Shoe Designer Only Had ‘Luck’ After Manufacturer Stole Designs

"It was another blow. But it was another pivotal moment where it reinforced why I was doing it. I was doing it out of love. I was doing it because it's what I wanted to do"
Andrew Thomas August 17, 2018

When you keep running into bad luck, it feels like the universe is against you and you’re never going to be successful. But this man didn’t give up on his dream to own his own business—and “luck” turned out to be exactly the inspiration he needed.

Brian Munoz has always had an entrepreneurial spirit. After working for a textile company that went out of business, he ventured out on his own.

He started a company called Med Athletics that specialized in textile technology and recovery apparel.

Unfortunately, after about three years the company went under. Munoz had self-funded his company, and had run out of money.

He had just gotten married, and his wife had just found out she was pregnant.

“I felt like I had failed and let everyone down,” Munoz told Humanity. “I was sitting down on the couch, and I was looking at my wife. I [had] just told her we had to put [the company] down.

“It was a really really hard time. It was a point where I had just hit rock bottom.”

Munoz struggled to find another job during the Great Recession.

(Zach Weber Photography)

He applied for jobs anywhere and everywhere. But no success.

“It was a really, really dark time,” Munoz said.

Finally, he got a job in Austin, Texas. He and his wife, who was three months pregnant at the time, moved their life from California to Austin.

Then, after a week, he was fired.

“It was a brutal blow. Things could not be worse for me. But I just kind of kept going,” Munoz recalled.

One month after his son was born, Munoz had an epiphany.

“I was really depressed. I was really down. I felt down on my luck. I had like a ‘come to Jesus’ moment: I have to do what I love for the rest of my life,” he recalled thinking.

After contemplating what that passion was, he decided he was going to Mexico to start a shoe company. His grandfather had been a shoemaker, and Munoz had always had an understanding of shoes.

But his friends and family thought he was crazy.

“It didn’t make sense. I confused everyone. Everyone was extremely lost. They were like ‘Why shoes?’ It’s because it’s what I love,” Munoz explained.

Munoz packed a bag, and went to Mexico.

(Zach Weber Photography)

In Mexico, he developed some shoe designs with a manufacturing company. As he excitedly prepared to put in an order, he took another hit.

There was a shoe show happening at a market, and when Munoz arrived he couldn’t believe what he saw.

The manufacturing company had taken his design, and was selling his shoes with their label.

Most people may have given up after that. But not Munoz.

“It was another blow. But it was another pivotal moment where it reinforced why I was doing it. I was doing it out of love. I was doing it because it’s what I wanted to do,” he recollected.

For the next six months he continued to build his shoe company. He had run out of money, and was only able to afford a few dozen pairs of shoes.

He created a website, and could see that people had visited. However, no one had made a purchase.

(Todd White)

He packed up his shoes in a suitcase, and returned to Austin to begin selling his shoes on South Congress Avenue.

“It was a struggle to say the least, but I did it with a smile on my face,” Munoz said.

He began to realize that people really liked his shoes. He understood that it wasn’t enough to sell his shoes online. He had to reach out directly to customers first.

When he sold his first pair of shoes online, it was an incredible feeling.

“It was like the greatest experience ever. Ever! It was like wow. Wow! Somebody just gave me money for something I created,” Munoz explained.

The business progressed slowly from its humble beginnings in 2015, but progressed nonetheless. Munoz would spend his time driving to various cities around Texas selling shoes to stores and individual people.

“We’ve been at it for a while, and slowly, slowly grown this from a suitcase to a truck,” Munoz said.

(Zach Weber Photography)

When Munoz was starting his first company, he talked with a lot of wealthy business people in a quest to find out the key to their success.

Most of the people mentioned the usual hard work and taking risks, but there was one other word: luck.

“Luck is what’s keeping this together,” Munoz said, referring to his current enterprise.

His shoe company derives its name from this concept: Penny Luck.

The penny is a symbol of luck in the U.S., and each pair of shoes has a real penny embedded into the soles.

“What I was doing when I put the penny on the shoe, the whole concept was I wanted to create the shoe for the American Dream chaser, so you can wear your luck as you chase your dream,” Munoz said.

Not only is Munoz realizing the American Dream, he’s giving back to those who sacrifice to protect it.

(Courtesy of Mike Pacheco/Penny Luck)

Munoz’s brother Mark served two tours of duty in Afghanistan and Iraq, and he inspired him to give back to the military and veteran community.

For every pair of Penny Luck shoes with a custom dated penny, the entire $29 customization fee is donated to the Purple Heart Foundation.

Penny Luck also makes a concerted effort to hire veterans—the first veteran employee being his brother, Mark.

“Now we’re the shoe for the American Dream chaser … and we give back to the men and women who fight to protect it,” Munoz said with pride.