Fair warning. Don’t watch the April 13 episode of Oxygen’s “Quit Your Day Job” without a box of tissues.
You’ll want them handy every time Issaquah High School graduates Billy Price and Darin Donaldson appear on the TV show where entrepreneurs pitch products to a group of investors.
Price’s mission to create a shoe that works for everyone struck an emotional chord with all of the investors, particularly renowned start-up advocate Sarah Prevette.
The 1996 Issaquah High School graduate became paralyzed from the chest down after falling out of a third-story window at his University of Washington fraternity in October 1996. He dreamed up BILLY Footwear after going 18 years without being able to independently put on his shoes.
“In my opinion, the best entrepreneurs are people who are solving their own problem,” Prevette said.
The patent-pending design uses zippers along the side of the shoe and around the toe. Unzipping unfurls the shoe’s upper flap completely, allowing the wearer to place his or her foot inside unobstructed. Pull the loop on the zipper and the wearer’s foot is now secure.
Despite concerns about Price’s passion for entrepreneurship and initial evidence that able-bodied testers did not love the shoe’s prototype, the panel of investors agreed to back BILLY Footwear at the end of the episode.
“I do think Billy has passion. I just think that his passion may not be as energetic as what we’re accustomed to,” investor Lauren Maillian argued.
The duo cannot disclose the exact amount of the investment, but the backers have served as valuable mentors and opened doors to new opportunities, they said after the episode aired.
The episode's most emotional moment came when Price, Donaldson and investors Maillian and Prevette watched as a war veteran paralyzed in a helicopter crash tried on the footwear.
"Your idea works, man," the veteran said as he put on his own shoes for the first time in 12 years.
The same day the show aired, BILLY Footwear launched a Kickstarter campaign where people can order the shoes. The goal is to raise $30,000.
Christina Corrales-Toy, eastofseattle.news digital editor