Teacher Stories: Elliott Curtis
Meet Elliott Curtis, New York-based designer, entrepreneur, and teacher of one of the most successful online Skillshare classes of all time, Sneakerology Studio, selling over 1100 tickets, bringing together a community of sneaker enthusiasts from around the world and producing some of the most creative projects Skillshare has seen yet. We sat down with Elliott to learn more about his story and find out what made his class so successful.
What’s your story?
I’m from Brooklyn, Mass., 25 years old.
I landed my first internship at a sneaker company at 19, through a camper of mine whose parents worked in the footwear industry, and shortly after developed the first version of my Sneakerology class - the world’s first college class dedicated to sneaker culture.
I eventually ended up at Rebok where I met tons of cool people and played basketball every day at lunch. It was great. During my time there I created a Sneakerology collaboration sneaker - a limited run of 101 sneakers inspired by my class. It really kicked off my deep involvement in the footwear industry.
Fast forward a few years, and I’ve spoken at universities, agencies, high schools, grade schools, schools for kids on parole… It’s amazing how sneakers can really apply to so many ages, backgrounds and interest levels. I also just because Skillshare’s most recent employee hire, and I couldn’t be more excited about it.
So what’d you end up teaching on Skillshare?
I started teaching Sneakerology, The History of Sneakers from Chucks to Cha-Ching, last year as a local Skillshare class. I taught three in Boston and one in New York. They ended up being really successful, so the Skillshare team asked if I’d like to teach an online version of the class when the online format was first released. From there we built the Sneakerology Studio, which was an online class geared toward teaching students the process of sneaker creation, from from inspiration to sketching to tech pack to marketing plan.
Your online Skillshare class was incredibly successful. How’d you do it?
In terms of the reach, we had 1100 students in the class, and there were kids in the discussion boards from Lebanon, South Africa, New Zealand, Shanghai… it was an incredible experience to be in the class and see people talking about sneakers coming from incredibly different backgrounds, literally different ends of the globe, all talking about shoes.
What were your favorite elements of the class experience?
It’s the discussions and collaboration between students. To see people giving each other feedback and constructive criticism, and even setting up meetings in their towns, and using it as a platform for discussion far beyond their projects, was amazing.
I know it’s not unique to sneakers, but one thing about sneaker culture—it’s a unifying bond. If I meet someone that cares about sneakers or has waited in line for a new release, we already share something, and I saw those connections being made within the class.
I was also amazed at what students created in class. I had students create incredible sketches, vector illustrations, clay models and even design entire clothing lines inspired by the sneaker concepts they created in my class.
Has teaching this class impacted your professional path in any way?
Well, I’m working for Skillshare now, which is huge. I think the success of my class impressed Mike the CEO and he was happy with the amount of press the class received in areas that Skillshare hadn’t seen before. So yeah, it’s completely affected me as a person and my path. Skillshare has become part of that path now, not just Sneakerology.
What was your marketing strategy for the class?
As a teacher, I can’t stress how important it is to market your class to your own networks.
If new teachers have an interesting concept, I’m sure there is a blog or website that is related to that concept, and has a whole following that cares about that concept. Target the most appropriate blogs to the concept you’re teaching to spread the word to the exact people that’d want to know about it.
Most teachers are coming from a network or community. Because they’re experts in a subject, they’ve been involved in the field so they should know what the best outlets are. It’s the teacher’s responsibility to get in touch with their own community. Skillshare will take care of the tech press, the Skillshare community stuff, their network, but it’s important to think about how to get more specific and bring in that other audience that might not know about Skillshare.
WIth Sneakerology, we looked at Nice Kicks, we looked at Hypebeast, Soul Collector. These are sites that I had connections with prior but you have to reach out to them about your class or else they’ll never know.
And you need good content to share. You need video or photos or something that can go along with the post - just a little text press release doesn’t do it anymore. I put some of my own money into producing marketing videos that would increase the buzz around the class. You need to show people why they should take your class - they won’t figure it out for themselves.
Check out Sneakerology Studio to learn more about Elliott and his Sneakerology class series.
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