Humans of Parkland: Brandon Lehman
Brandon Lehman, a former Parkland student, is a founding member and director of sales at MarketU, a marketing firm located in downtown Champaign, and founder of Shoe Refresh, a shoe cleaning, restoration and customization company in Champaign.
Lehman went to Parkland for two years, one semester each year. He studied business administration and accounting while he was there, with the eventual plan of continuing his education in at the University of Illinois.
“I didn’t actually end up graduating [from Parkland],” he said. “I was planning on going to the U of I after that, hopefully going to business school.”
At Parkland, Lehman found his accounting class useful, but otherwise felt his time was better used immersing himself in real business.
“The one class I found particularly useful was accounting,” he said. “Accounting was something we needed…something that was directly applicable.”
When the opportunity to be a part of real-life business presented itself, Lehman took it.
“I started these [businesses] while I was still a student,” he said. “After they really started taking off and started becoming really time-demanding, I made the decision to commit to these full time.”
At MarketU Lehman’s job is to interact with customers and build connections.
“It’s my job to go out to all the networking events, go find us new prospects, new clients [and] maintain all the client relationships,” Lehman said.
Before MarketU, Lehman had a career as a rapper, did some financial trading, and started an app with computer engineers at the U of I.
“I went to an event at the U of I called SocialFuse, and this was around the time that I started Parkland for the first time,” Lehman said. “People go and pitch ideas to a crowd of engineering students and computer science students and people can come together [to] make start-ups and build teams.”
Lehman pitched an idea for KeepUp, an app that would help U of I students organize their schedules.
Outside of MarketU, Brandon is part of Shoe Refresh, a business he started with people he met through his previous business ventures.
“Recently—I would say end of May—I started a new business called Shoe Refresh,” Lehman said.
The business started with a video that made the realization occur for him there was a hole in Champaign’s market.
“I saw a video on Facebook of a shop in like New York or [Los Angeles] that did shoe cleaning,” Lehman said.
He and his partners started by testing the market and found that there was a demand among students for their services.
“[We] don’t want a shop that people have to come to,” he said. “Students have transportation issues—they have bike, bus, [and] very few have cars. So, why don’t we create a service where we go to them?”
Because of this thinking, Shoe Refresh is an on demand shoe cleaning service that picks up and delivers shoes back to their owners once they’ve been worked on.
“We also do full on shoe repairs if the shoe is, like, totally beat up and needs glue, needs repainting, needs re-whitening, all sorts of things,” he said. “Then, we do customization. People need stuff done for their birthday, holiday, etc.”
Lehman says he is happy with how the business has gone so far.
“Today I think we’re at 98 or 99 customers,” he said. “So, it definitely did pretty well in terms of testing the market.”
In the future, Lehman sees Shoe Refresh having an app and opening a shop on campus to resell streetwear and exclusive shoes along with their services. He hopes the business will be able to be expanded to other locations.
If Lehman ever strikes it rich from his business ventures he says he plans on staying busy by trying to improve the world and by starting new businesses.
“I have a very strong family connection to a country called Burma. It’s south of China, east of India. It’s a third-world country, very impoverished, and I would definitely go do a lot of humanitarian work there,” he said. “I’m not the type of person who once I have all this money would just be sitting comfortably and relaxed. I would take it and try to pursue new ventures, new things.”