The covid-19 pandemic motivated them to start a hobby that became a business
Photo: Jacqueline Garcia/La Opinion/Impremedia
Miguel Montenegro had an established schedule for several years. After leaving work, he volunteered for his children’s sports teams, who were then 11 and 9 years old. But with the arrival of the Covid-19 pandemic, games and practices were canceled leaving Montenegro on the bench.
“I would come home and just go to bed, I had nothing to do and my wife told me I had to find a hobby,” said the 37-year-old Mexican.
Montenegro is a fan of sports shoes and he liked to collect them, he enjoyed watching videos how other people painted and designed their shoes, but he had never thought about doing it.
His wife, Jeanette Vega, decided to take a step forward and bought him a set of paints for him to start practicing as a form of distraction.
Once with the paintings in hand, Montenegro treated a pair of his daughter’s shoes. To the bad luck of both, the end result was terrible.
“My daughter was very angry that I ruined her shoes and I thought that this was not for me,” said Montenegro, recalling the embarrassing experience. “But my wife told me to keep doing it and so she bought me an airbrush machine.”
Montenegro dusted off all the athletic shoes his sons had left behind from the sports they played like basketball, football, and soccer and bought extra pairs to try again. Every time I painted a new pair I noticed the mistakes and with the next pair I improved it.
It took him experimenting on 40 or 50 pairs of sneakers or so to come up with the right method. It was the image of “Venom” on a pair of Nike shoes that convinced Montenegro that his work was perfected. Since then each pair he created was much better.
Without wasting much time, Vega, 36, decided to take another step forward and opened an Instagram account to showcase her husband’s work.
“I told him, ‘if we sell a pair we sell it and if we don’t, nothing happens. Instagram is free,'” Vega said.
By August 2020, the couple began showcasing their work on their “Snkrs by Miggz & JJ” page. Vega began to learn a bit about art and got involved in what was originally to be a hobby.
To the Downey couple’s surprise, Rams player Aaron Donald saw their handiwork and soon after a Rams team representative contacted them to place an order.
“We didn’t believe it because they contacted us through Instagram,” Vega said.
“When they called us on the phone, a strange number appeared, but later we confirmed that it was true,” added Montenegro.
And so they began the order in October 2020. A representative of the Rams left them the shoe boxes of the players and coaches.
“Initially we made 3 or 4 pairs a week. With the Rams we were going to do 38 pairs in a month; 25 cleats for the players and the rest for the coaches and staff,” said Montenegro. “The representative told us that he got only good comments,” Vega said.
Due to the peak of Covid-19 infections, the couple could not meet with the team in person, but they did have several meetings with some players via zoom to confirm their designs.
“Last year we did the designs again and they invited us to a game, we met some players and it was very nice,” said Montenegro.
The couple who are fans of the Wisconsin Green Bay Packers team said they learned to divide the fandom from work. Both assured that it only hurts when the Rams play against the Packers.
“We sit quietly cheering because all the Rams fans are so cool and they know we’re Packers fans, but they still follow us, share our page, send us clients and take pictures with us,” Vega said.
Montenegro expressed that the process to have the complete design can take from 8 to 15 hours, depending on the job because each material is different and they use a paint specifically for leather so that it does not peel off over time. Only the initial preparation of the shoes, which includes sanding them to remove the product that is on the last layer, takes about three hours.
Some clients are in charge of sending their shoes and others order from the photos they see on the Instagram page. The couple is in charge of doing everything from start to finish. They do all kinds of designs but the most popular are sports teams and cartoons.
They are proud to say that their work is of quality and very affordable compared to other artists who do the same.
Montenegro was grateful that his wife encouraged him to find his potential as several Rams players, as well as celebrities such as actor Jamie Foxx, RaqC and singer Ivonne Galaz, are now on his client list. They have also been involved in causes for My Cause My Cleats, Turner Syndrome Foundation, and Angelman.
To see the work of Miguel Montenegro visit: Snkrs by Miggz & JJ