Episode 217 Featuring Alex Bond

Creating a Universal Design with Billy Price

Creating a Universal Design with Billy Price

Billy Price is the Co-Founder of Billy Footwear, an innovative shoe company that implements a universal design inspired by Billy's personal story. On this episode we talk about how Billy's story led to an entire shoe brand, the ins and outs of "universal design", how he was able to get his products into national retailers like Nordstrom, Target, Kohl's, and Zappos, and much more.


What is Billy Footwear

Billy Price: Sure. So Billy Footwear, as the name implies we are a shoe company. We are based outta Seattle, Washington. Scenario that I was born and raised and still live here. And our premise of our shoes, we have zippers in our shoes and having zippers and shoes isn't necessarily original, but the way we do it, it is original in that the zipper goes on the outside of the shoe, around the toe, which actually allows the whole shoe to open up. 

So instead of like shoving your foot into a shoe, you're literally like stepping in like your foot, like places in to the unobstructed footbed. That's how we differentiate out in the market. It's been a fun ride. 

Alex Bond: No, it's amazing. When I was initially looking into the shoe, I had a hard time wrapping my head around what I was reading in the description of it. And then when I saw a video of it, I thought it was pretty fascinating because it is what you described, but most times or most of the time when someone explains, like zippers on a shoe, they imagine it just is kind of like zipping up the dead middle of it.

But you can't even really tell that there's a zipper on these shoes, which is really quite fascinating. So how did you come up with this idea? 

Billy Price: Yeah, well first to touch on what you just said, I mean, the zipper really follows the contour of the shoe, so you're right, it doesn't necessarily scream having that zipper on there. And when it opens up and you're like, oh my gosh. It opens up like a book and you can step in and see the insole. People are like, what? That is totally different. 

So to your question though so why this, this configuration? Why is it important? When I was 18 years old, I fell out of a three story window and I broke my neck. And when that happened it was a spinal cord injury, which left me paralyzed from the chest down. So there's so many things I used to be able to do that I could no longer do. 

And on that long list, putting on my shoes was one of those deals, so I didn't really see anything out on the market that was satisfying. A widget out there that I could put on one independently, but two, something that still had the same fashion appeal to something that I wore prior to being in a wheelchair. 

So because of that I teamed with a buddy and we did something about it. So started the one pair of shoes for myself and just this past summer we've sold our millionth pair. Yeah, dude, we got the tail, we got the tiger by the tail and we're doing everything we can to hold on. 

Universal design concept

Alex Bond: And I think you bring up something that's interesting is like, usually when there is some other problem that needs to be solved in terms of like accessibility or usability for, you know, your situation, there is like a stylistic compromise. Almost in terms of like the way it looks or the way it feels might not be as nice as someone else because you're trying to solve a different problem. 

But with your shoes, you actually were able to do both where it still looks good and has this added accessibility to it. I want to kind of talk about universal design a little bit. So can you kind of explain that concept of what universal design is? 

Billy Price: Yeah, sure. Absolutely. Well, we really wanna take fashion and function and smash it together. So we wanna create a widget that works for everybody, and that's where that term kind of universal design comes in. Prior to this whole shoe space, I graduated college as a mechanical engineer.

I was working as a mechanical engineer for the Federal Aviation Administration, which is a completely different line of business than what this is. But within that space, that engineering space, I was introduced to the term universal design, meaning that you can create something that basically works for everybody.

So it's not a matter of creating something that works for a particular like segmented audience. It's a matter of like inventing something that has appeal and functionality that everybody can use and enjoy. So an easy example would be like texting when it comes to cell phones or even voice command.

You know those two originated from more of an accessibility side. Someone they can't see, or they're blind, they'll be using their voice, or it's like their death will be using text. Well now those are two functionalities that the whole planet uses. So we wanna take like that type of concept of creating something that worked for everybody and apply it to fashion and we did it through the footwear space.

Alex Bond: No, and I think that's really intelligent way of looking at it. And it sounds like your background really helped there too. So one of the things that I've read is that universal design is not typically something that is applied to fashion. It is definitely more industrious and technological. And the examples that you gave aviation, driving, phones, computers, stuff like that. It's not applied to fashion. Is that because fashion is often considered like a luxury commodity? Or why is that, do you think? 

Billy Price: You know, I don't have a good answer to that question because it was basically the same question we were asking ourselves. So when we made our first prototype in your work for me and I was able to take back that independence and put my shoes on again, we, Darren and I, my fellow co-founder, we kinda looked at each other going like, well, shoot. Why can't we apply this to fashion?

Because we had not seen it before. So we basically asked that same question and going like, why is this not in? Why is this not in the fashionable space? And then we just kind of thought, well shoot, maybe you we're the ones to do it. I dunno if that was just more of a kicking ourselves in the own butt to like to be able to move forward or whatever, to be the catalyst.

But it just seemed like there was a gap out there to be able to bring something to the market that could just transcend like all different ability levels to be able to have that. It's like element. There could be enjoyment for everybody, so I don't know why it's there. I do know that in the fashion space right now, the word inclusion is thrown around quite a bit.

Sure. There's a powerful word that's been around a long time, but right now it's getting a lot of limelight and I think that word inclusive and the word universal design, I think there's areas of the use of synonyms in some cases, but for us, like inclusion isn't necessarily creating something that just works.

Like bringing this other audience that maybe, maybe wasn't picked up before. It's a matter of just work, like creating something very simple that everyone can kind of gravitate towards and enjoy. I don't know, I think it makes a big good business sense to like look at it through that lens and I think the industry is coming around, but I think there's a lot of pioneers out there that are working really hard to kind of penetrate that market right now. 

Alex Bond: And something that I find really interesting with your shoes is this inclusion also in my head, solves a problem that it wasn't even maybe intended to solve. For example, you have kids' shoes, right? And it feels like a very easy way to actually have a kid step into their shoes, zip it up, and then they can also practice tying their shoes.

With those shoes, and usually you gotta have one or the other where it's like either the kids wearing vel groceries while they're practicing on a different set of shoes, how to tie them or the other way around a little bit. So what was the thought process there? Were you always planning on having kids' shoes? Was that intentional? Was that accidental? Can you tell me a little bit about that? 

Billy Price: Well, great question. I mean, when we first started, we started with a Kickstarter campaign. Where it was two kids. It was three men shoes and two women's shoes just to test the market. And honestly, that's as far as my pocketbook could stretch me. So that's where we had to put the cap at. 

And as we launched it out there, we got feedback on all three demographics, but when it really came time to expand, we had to choose. And kids seem like the most low hanging fruit because now as a parent, you know, I have a four year old and an 11 month old. And anything we can do to get those kids going faster in the morning makes all of our worlds easier.

Sure. So, having nice, easy on, easy off shoe for the kiddos that they could, you know, potentially take on independence quicker. It seemed like, like a great entry point into the fashion space. And from there we just kind of built the business around it.

So it wasn't a matter of like, we just like strategized going like, we're only new, new kids. It was a matter of like, alright, if we wanna really try to grow this business, that seems like the most logical entry point. And then we can build on that momentum a hundred percent. 

Alex Bond: No, I think that's really cool. Have you considered other universal designs that could be applied to products aside from shoes?

Billy Price: Well, my apparel ideas, but there's so many other businesses out there that are really focusing a hundred percent of their efforts on apparel. Our name is Billy Footwear, so it's gotta be shoe focused first. So I think if we do bring some more like inclusive or universal design type apparel to the market. It's not gonna, it's not gonna overshadow the shoes. It'll always be shoes first. 

But that said, there are a lot of accessories that we could bring to the table that I could, I think could compliment your shopping cart when you're looking for shoes. Like for example, like back to school. I mean, oh my gosh, if we had a nice accessible backpack, if we had a nice like accessible lunch tote. If you had the various. I'm really excited about the sweatshirts. They have magnetic zippers where they clasp at the bottom to get 'em started. I mean, cause that works for everybody, like everyone. 

Alex Bond: Instead of having to like thread the zipper at the bottom like you usually do. 

Billy Price: Completely. I mean I remember skiing before I was in a wheelchair, like every time you have your gloves on trying to manipulate that zipper, that was a royal pain. So anything that can make that process easier, that's something that benefit the planet.

So that's the way we try to strategize and look at like all of our solutions where it's just more than the niche because niche is a narrow market. Like to survive as a business, you really need to cast that net as big as possible. So it makes a lot of business sense to be able to create something that really, you know, isn't restricted to a particular audience. 

Meeting his co-founder Darren

Alex Bond: So I wanted to ask you before we kind of move on to the more particulars of the design and the business and everything, how you met your co-founder Darren Donaldson?

Billy Price: So Darren and I were on the same bus line. Growing up, going to elementary school. Amazing. We lived about a quarter. We lived about a quarter mile from each other. We were a one grade apart. And it's interesting when you're in third and fourth grade, or fourth and fifth grade, or sixth and seventh grade, that one year seems massive.

But then of course as you get older, that one year just, I mean, it just disappears. It's not even there anymore. So yeah we grew up riding the bus together, played baseball went to grade school, elementary school, and high school, even went to the same college paths, kind of separated a little bit.

And then we got reacquainted kind of later in life. The way the shoes came into the conversation, I was actually over at his house for a Christmas party and we were catching up over a couple of beers. He was sharing with me that he was working on his own kind of independent shoe project where he just challenged himself to do something never done before.

And as he's telling me this, it definitely piqued my interest because at that point I had never put my shoes on. There just wasn't really anything out there that I could find. So people always putting my shoes on for me. And when he said that, I'm like, all right Darren, I got an idea for you. And it was just as simple as saying like, look, let's take a zippers, put it on the outside, around the toe.

I bet I could drop my foot in there unobstructed with my limited hand. I could take that zipper in and zip it up. It was enough for him to be able to make a drawing to communicate to the factor that he was working with. Make a prototype. He gifted it to me. And when I put that on, it was the first time I put my shoes on 18 years.

So I broke my neck at 18. I put my shoes on, my God at 36. And that was the moment where it's like, wow, this was so incredibly special. We have to share this with the world in some way. And we didn't know what that looked like, but we kind of leaned into it and here we are. 

Alex Bond: I can imagine that being a pretty, I don't know what the right word is, spiritual experience, honestly, in some sort of effect of just kind of like you solved your problem at the end of the day too, which I think is pretty cool is, it's not like it'd be one thing if you found a shoe that did that, but the fact that you got to create the thing that gave you so much joy like that I think is, you know, pretty special. 

Billy Price: There were two things that happened in that moment. One was we looked at each other going, why on earth did this take 18 years to do? It's like, why didn't we do this like year one or year two? Like, come on. But anyway, it was that real special, you just couldn't describe it. So we knew we had to do something. 

So then it was a matter of like creating a business to try to get the word out there and expand the brand and like just let it grow and turn into whatever was gonna turn into. And the more people we talked to, the more momentum it got. Just a lot of word of mouth, a lot of you know, strategic partnerships. The whole mission just moved forward. 

Alex Bond: So how long has the company been around? It's like 12, 13 years, something like that. 

Billy Price: Yeah. So if you count that moment in time of me putting my shoes on again independently, that was in May of 2015, but we hit another big milestone is when we hit the shelves of Nordstrom and Zappos. That was August of 2017. 

So there was a lot of kind of development getting up to that point. And in addition to it, I mean this, I think it's also important to understand this is a side hustle. This wasn't our main thing. I mean, we were working full-time, so this was working on it in like the evenings and the weekends and just letting this thing kind of build up until it became our thing. We were able to step away from our day jobs to be able to put all of our energy towards it. 

Alex Bond: What's your and Darren's respective roles in the company?

Billy Price: So we're both co-founders. The company itself is the team of 25 and the executive positions. Darren is the COO, so he's in the operations side, and I would be the CEO.

Alex Bond: Cool. So I'm always fascinated at how that works with like two co-founders and kind of who does what role and how that is split up. 

Billy Price: But one thing I will say is like, you know, we're a very small team. So like everyone's wearing lots of different hats. I'm on a CEO role, but I like to, I don't know that title can come across kind of overbearing, I think in some ways. So I do typically identify as the co-founder in this. Like, okay, you wanna get technical, I guess I'm the CEO cause I'm the face of the brand, but it's not something I'm putting out there, like, to try to brag about.

Alex Bond: I think that's definitely a little more team oriented, is co-founder. That means I'm automatically putting myself in a peer status with at least one other person. So I think that's cool. 

Their design process

Alex Bond: Breaking down that design process, when you and Darren drew up a design, sent it to a factory, starting from kind of there on, what did that design process look like when you started working on the shoes?

Billy Price: Well, great question because it didn't happen immediate. So that conversation I can imagine, Darren, cause, I mean, started a shoe company, it's gonna cost a lot of money and it was a matter of like, alright, do we really have something that we can really grow this thing responsibly?

So that conversation I had about that idea, that was actually in December of 2011, and the time I put my shoes on was 2015.

So it's like, okay, what happened During those four years, we actually did something completely different. We were working on this adaptive ski glove because I skied before I was in a chair. I wanted to ski after I was in a chair, so we made these like ski gloves that worked for me. I could hold onto my outriggers and go down the ski slopes.

And from that we did a Kickstarter campaign, which generated some revenue, which then allowed us to kind of get into the prototyping process to actually build a brand. And because of the success of that Kickstarter campaign, because of, we had a goal of 7,500 and we ended up getting 30,000. We got on a reality television show.

It was kind of like a little shark tank thing on the Oxygen Channel. And they saw the ski glove and they said, what else do you have? Like, well, we've got the shoe idea. And that basically turned into like, well, tell us more. And then we were able to present our prototype and their minds were blown.

And then from this, from us going on that television show, that was really the catalyst to say like, all right, well we've gotta throw more money behind this. Try to leverage the exposure when you get from that show. So we did another kickstart campaign to be able to like try to capitalize on that exposure.

Through that whole process, there was kind of a refining of design. But we really only had one shoe. It was just a like a basic sneaker made a suede and just trying to like, you know, vet the concept, the functionality of the zipper. So I would wear those things around all the time. But that was like the one and only pair that were out there in the market.

And then kind of as we started to get more people that saw it as a viable idea and then us building up our own confidence that like, let's put some money behind this, like our own money. Like we put a hundred thousand dollars behind it to be make the first, you know, design line, then start presenting to retailers. You know, we just kind of continued to gain some steam and then we were able to make more designs. 

Alex Bond: That's amazing. And one of the things with product development, that research and the functionality that I think is fascinating is, you don't really know how successful it is until you use it over and over and over and over and over again.

Product testing insights

You know that I remember when I think cell phones were first developing, like the flip phone, they would bust after like a month or something like that. I even remember, you know that, that new one that's, I don't know who makes it, but it's kind of like, the touch screen and it flips. They had to totally recall it because the touch screen was snapping after about a month of being opened and closed.

So much so I can imagine having to do the same thing with a zipper that you're using over and over again. You know, at least twice a day for two months and how long the sneakers actually lasting the sole in it of itself. Did you learn anything from that kind of like product testing that was pretty insightful?

Billy Price: Oh, most definitely. I mean, the thing is like, the funny thing about it is as we're entering the market, you know that we had a lot of feedback of people that have been in the industry for many, many years and just through the network and they're saying they're giving us advice from a pedestal of like a very big business or like very seasoned brands. 

Well, I mean, we were working out in my parents' basement, so when they say like, you need to have a big market study, like a focus group and all that, it's like, well we don't have the bandwidth for that, nor the capital to be able to create this thing nor the product to be able to throw out thousands of shoes to get feedback.

So our approach being a small brand, working out of a basement was, well this seems like a good idea. This seems to be like a very middle of the road type of design based on all these other big brands that are tried and true. And we'll work this out with the community and we'd send it out and then we would get customer feedback cause they would purchase, you know, very quickly say like, wow, these are working well for me.

Or they would say that and then they would offer like some feedback. And from that feedback and through that, you know, just that growing customer foundation, we were able to make adjustments. So our shoes today, yes, it still has a wraparound zipper, but the actual silhouette and what that shape looks like, it's much different than it was originally.

And that's based on direct consumer, but that's also based on, you know, relationships with our retail partners, creating something that is gonna identify with their customers because the thing with the wholesale business, wholesale business, they're gonna buy on the front end. So it's a great cashflow influx, which allows you to be solid of flexibility to do more on the backend for the next season.

Whereas direct to consumer, the margin is better, but it's a slower burn because you're doing it one at a time and you that that cash isn't, the larger amounts of cash aren't happening on day one. It just, you can make more money, but it's, as I say, it's a slower burn. 

Pricing strategy

Alex Bond: And I wanna know what's the price comparison say since, since we're talking about that of your shoes versus other similar products. Is there another similar product or are we gonna have to just compare it to shoes at large?

Billy Price: You can look at it from two lenses. One is looking at shoes at large. I mean, for us to be able to be on the shelves. Next to Vans, next to Converse, next to Nike, next to New Balance. We have to be competitive. 

So our price point, I mean, that's incredibly important. I mean, there's no way you can survive if you're not competitive. So our price points are competitive with those major brands. We're also in Target. I mean Target, it's a very, you know, they drive an aggressive price point, but we also have shoes in Target.

They're different shoes than you would see on other, you know, major retailers because there's just less stuff in it. I mean, there's only so much you can put in. To a $25 shoe as compared to a 50 to $60 shoe. But again, you can't put a $50 shoe in Target cuz then you wouldn't be competitive. So it's a matter of like understanding like the space where the product is going.

And to be able to make sure that you're gonna be able to at least meet or beat the price point or at least the the value, the perceived value of that customer. And to be competitive in that space. And then you back outta that. It's like, okay, what is the margin one can receive?

On the wholesale side or the direct to consumer side to be able to keep the lights on and to be able to generate enough revenue to be able to pay forward in the next season where you have a new, a new product, a new color away, or a new improvement on what you have existing. So that's kind of the balance and the dance that we play. 

Alex Bond: Sure. I'm fascinated that you bring up, you know, both vans and converse. Cause when I was looking at the shoes, I thought of those two brands immediately. I'm a personally a big Converse fan because I like the general durability and I like the fact that they're at a price point where I'm okay spending about 70, 80 bucks once a year and that those are the shoes. I wear those and that's pretty much it, you know. 

And with your shoes, that one have that kind of a high top ish style, you'd still have low tops like Vans does and is at that price point. It automatically says this is who their competitor is. It's putting you guys in that space instead of trying to like, I don't know, novelize or trivialize your own product, which I think is is pretty smart, is that you guys take yourselves seriously.

Cause I initially was like, wow, really? 75 bucks. And then I looked at the shoes a little closer and was like, oh no, these are actually like really good looking shoes. Which is why that they can price them at this like level, which isn't even that high when you consider, some people spend $250 on Jordan's or something like that.

Billy Price: Well, first off, it's credible how expensive some of those really, really high end shoes are. And we've actually been asked by retailers to create a very high end shoe, like that men's dress shoe that comes in at $250. We're not there yet, but it's just like, it's intriguing how you have customers that are asking for a much less, expensive shoe, and one, they're asking for a much more expensive shoe.

So you kinda get both those feedback. But to your point about Vans and what whatnot, I mean, a lot of that, the reason some of the styles look like that is because those are the brands that influenced us growing up. We were all about Air Walk, we were all about Vans. I mean, I wore simple shoes.

I was a kind of an under the radar brand that I loved. So we taken all those. You know, try and shoot veterans in the industry and then try to take, like pick the things outta each one of the silhouettes and combine it and make one of our own. 

Their general marketing strategy

Alex Bond: So what's your general marketing strategy look like? I mean, converse has been around forever, so they practically don't even need one since they've been around since, I don't know, World War I, World War II or something like that. And then Vans obviously tied themselves to like skating culture. So I know that you guys have your story and your branding. In terms of the universal design, but actual marketing wise, what's your strategy look like? 

Billy Price: So when we reach out, we wanna try to communicate an easy on, easy off shoe. And I mean, that type of language is used by a lot of different concepts out there. The one thing that makes us different though, is that unobstructed entry. 

So for example, I mean there's lots of shoes out there that, like laceless for example. I mean, but you still have to shove your foot into a shoe. There's these others where the, the heel springs back. Like you need to step in and like, you know, Like you slide your foot in, then you put your heel down and the, the heel pops back.

But again, you still have to shove your foot into a shoe. So our shoes because you can actually drop your foot in unobstructed, that has been a game changer for many of you folk, including myself. So that's on the really the functional side. While we were bringing these shoes into the market, we got a question early on.

Where a customer asks like, do these work with AFOs? And I had to go, I didn't know the answer because I didn't know what an AFO was. I had to go to Google to figure out what that was. And what an AFO is, is called ankle foot orthosis, where it's like a rigid piece of plastic that one puts on their ankle to be able to help like, kind of strengthen that ankle or like maybe some sort of correction on like the structure of one's ankle or to improve one's gait.

So it's more of a medical external device. And then the challenge, as soon as you have that on there is like, how the heck do you shove that into a shoe because it's a 90 degree return. So come to find out that like those that were wearing these braces were having the same challenge I was, which was just trying to get your foot with brace into like your footwear.

Alex Bond: Because if it's at a 90 degree angle, you can't exactly slide it in.

Billy Price: Completely. Yeah, completely. That audience caught hold of the brand and started going, oh my gosh, this is working great for my child. Maybe it's working well for your child too. We got into that lane. And that lane has an incredibly strong word of mouth. The power of word of mouth is incredible. 

And that particular line has brought a lot of attention to the brand, and that's both from the user perspective, but also the clinician's perspective as well, to be able to recommend the brand to all those folks out there are using braces. 

So because of that, because a rich piece of plastic, I mean, that's a design consideration when you take into account because if you're just a foot with a skin on like, or a sock or whatever in a shoe as compared to a rich piece of plastic, the shoe is gonna behave different. I mean, a rigid piece of plastic against canvas, I mean that's kind of a losing battle. 

So because of that rigid piece of plastic and potentially some hinging hardware we've had to kind of rethink a number of our silhouettes to be able to reinforce particular areas. Which better accommodates that type of device.

Alex Bond: So it increases, its like durability over time. 

Billy Price: Exactly. So like injecting more rubber into the outsole, for example, like having more of a hardy weave inside the line. So like the screws and whatnot don't like penetrate it through like the side, or like if someone like has like more of an aggressive teal strike or a toe strike, it can actually compromise the zipper.

So it's like, okay, well that zipper, maybe we know, pull that back a little bit to have it protected. So all of those design considerations go into a lot of our silhouettes. Marketing wise, the way that information gets out is there's a testimony attached to each one of those customers. And these testimonies are being provided.

They're not just, I like the shoes. It's like, oh my gosh, these, I've been looking for shoes all my life. Now I'm able to wear my shoes. I'm able to put my shoes on for the first time. I'm able to empower my child to be able to do something they're able to do before. Oh my gosh, this is so much easier.

Grandfather, you know, can't feel his feet. So these things are perfect cause I can put these on him and I can know exactly his shoes, his toes are in the right spot without like just guessing to make sure that. You know, hoping like the sock is like nice and smooth.

I mean, those type of testimonies come in and those testimonies just catch fire because people read those and then they start sharing their own testimonies. So that's kind of the momentum and the bow wave and just the big swirling of organic growth. That this brand has had, and now we're in a position to throw ad dollars at that just to accelerate it. 

Partnering with retailers like Nordstrom, Target, and more

Alex Bond: And you don't have to like generate anything really. I mean when you have people who are automatically giving you their testimonials, all you have to do is put those testimonials in front of other people.

So you do, it's not like you have to spend all this money on branding, copywriting, coming up with like the strategy. It's literally just. Let it do its job. People be affected by it, and then tell other people how they were affected by it. So I think that's pretty elegant in its simplicity. Your shoes are available in a variety of name brand stores as we've mentioned, including Nordstrom, target, Cole's, Zappos, and plenty more.

How did you get connected with those companies? How did, how did you reach a partnership with them? Because I know that's something that other people are probably interested in their products. But there is that high ceiling, you know, of how are they gonna take me seriously? What's pitch look like, that sort of stuff. So how was your experience getting connected with them?

Billy Price: Yeah, that can be a real uphill battle for sure. So within our own network, when it was just Darren and myself we were just , we were going along and I mean, we weren't able to get to the next step independently, just the two of us.

So there was a gentleman that joined our team who really was a shoe dog. His name's Patrick Foster. He was the number three of the team. And he'd been in the shoe industry all of his life as a sales rep representing lots of different brands. But he also stocked the shelves of Nordstrom way back when he had influence in the shoe space to be able to have context for and introduce us to them.

So it wasn't like, we got into these like, so initially we started Nordstrom and Zappos. It wasn't like Patrick was the one that got us in there. What he did was he was able to make an introduction, which allowed us to be able to present and tell the story and tell the possibility and illustrate like the market and the gap and the solution.

And just the overall vision of what was possible. These stores could have said no, but instead they said yes. And I don't think, I think maybe early on for us, it might have been, you know, looking in the inclusive nature of the shoes and understanding that that's an important agenda. But very quickly they saw that our product was selling and it was selling across the board.

So the bottom line, if the bottom line is positive, then there's no reason to say no, but I think the entry point may have been for us because of the, like more of the vision and the, the goodwill behind it and they, that's what gave us a chance. 

And then we just did everything in our power to make sure that we succeeded and it worked for them, which then created more reorders, which then increased volume, which then increases communication in social media, which then creates more momentum. And then other major retailers see that. Which makes the secondary conversations with these other partners and independence much easier. 

Alex Bond: And I find it cool that it's kind of like a company's hearing in your pitch, and they're seeing, okay, they're in the, they're in the positive and they're so passionate about it that it sounds like they don't wanna stop.

I think those are kind of the two important factors that feed into each other is that. Not only is it positive, but with their passion and inclusion, they want to keep it, they have the gumption to keep it positive, you know, and, and, and not kind of sit back and say, all right, our product is perfect. Now, just let it sell.

The importance of "why" in a business

Alex Bond: My question is, should companies have some sort of a story, maybe not exactly like yours, but have some sort of emotional connection like that, that potential clients can relate to? Or was that something that just kind of worked for you guys and can work here and there? I've heard kind of conflicting things about, you know, every brand should have a story. What are your thoughts on that? 

Billy Price: I think it's a matter of identifying the why. Like what's the why? Like, why did we do this business?

Why did these shoes come into existence? And for any company out there, there has to be a why. I mean, the why is what drives you. I mean, if there's no why, then it's like, well, what are you doing? I mean, it's, and if there's a strong why, you can talk about the why. That is your story and that's what people are gonna like, catch window.

I mean, you can, you can have a, a great product or something like that, but there's a reason that product came into existence. There's a reason you're a distributor for that particular product. There's a reason you're a retailer for that particular product. There's a reason why you're trying to develop a certain product.

That driver, that why? That's the lifeblood that motivates you and grind through the challenges. I mean, that's the big driver. I mean, my why was I couldn't put my shoes on and I wanted to do something about that. And the initial goal was to be able to solve my initial problem. But then other people started jumping on board and this thing just really started to get going. 

And the next goal was like, well, maybe we can build this. So, we can put food on my table and Darren's table and we can just do this full time. And now we have a staff of 25 where there's 25 families that are now running their household because they have a job here, which is, I mean I can't even describe how much that warms my heart.

I think it's important to have a why, why? I think it's important to have a story, but I think you already have a story. It's just a matter of like understanding what your why is. Cause that drives the mission, that drives the vision and that drives the passion. And I think the customer sees that and identifies it and motivates them to support you.

Alex Bond
Alex Bond

Meet Alex Bond—a seasoned multimedia producer with experience in television, music, podcasts, music videos, and advertising. Alex is a creative problem solver with a track record of overseeing high-quality media productions. He's a co-founder of the music production company Too Indecent, and he also hosted the podcast "Get in the Herd," which was voted "Best Local Podcast of 2020" by the Richmond Times-Dispatch in Virginia, USA.

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