A Former Hedge-Funder Finds His Passion Selling Handmade Turkish Shoes
July 30, 2014
When the young entrepreneur Mickey Ashmore was a student at University of Pennsylvania, he wrote a note to himself that said simply “live in Istanbul one day.” Then when he graduated in 2009, Ashmore went to work for Microsoft, where he was offered a position abroad — in Turkey. And it was there, in the city of his dreams, that Ashmore found inspiration for what would become his first entrepreneurial venture: sabahs, slip-on footwear made from high-quality leather stitched to a rubber sole, a craft that originated in the old Turkish bazaars.
He first discovered the handcrafted shoes thanks to his then-girlfriend, who bought him a pair. They inspired weekend trips outside the city to Gaziantep, the sabah capital of the country, so that Ashmore could get to know the artisans who make them and immerse himself in their craft.
Eventually, Ashmore moved back to the States to work at a hedge fund in New York, where he quickly set up a side business: each weekend, he hosted what he called “Sabah Sundays” in a downtown Manhattan space. The shoppable gatherings included free drinks, eclectic conversation and, of course, sabahs, imported from a master craftsman in Turkey. They became so popular that, last fall, Ashmore quit the hedge fund to grow the fledgling business. Now, he travels back to Turkey every five weeks or so to work on his own designs. He has invested in training more craftsmen, building a new workspace for them and stocking more leather in a variety of colors. And starting this month, he’ll also be bringing his trunk shows to the West Coast, where a handful of galleries and friends’ homes will set the scene for Sabah Sundays in L.A
Ashmore is determined to grow the project in a grassroots manner, so e-commerce isn’t yet in the works. “With the nature of this product and the scalability of it,” he says, “it’s nice to have a relationship with the customer and know the name of every person who owns a pair.”
For the location of upcoming Sabah Sundays events or to buy a pair ($170 each), email email@example.com
(Photo: At Mickey Ashmore’s Sabah Sundays events, customers can try on and buy traditional Turkish slippers. Credit: Casey Kelbaugh for The New York Times)