After a fractured vertebrae in his senior basketball season in high school, Way was forced to give up his aspiration to be a professional athlete. But thanks to his passion for basketball culture -- and by extension the sneakers that go along with it -- Way has created his own successful business.
"Customizing sneakers quickly became a new path to still being able to reach my initial dream; instead of lacing up my own shoes in the NBA, now I essentially am able to lace up their sneakers," Way said.
Funded out of Way's own pockets, T.Way Customs, has been a real world application of his education, with his major in Advertising and Public Relations and a minor in Entrepreneurship. Taking on the tasks of everything from designing the Web site to accounting has also been an education in itself.
"Basically I went from a poor college student to a poor college student and poor entrepreneur," Way said.
The process of Way's custom creations is fairly simple; the client provides a pair of all-white leather sneakers; Way removes the original weatherproof coating, and free-hands a design using specialty leather paints. After three-to-six coats of paint, and 25-to-35 hours the one-of-a-kind shoes are complete.
Way has designed shoes for Rip Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince and even the MVP sneakers for Lebron James, just to name a few. After growing up watching many of his clients on television, it has been amazing to interact and work with them.
Grand Valley's entrepreneurship program has proved to be an invaluable asset for Way. In particular, Way said, professors Paul Lane and John Rumery have always been there for him.
"Both professors have challenged me to further develop the business and to always improve and refine it," Way added.
Rumery said he is impressed with Way’s use of networking and his generosity, always volunteering to help other students and speak to classes.
“Tyler is one of the most driven, creative, balanced and grounded student entrepreneurs I have worked with. He understands that the best way to start something is to do it, then learn, revise and adapt as you go,” Rumery said.
Lane said Way is being one of the most driven people in the program. “He represents a group of entrepreneurs at Grand Valley who have worked hard, asked often, and kept on trying,” Lane said.
Way wants to positively impact others either through his designs or through his story. He feels that if someone has an idea or passion that they should go for it wholeheartedly, and refuse to not let anyone stop them from achieving their goal.
"Any dream is possible, but you can’t achieve them if you don’t take the leap of faith," Way said.
Along with other sneaker projects in the works for the athletic apparel company CRONS, (Come Ready Or Never Start) Way has started the T.Way 'We Run' College series campaign with its initial launch of the 'We Run GVSU' shirts. He is also possibly collaborating with Rip Hamilton to develop clothing for his RipCity brand. For more information, visit www.twaycustoms.net.