A former Nike exec reveals the crucial lessons he learned at the athletic-wear giant — and how they inform his new role at Vistaprint supporting small businesses
Ricky Engelberg spent 20 years at Nike before leaving to become the CMO of Vistaprint, a customizable printing company that supports small businesses. During his time at Nike, Engelberg worked on the company's digital evolution and was focused on helping the brand become a partner for athletes. At Vistaprint, Engelberg leverages a similar partnership mindset in his work supporting small businesses. Recently, the company used its printing capabilities to launch a mask collaboration. Like sneakers, Engelberg sees masks as instruments of self-expression that can be fueled by artist collaborations. Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
Whether via Nike or Vistaprint, Ricky Engelberg's goal has always been to make an impact in the world. The former Nike executive spent 20 years at the athletic-wear giant, where he focused on driving innovation related to the brand's digital evolution and worked on initiatives such as the FuelBand and Nike+ training. Though he left the brand in 2019 to become the CMO of Vistaprint, Engelberg said he is drawing on his previous experiences at Nike to help inform his role at the customizable printing company, especially amid the pandemic. "Ultimately, you have to be incredibly focused on how you're going to solve problems for customers," Engelberg said, touching on a similarity between the two seemingly opposing industries that live on his resume. As Engelberg explained, just as his role at Nike focused on offering solutions to make athletes more successful, his role at Vistaprint operates similarly, but in the context of small businesses. Now, as the pandemic threatens the future of small businesses, Vistaprint's role as a partner to these entities is even more important. "Our goal has to be to be able to provide solutions that helps that small business succeed and really truly be their partner," Engelberg said. Learning from Nike Engelberg started at Nike as an intern right of high school in 1999, joining full-time in 2002 as a global digital innovation manager. Throughout his 20-year tenure, Engelberg held roles at Nike as a senior experience director and VP of experience innovation. His career culminated in his role as the VP of brand communications and digital media for the Converse brand, which was acquired by Nike in 2003. Choosing to leave Nike was not an easy decision. But after 20 years at the company, Engelberg said he felt ready to implement what he has learned in a new area of focus: small businesses. As Engelberg put it, the athletic-world is filled with high-impact opportunities, such as the Olympics, The World Cup, and the All-Star Games. Once he left that world, the challenge was to find similar opportunities where Vistapoint could make a difference. This impact factor became even more relevant during the pandemic. In April, Vistaprint launched the Save Small Business Fund with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation and donated $1 million dollars to support small business owners in the pandemic.
The company also leveraged its printing capabilities to launch a mask collaboration via a partnership with artists Jen Stark, Geoff McFetridge, Futura Laboratories, and Parra, the latter two of which have collaborated with Nike for previous projects. The masks are priced at $24 for adult sizes and $16 for kids and a portion of the proceeds go to support youth mentorship program Free Arts NYC and communities that have been impacted by the pandemic. A sneakerhead by his own description, Engelberg said that launching the Vistaprint mask collaboration has evoked certain elements that have come to define sneaker culture. Like sneakers, Engelberg sees masks as instruments of self-expression that can be fueled by artist collaborations. However, the goal for Vistaprint is not hype. "The last thing we wanted was to go and make a mask that was sold out in 15 seconds and is being flipped on StockX," he said, noting a popular phenomenon among high-demand sneakers. Instead, Vistaprint is looking to help people find a safe and affordable means of safe self-expression, something Engelberg sees as an opportunity for impact. And while he hopes the widespread need for masks eventually subsides in the future, Engelberg feels lucky to be able to fill that crucial need right now. "I think that's all anyone asks for every day," he said. "To try to go and make something that puts a dent in the world."SEE ALSO: Trevor Edwards was the highest-ranking Black employee at Nike until 2018. Now the former exec is guiding new brands on diversity and inclusion 2 years after his high-profile ouster from the sportswear giant. Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: Why thoroughbred horse semen is the world's most expensive liquid
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The historically male-focused sneaker industry is being challenged by designers like Aleali May and new platforms to encourage female sneakerheads
Some women are challenging the sneaker industry, which has been known to often exclude female creatives...Some women are challenging the sneaker industry, which has been known to often exclude female creatives and fans. Aleali May was the first woman to design unisex sneaker for the Jordan brand, and the second to have an official Air Jordan collaboration. Two female sneakerheads just launched a female-oriented sneaker site to help facilitate greater access to products for women. Here's a look at how women are finding a place in the multi-billion dollar industry. Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories. Aleali May has been described as the most influential female sneakerhead. And truth be told, she probably is. As the first woman to design a unisex sneaker for the Jordan brand — and the second to have an official Air Jordan collaboration in the brand's 36-year history — May is certainly one of the more vocal and accomplished female sneakerheads in the game. Plus, with close to half a million followers on Instagram, she's made a name for herself in the historically male-dominated industry. "We're just now seeing a lot of collabs outside of Nike as well really gravitate towards women and realizing that there's this whole huge lane that hasn't been filled yet," May told Business Insider in an interview about how she got her start in the industry and how she's helping pave the way for other female sneakerheads. The sneaker industry's 'Boys Club' The multibillion-dollar sneaker industry has been historically known to exclude women in various capacities, from limiting female sneaker sizes in hyped drops to lacking strong female representation at the design and creation level. "I think a lot of these stories about the sneaker world can be very male-focused," said Jacques "Kustoo" Slade, one of the most influential content creators and hosts in the sneaker world. "I don't think the female voice is given enough credit." While icons like Virgil Abloh, Tinker Hatfield, and Jason Petrie might be some of the more iconic faces on the design side of the sneaker industry, there are women who are involved in and appreciate the culture just as much. For May, becoming a female pioneer in the sneaker world was never her intention. Earlier in her career she worked at Chicago-based conceptual gallery RSVP Gallery, which was created by the famous sneaker and streetwear designers Virgil Abloh and Don C. Eventually May moved back to her hometown in Los Angeles, California, and she was approached by the Jordan team in 2015. "They reached out and just wanted to have an organic conversation at first," May said of the start of her Jordan journey. "And then they were just like, 'Hey, do you want to come to Portland [Oregon] and just talk more Jordan talk?' And of course I did not say no." Eight meetings later, May was asked to design a sneaker for the brand. And while doing so would make her the second woman to have an official Jordan collaboration, May said at the time, she wasn't really thinking about the implications of the offer. "Honestly, I didn't even think about any of that when I went in," she said. As for the decision to launch the sneaker in both men's and women's sizes, May said the choice was a no-brainer. "I said, 'Well, I want it to be for both because, naturally I mix men's and women's wear,' So I just thought that that would be the best bet," she said. According to May, she was not made aware that she had become the first woman to design unisex sneakers for the Jordan brand until she read about it in the news. Women are breaking through The launch of May's Los Angeles-themed Air Jordan 1 Satin Shadow in October of 2017 was a big step for women in the sneaker industry. Since then, May has done more collaborations with the Jordan brand, including a revamped Air Jordan 6 with a 'Rust Pink' colorway. "We're still very new," May said, despite the recent progress she has seen in the industry. "I feel like we're still in the incubator as far as women being in the sneaker game." And yet, while the list of influential female sneakerheads is brief, it is undoubtedly expanding. In 2018, Nike launched Unlaced, a digital sneaker boutique designed exclusively for women. Last April, Beyonce signed a major deal with Adidas to create new shoes and apparel and relaunch Ivy Park, her athleisure brand. Slowly but surely, the influence of women on the sneaker world is becoming harder to ignore. More recently, two female sneakerheads launched a platform focused on women's footwear. The website, called Common Ace, is designed to offer women a curated sneaker shopping experience to cater to their sizes and styles. Creators Sophia Chang and Romy Samuel told Hypebae that the goal was to create a platform to foster an active women's sneaker community. "With the growth of social media in the past decade, female consumers are now able to share their opinions on the change they want to see, and brands are listening," Samuel told Hypebae. "With the ever-evolving involvement of women, there is a lot more awareness around the female consumer. There is undeniable power in our spending and we will drive the change we want to see with that awareness." As for May, her success thus far has not distracted her from her ultimate goals. She said she's still focusing on advancing the representation of females in the sneaker culture. "We started the foundation, May said. "How can we actively keep progressing and say, 'Look, we're not going anywhere.'" Are you a female sneakerhead with a story to share? Email firstname.lastname@example.orgSEE ALSO: As Air Jordan sneakers skyrocket in value, these are the pairs that are most worth the investment, according to resale experts from Stadium Goods and The RealReal Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: Why thoroughbred horse semen is the world's most expensive liquid