Many have a passion for sneakers, but computer engineering senior Raymundo Cedric Vargas followed his passion to launch a premium sneaker rental business. Cedric launched Teneez, a “Rent the Runway” concept for sneaker enthusiasts to solve the common problems of the high cost of sneakers, lack of availability, and upkeep.
“I have always liked sneakers, but I found them to be super expensive. I would spend days to find a sneaker within my price range that still looked cool. When I was in TE 230 Design Thinking/Need Finding class I had to study a customer segment and my customer segment was sneakerheads (sneaker enthusiasts). I found that their problems were very similar to mine. Customers faced a lot of problems like getting the shoe when they wanted, cleaning the shoe, and getting it quickly,” said Cedric.
Cedric launched Teneez in December 2019. A customer can rent a sneaker for $20 to $60 for 4 days. If you were to buy same premium sneakers in the market it would cost upwards of $500.
“In my freshman year I had a goal for myself that I wanted to create a startup, and through some of my classes like I realized that I wanted my family and me to be happy. I believed I would achieve that happiness through sustainable wealth, and the only way for me to accomplish that was to create a successful startup. So for whatever reason I told myself that by the end of graduation I would have to create a startup that has the potential of being successful,” he added.
Teneez recently won second place in the College New Venture Challenge (CNVC). Hosted by the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the University of Chicago, the CNVC is the College track of the university’s business launch program, the Edward L. Kaplan, ’71, New Venture Challenge (NVC). Teneez was one of the select group of entrepreneurial students from The Grainger College of Engineering’s Startup City Scholars program. The startup won $20,000 in SAFE agreement funding. Cedric plans to use 80% of the funding toward expanding the sneaker offering and 20% for marketing.
Startup City Scholars is the entrepreneurship track of the City Scholars program. Startup City Scholars is open to Grainger Engineering undergraduate students of all majors with an interest in entrepreneurship who have at least junior credit standing. Students get to spend spring semester in Chicago to work on own startup or join a startup team.
“I participated in startup competitions like the Cozad New Venture Challenge hosted by the Technology Entrepreneur Center (TEC), and took entrepreneurship classes on campus. But I would always create startups and work with my friends. I needed to go to a new place where I was not reliant on friends for my startup to succeed. By enrolling in Startup City Scholars, I could find a new group of people to work with. Also, the biggest population of sneaker enthusiasts is in Chicago so it motivated me further to enroll in Startup City Scholars,” he said.
Teneez has also been accepted in the 10-week summer Polsky Accelerator program at the University of Chicago. This year, the accelerator program has accepted 20 teams to participate through a competitive selection process. These teams receive $10,000 in funding, dedicated working space at the Polsky Exchange, coaching from Polsky Center staff, mentorship from alumni entrepreneurs and Chicago-area investors, and weekly programming designed to help them overcome many of the hurdles to launching a business.
“Having the opportunity to work on a startup throughout the semester is very beneficial, especially within a short time frame. Startup City Scholars is like an accelerator program. Within a week we had to create financial models, business plans, and marketing strategies. It was a fast paced program. My favorite thing was pitching, and talking to mentors and advisors during the program. All of them gave expert advice. I was always in constant contact with program managers. The mentorship was amazing. The judges and their feedback was very helpful. Everybody was always willing to help you out and the other teams were very supportive,” he said.
Interested in spring 2021 Startup City Scholars? Learn more here.