Unlike other 21-year-olds worried about finding a job after graduation, Mark Barbera is starting his own company and opening up a storefront in downtown Somerset Borough.
“It’s really exciting I couldn’t be more humbled by it,” Barbera said.
Barbera got the idea for Mark Albert Boot Company in 2015. He wanted a pair of Chelsea-style boots without the big price tag, so he decided to design his own.
In 2016, a Kickstarter crowd-funding campaign raised more than $22,000, which was enough money to pay a local boot factory, Abilene Boot Co., to make his first order.
“The way that things have taken off. I’m just very happy and pleased with it,” Barbera said.
Barbera said one of his favorite parts of the job is picking out the leather and designing the materials for each different boot.
“It’s funny I’ll be driving down the road and I”ll think of a cool outside leather combo and I’ll have to pull over jot it down,” Barbera said.
Barbera is designing 15 new styles for prestigious trade shows he was invited to attend in Italy and Germany in January.
“I’m stoked. I’m nervous because this is the pinnacle. I’ve never been on this type of platform before. But I’m very excited to see if the international crowd will be as accepting of my styles.
Barbera’s mom, Melanie, said she never expected her son’s company to take off so quickly.
“Don’t get discouraged. Keep on going. Learn from your mistakes,” said Melanie Barbera, Mark’s mother.
Shoes and leather run in the family: Mark’s great-grandfather was a cobbler.
“Long-term, I’d love to employ local jobs, create local jobs and continue this tradition that we have in Somerset that a lot of people don’t know about,” Barbera said.