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University of Missouri

Hitting the Ground in Style

J-School student runs custom-painted shoe business.

LaQuist painted shoes

Lauren Rundquist started a business to sell her custom-painted shoes. Sports-themed patterns are the most popular request. Photo by Nicholas Benner.

Lauren Rundquist began getting her hands dirty at a young age when she used her father’s power drill and hammer to build a tree house.

The junior strategic communication major from Wildwood, Mo., now gets her hands dirty creating custom-painted TOMS, Converse and Keds for her business, LaQuist. Since its 2012 launch on Etsy, an online marketplace for handmade goods, Rundquist has painted more than 250 pairs of the canvas shoes for customers on six continents.

The first shoe she painted was a tiger-stripe design, an often-requested pattern from Mizzou fans. Sports themes, cartoons and flowers are popular, too. But her favorites are from customers who share the story behind their chosen design.

A request for American flag TOMS came from a deployed U.S. airman who wanted to send a pair to his fiancé for Valentine’s Day. Via Skype, he watched his fiancé open the package and sent screen grabs of her reaction to Rundquist.

“It was cool to know that a piece of artwork I created was so special to them and was meaningful in their lives,” she says.

In April, Rundquist won the $5,000 first-place prize at the #BOOM Bounce Pitch Competition at the Trulaske College of Business, an event organized by Regional Economic Development Inc., a Columbia-based nonprofit, to encourage entrepreneurship.

“The money gave me the financial backing to take risks,” she says. Since then, she has trademarked LaQuist, purchased an inventory of blank shoes and expanded her offerings to include high heels.