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UTPB football player scores a touchdown customizing shoes

UTPB student-athlete also runs business customizing shoes

University of Texas Permian Basin (UTPB) football player and junior student, Jalen Thompson, is putting in triple duty as a shoe customizer on the side. Thompson recently spoke with Mike Bond of UTPB to give him the inside scoop on how he gets it all done.

During the school year, the Hazlet, TX native spends his weekdays majoring in Business Management and—during football season—as a defensive back for UTPB. On weekends year round, he puts his budding business savvy and artistic talents to use running a business customizing shoes via JT Customs.

Thompson’s passion for shoe designing started when he was around 15-years-old and one day started to paint his own shoes for fun, said the young entrepreneur. “My friends would [show] my designs on social media and then I started getting messages from people saying they wanted me to put designs on their shoes.” He started out practicing by painting his friends’ shoes until he built up the confidence and skills to customizing other people’s footwear.

“When people message me and ask me to do their shoes, they’ll either request a specific design or just let me freestyle for them,” said Thompson. “Eventually, I would like to also make general design sneakers, but that will have to wait until after I graduate.”

After people indicate what they want on their shoes, Thompson said he asks what shoe they want the artwork done on and the colors they prefer. “This helps me brainstorm on how to fit the images together and what would look best.”

Thompson said his customers provide him with the shoes—predominantly sneakers—and he has his own machine and stencils to create all the artwork. He has an Instagram account (@jttcustoms) where most people reach out to him for business and negotiates the prices “depending on the order,” he said.

The UTPB defensive back said he does “the majority of my work on the weekends” and likes to get a jump start on his schoolwork during the week so that when he gets done with football, he can focus on the shoes.

“I thought it would be hard to manage doing shoes on top of football and school, but I think I have done a great job at being able to do it. With my love of art, I find making the shoes as a break and a stress reliever from everything else.”

When asked why he likes customizing shoes so much, Thompson said, “I love doing it so much because there are so many possibilities that come from designing shoes. I like that it helps with my thinking, my concentration and other personal attributes.” He also said he loves the process and seeing people’s reactions when they like his work. “It makes me feel that I am making a difference in people’s clothing style.”

Thompson said his business also helps him with his professional speaking skills and other skills as he learns to run his own business. “It is more than just a side job to me now, it’s a living that I am happy with and hope to continue.”

Again, see photos of Jalen Thompson’s work and contact him on Instagram at @jttcustoms.