When Connor Boike was a young boy in Michigan and just beginning to wrestle, he was given profound advice. "You can tell someone's good by the shoes they are wearing." As he began to learn his way around a wrestling mat, it was an ironic coincidence that, indeed, many of the best wrestlers had really high quality shoes. While not the most technical advice a wrestler could hear, the words had a lasting effect on Connor's life.
As Connor's passion for wrestling grew so did his love for shoes. He soon discovered an online community called the Funky Flickr Boys. The community brought together thousands of wrestlers across the country and provided a place where wrestlers could buy, sell and trade wrestling apparel. Not only was it a place to find gear but it was place to connect with others, "There's not a better group of guys/gals in the world. I've created countless relationships with different wrestlers from all countries through this community, they're basically family" explained Connor. "I spend hours everyday just talking to fellow FFB's and communicating with wrestlers on Flickr. I love it."
Through this community, Connor's wrestling shoe collection grew tremendously. In total, he had bought, sold and traded more than 400 individuals pairs of shoes. As his shoe collection grew, so did his ability on the mat. His sophomore year he placed at the state tournament and he was becoming a record setting wrestler for his high school. Just when things seemed like they couldn't be better, he began to feel ill. It was a minor setback but persisted through the remainder of his season. Eventually, came the medical tests; blood work, EKGs, MRIs, Muscle Biopsy, etc. to determine the slowly developing problem. Ultimately, he was diagnosed with a rare form of Limb-Girdle Muscular Dystrophy, an illness causing severe muscular atrophy primarily around the shoulders and hips. Although he was able to finish wrestling in high school, he quickly retired from competition after his senior year.
After high school, Connor began studying business at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. The college experience was fun and a great change of pace but he still yearned to be around wrestling. He quickly found himself back in the Funky Flickr Boys community online. This time, the combination of his college education and love of wrestling shoes sparked an idea. Using the resources he had saved from selling wrestling shoes for years, Connor established a brand new company, Wrestle Boutique.
The concept for the business was tailored for wrestlers who have a passion for shoes. Wrestle Boutique's products are high end and exclusive. These shoes are not mass produced to ensure they maintain their high quality and rarity. They are not meant to be trained in daily. These are the shoes you put on with your matching "finals-only singlet." Your ordinary shoes are quickly worn down, smell bad and are often misplaced. These are shoes you hang on the wall beside your medals because simply owning a pair of these shoes is an accomplishment in itself. If you don't believe me, just check out the Wrestle Boutique website. You will find every pair is sold out. When Connor releases these shoes he has to prepare his customers with countdowns to the precise release date and time. If you are not following Wrestle Boutique, you will never get a pair of these shoes because they sell out in minutes.
Managing the wide customer base has been challenging for Connor as he juggles school, personal and business obligations. While Connor is at college, his product designs are shipped to his house, meaning sometimes he has to wait seemingly painful weeks before he can hold his design in his hands. The shipping and packaging for Wrestle Boutique is done at home by his mother and girlfriend while the photography is handled by his father. Connor enjoys the benefits of a close knit, loving and supportive family. Without them, he may not be able to produce these impressive shoes.
With the growth of Connor's business he is now in a position to start paying it forward. Connor is beginning a noble effort to raise money in support of cancer awareness and research. "I want to help make the world a better place. So, I reached out to Pin Cancer. We will be releasing wrestling shoes, singles, and other gear. A percentage of all sales will be going to kicking cancer's behind. To be honest, I've never been so excited.."
Connor Boike and Wrestle Boutique personifies the idea of the underdog. His wrestling dreams were cut short too early, he was diagnosed with a rare disease, he is legally deaf and is running his own business immediately after graduating high school. In a message released on Wrestle Boutique's Instagram account in May 2017, Connor readily says "We are no Asics, Nike or Adidas." He acknowledges the struggles he is forced to face. As Dan Gable has said "once you've wrestled, everything else in life is easy." For some people, this situation would prove to be unbearable but for Connor they are only challenges. While difficult, Connor says "The challenges are countless and never ending, however, would it be fun without them?"
Retrieved from: www.wrestlingarticles.com
Written By: Dustin Leveille