Designer Locked In | BILLY Footwear

Following our successful meeting with the investors on Monday, May 11, we were given a very bold challenge to produce three shoe samples in three different sizes, intended for a focus group that could evaluate our product and show there is a greater market need than just myself. We are trying to break down the perceived wall between adaptive and non-adaptive clothing. The sample and focus group challenge is supposedly going to prove mass-market interest exists.

The challenge was given to us on Monday, May 11 and then we have to present on Thursday, June 4. Cover to cover that is 23 days. It's hammertime.

Big decisions are happening realtime and frankly I hope we are making the correct ones. This compressed timeframe is nuts and I honestly do not know if we are going to meet it. As an example, Darin first reached out to Winnie on April 9 and here it is May 13 and the shoe has not arrived yet (that said it should be here any day now). That is 35 days, and only one pair in a single size. And we are being asked to do three times that in a shorter period of time? Are you kidding me?

Anyway, once we received our challenge, Kristian, one of the television show producers immediately started calling around the Los Angeles area looking for possible designers that were one, qualified and two, had the connections in place to pull off our ridiculously tight timeline. The search put us in contact Maral Kalinian, who came recommended from FIDM (Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising).

We received an email from Maral at 12:30pm today. She did not provide any boilerplate contract language—just heartfelt words that validated our company vision.

Maral was definitely our choice. And to meet her (our) deadline we had to lock in our agreement with her by 2pm, which was only 90 minutes following Kristian's forwarded Maral email and 2 hours following our first introduction to Kristian. I was up to my eyeballs with meetings all day today so Darin had to make the deal. Later this evening Darin told me it was the first time he had ever heard stress in my voice.

By 2pm Maral was on board. Darin forwarded all of our previous renderings as idea starting points and Maral began her break-neck-speed conquest to deliver in record time.

Concurrently with this madness, yesterday Darin and I reached out to our own contacts, trying to come up with "fashion forward" shoe designs.

Earlier tonight, at the Naked City Brewery & Taphouse in North Seattle, at a table over beers, Darin and I met with Beth, a long time friend from Issaquah. Beth worked for Brooks for a number of years as a materials expert. Now working for REI, she still maintains that fashion sense and material knowledge crucial to the spot we are currently in. Bribed with a pint and appetizers, we asked for a favor, which Beth so generously accepted. She is heading to Taiwan in a few days for the week but agreed to provide some design options and material ideas to add to what we have already created.

And what have we created? It feels like chaos at the moment. All we have at the moment are our renderings, our experimental Sanuk concept creation, and photographs of our first Winnie prototype that is somewhere over the Pacific Ocean. And before I am able to try on that Winnie prototype we have blindly accepted a challenge to make three more under nearly unachievable time constraints.

I'm reminded of a quote often attributed to Winston Churchill, "If you're going through hell, keep going." 


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1 comment

Such an inspiring read! It’s exceptional to see how innovation and creativity can surely make a distinction in people’s lives. Kudos to Billy Footwear for their dedication to inclusivity and their dedication to making elegant and useful shoes reachable to all. This story is a stunning reminder that each mission can be grew to become into an chance for increase and nice change.


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