said. "I saw there was a demand for it at school. At first I would buy 12 pairs at one time and I sold them all in a matter of a week."

According to Fishbein, his first customers on campus were UM athletes. Fishbein would drive his Buick to the athletic center each day around 4 p.m. as practices were letting out.

Using his dorm as a stock room, Fishbein continued ordering customized sneakers to fit the campus' demand. As he realized the potential of what started as a hobby, he began selling off campus. The streets of South Beach proved to be even more profitable.

"I was selling on the street making connections with other shoe artists," he said.

Pursuing these connections, Fishbein began flying all over the country to attend fashion shows and meet with artists.

"I was doing whatever I could to get artists on my side," he said.

Fishbein is currently working with some of the most well-known tattoo artists in the nation. In November he opened J Fish Kicks, located on Collins Avenue in South Beach. Customized handmade sneakers range in price from $200 to $2,000 per pair.

"I didn't want just anyone. I wanted the best artists out there," Fishbein explained. "We currently have eight artists and each artist does something different." The artists who design and create sneakers for Fishbein include Chris Garver from Miami Ink, Cope2, a world famous graffiti artist, and Mister Cartoon, a Los Angeles-based artist who has done tattoos for stars such as Eminem and 50 Cent.

With his sneaker empire well on its way, Fishbein said he genuinely enjoys what he does.

"I get to meet a lot of different people, a lot of ball players and rappers," he said.

After only being open for two months, J Fish Kicks is currently in the process of designing customized sneakers for rapper Flo Rida.

Although he enjoys working with celebrities, Fishbein also likes to hear from average shoppers.

"Everybody has something to say about the store and everybody has an opinion," Fishbein said. "It's just fun."

Kendall Sale may be contacted at k.sale@umiami.edu.
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