Custom-painted sneakers are all the rage. You see them all over your TikTok feed, and even around the Florida Gulf Coast University campus, where, for instance, one of our men’s basketball players owns a pair.
If you’ve ever wondered where you can order your own custom-decorated shoes, check out Vinnys Customs.
A New Jersey native, Vincent Lamanna is a junior marketing major at FGCU with a unique shoe business that’s sure to catch your eye. Using his self-taught hand-painting and airbrushing skills, he has been crafting unique, made-to-order shoe designs for a year and a half.
“I love doing what I do,” Lamanna said. “My gift is something that I can share and make people smile. That makes it all worth it.”
Using Instagram as his marketplace, Vinnys Customs has attracted a clientele that includes college athletes such as FGCU senior guard Austin Richie to celebrities such as famous DJ Steve Aoki. Lamanna’s goal is to see major-league athletes wear his shoes during televised games.
One of his first customers, Chestnut Hill College golfer P.J. Schulte, says his pair of Vinnys Customs don’t go unnoticed on the course.
“I would say Vincent is one of the most talented people I know,” Schulte said. “Being a college golfer, not many other kids are pulling up in custom shoes, so I get asked about my shoes every round I play. I always refer them to Vinnys Customs. I think Vince could make a real business out of what he’s doing, and I’ll be a customer for as long as I’m playing golf.”
If you want your own personalized pair of Vinnys Customs, contact Lamanna via Instagram and collaborate on what you want your design to look like. Buy the style and size shoe you want painted, then ship the pair to Lamanna. Depending on the intricacy of the design, a pair of Vinnys Customs can range from $70 to more than $500. The most expensive work Lamanna has produced was a $550 interpretation of what a trip on LSD might be like, using a multicolor illusion and his artistic freedom.
Once the artist gets to work, a design can take Lamanna anywhere from three to 12 hours to paint. After the sealant is placed, Lamanna immediately returns the shoes to the customer to either rock the streets in or put on display.
Juan Zavala and his wife, Pilar Guzman Zavala, are small-business owners in Miami who are big fans of Vinnys Customs. Juan was scrolling through Instagram and spotted a local athlete with a pair of striking shoes linked to Vinnys Customs. He ordered the first pair of shoes as a present for his wife and said he was so impressed by the professionalism and quality of work done by Lamanna that he immediately ordered another pair for himself.
Juan Zavala notes that working with Lamanna is a “very simple and seamless process. Sometimes people are artistic and creative, but they don’t know how to handle customers. Vinny has what it takes, and his business is going to continue to grow.”
Growing up in a family that owned a small business, Lamanna has learned how to run his own with integrity and consistency. Taking advantage of the Runway Program, part of FGCU’s entrepreneurship initiative for students and alumni, has helped Lamanna sharpen those skills, as well as learn and implement more ways to grow his business through the program’s resources and mentorship.
Scott Kelly, Runway Program director and Lamanna’s mentor, says that Lamanna has “turned his skills and talent into a viable, revenue-generating business.”
“He was awarded $10,777 from the Runway Program in spring 2021 and is currently participating in our 2.0 growth version of the program this semester,” Kelly said. “Vinny has done a great job using the tools, theory and skills learned in our programs to launch and grow his business.”
While being a one-person operation has proven to be challenging for Lamanna at times, being a self-proclaimed “workaholic,” he forges ahead with a smile. When asked about his competition in the online marketplace, he says, “Followers don’t mean everything.”
“Those with the highest numbers (of followers) online are often giving away their product for free,” said Lamanna, who always charges customers for his work. “I would rather have more zeros in my bank account than followers.”
— Alexa Gruber is a senior communication major who’s part of an internship program coordinated by University Marketing & Communications. Students interested in earning paid internship credit can contact Keith Gibson at [email protected].