As an engineer, he just “geeks” over any opportunity to solve a problem. I love to hang with Kurt. He has great ideas and high quality friends, including Trish and Larkin – the amazing and capable ladies who own and operate Soft Star Shoes in Corvallis Oregon. Just imagine four people committed to manufacturing quality shoes and socks, right here in America, having a “group geek” all day over the many related marketing, selling and operational challenges we face. That’s a great day in sunny Oregon!
Manufacturing in America is important. Consumers are increasingly driving their choices and preferences for American made products into their everyday lives. They have power because they know more about the products they buy and they care where they are made. I appreciate those who want to tour our production facility or visit our office, but on this day, the “shoe was on the other foot” — (I love that I got to work that into my blog). So here I am, on my adventure in Oregon, where I get to tour a shoe factory. A shoe factory which is – of all things — not in Asia. It was inspiring. I learned about “clicking” which is the process of cutting out a design in leather, and I observed some processes that have not changed much in, well, centuries. It was like watching Geppetto at work in his shop. Everyone there makes a unique contribution to an age old process. The rough hewn log beams and heavy flooring of their turn of the century building offer a warm atmosphere.
Soft Star upgraded the building to achieve their green ideals. They recycle heat from waste water, and it’s a kid friendly work place to boot. These are interesting people who hand craft stunningly beautiful shoes. It was, as Trish would casually say, “…a bit primitive…” which might be true, insofar as it was not a highly automated facility, but it was certainly highly practical and absolutely fascinating. It may be primitive, but that’s the point.
Swiftwick shares a customer base, like the minimalist runner, environmentally sensitive consumers looking for companies that reflect their values. Our shared customers are parents who believe they have found the perfect shoe, the toe seam free sock that doesn’t stink… Soft Star connects with people who want a vegan shoe, which got me thinking about how our synthetic socks are vegan too.
Swiftwick made a splash at the trials with our ultra-light, ultra-thin minimalist sock — the PULSE. So many distance runners from the 1500 to greater distances, including the steeple chase, have been giving us their product feedback and support.
To be there to cheer them on made me feel like a proud parent. Now, I’m thinking about how a partnership between Soft Star and Swiftwick might develop into something else to be proud of.