Making Aotearoa Proud: Lazy Sneakers
Written by Siddhi Sharma
Based in Wellington, Maia Mariner took the initiative to help Aotearoa tamariki achieve their sports dreams through a simple yet inspirational idea of collecting and distributing sneakers. Lazy Sneaker’s founder shares her journey and aspiration for her project.
What inspired you to start up your project, Lazy Sneakers?
I was playing basketball in school when I noticed a few of my friends who couldn’t participate or struggled to join because they didn’t have the proper footwear. I went back to my parents and told them what I had observed. They explained to me that material hardship is a much bigger issue than I was aware of. So, they pushed me to think about starting a project where I could initially help out my friends. It then snowballed into something a lot bigger than expected because of the growing demand, and that’s how I came up with the idea of a sneaker bank, which we later called ‘Lazy Sneakers’.
The photographer is Qiane Matata Sipu (NUKU).
What were some of the challenges you faced with your project, and how did you overcome them?
Two challenges come to mind; one of the earliest ones I encountered was finding out who was or wasn’t there for me. It was challenging because some people would put me down about my project when I started this and did not believe I could do this. I learnt to surround myself with genuinely supportive people, such as my family and friends.
The second challenge for me was storage; we had to find places to store the sneakers, such as my bedroom, living room and the shed. So far, it’s been easy and manageable because there’s demand for sneakers, especially with student-athletes, so the sneakers come in and go out. However, I think we’ll need much more space, such as a storage unit, at some point.
Did you ever feel like giving up, and if so, what kept you going?
I’ve had so many moments where I felt like I didn’t want to continue or thought about what else I could do. My family particularly my parents have kept me going by encouraging me to support our communities because it’s the right thing to do and that everyone should have an equitable opportunity to succeed. I do have to remind myself from time to time of our WHY which keeps me grounded. I also have an incredibly supportive network of people that also push me to be the best version of myself so there is no shortage of support for myself and Lazy Sneakers. Another reason that keeps me going is that when we drop off sneakers to primary school kids. I love seeing their reactions, and it uplifts me. A school here in Wellington knows me as the “sneaker girl”, and it’s always exciting to go back.
If you could travel back in time to day one of your start-up and talk to your former self about any important lesson you acquired during your journey with Lazy Sneakers, what would you tell yourself?
My journey has not been smooth sailing and I have had my fair share of setbacks and critics but I think I would keep it the same way. It’s because I wouldn’t be who I am today without experiencing some learning curves and working it out for myself. I still have lots to learn.
What do you envision for Lazy Sneakers and yourself?
With Lazy Sneakers, we hope to have collection sites and campaigns set up nationwide. Our most recent campaign was with Les Mills, where they set up collection sites in their gyms around New Zealand for 6 weeks. This resulted in over 1000 pairs collected to support the LazySneaker kaupapa. Because of the interest in people wanting to get involved, we want to refer to Lazy Sneakers as a movement rather than a monopoly or a franchise. We also really like to encourage people to set up collection sites in their regions, just as long as the message is widespread in communities. I envision everyone getting involved in this project to help reduce material hardship in New Zealand.
What advice or tips would you give to young people starting a similar journey as you?
I would encourage young people to look around and see what inspires them. To start a project, I realised that you don’t need either heaps of money. You need a good foundation. For me, that consists of supportive people who help and encourage you along the way. Social media is an excellent way to get your project started and spread the message. So, anything that inspires you, use that to start making a difference.
I’d also like people to know that by 2023, we hope to have distributed10,000 sneakers. We think it’s an achievable goal as we have collected 6,500 sneakers and have distributed around 4,500 of them. If you or anybody you know who could donate a pair of sneakers or know someone who could benefit from a pair, we encourage you all to reach out to us on social media.
Join Maia in the movement and find out more on Lazy Sneakers!