Lucy Beard is Solving the Future of Footwear
Lucy Beard is the innovative CEO for a creative footwear company called Feetz, which is currently striving to solve the future of footwear.
Feetz is a relatively new company but will definitely make an impact on how shoes are manufactured for the future. Their unique approach on using smart phone technology with 3D printing allows customers to have a creative style but most importantly a shoe that perfectly contours the shape of your foot.
Can you give our readers a brief overview of your company and what the end goal is?
Our end goal is for people having to never try on a pair of shoes again. It’s you know, if you’re trying on a pair of shoes, you often find that they just don’t quite fit, they start rubbing too much on your toes, or maybe you just can’t find the style that you were looking for. The idea for Feetz came to mind was when I went to a shoe store and wondered why shoes don’t fit properly. I found that there’s a lot of technologies that will help you find shoes that fit, but then you might not like the style they offer. I thought, “Why don’t we just make shoes differently; make them to fit you in the first place”. So that’s what Feetz does. We believe additive manufacturing technology is the key part of actually changing the manufacturing process, so that it's cost effective and scalable. We want to create a new type of revolution on how to make products.
Think about a cup of coffee for a moment. I went shoe shopping, tried on ten pairs of shoes and couldn’t find anything that fit and I was frustrated. So I thought, “Okay I’m going to have a rest and go have a cup of coffee at Starbucks”. At the Starbucks you can customize your drink every time. I ordered a double mocha, extra soy, extra hot, and I looked it up. I was like hold on a sec, there’s these three little machines and you can get all these combinations. There’s eighty-seven thousand combinations of coffee from just those two or three little machines in Starbucks and yet I was at a big shoe store and they really only had maybe a thousand pairs of shoes to choose from. So that was when I went “Ah-huh”, the world can change.
What would be your five and ten year goals?
You know, we don’t claim to be that we’re going to be the biggest brand in the world. We’re really the technology that’s going to help all the big brands that exist today change, so they can offer something that is made locally. So it's a sustainable model. Material’s that can also be sustainable, that are good for you but also recyclable or reusable and there’s a sense of getting any design that you want right. For example, if it's suddenly hot, even though you’re in Boston with the snow right now, you’re saying “I want something where I can have flip-flops”. You don’t have to try and find the one store that might be selling it. You can just press a button and it will be 3D printed to match you and delivered to your door the next day. That’s kind of where it will be in ten years.
For the most part, people walk around with a cell phone in their pocket. Perhaps a few years later you’ll say, “Wow, imagine when we used to carry a computer in our pocket”. It will be the same thing, not just for footwear, but anything wearable. In a couple of years, people will say “Remember when we used to try shoes on and we had to choose what might work for us? Now I almost just have to press a button and it's made directly for me and delivered to my door!”
You mentioned working with big companies, would you possibly think about selling your technology to those companies or do you want to stay independent?
Yes, that’s the intent. You know we will partner with them either through a licensing model or we’ll build a tech forum and we’ll be the manufacturer. It all depends on the size of the company, how big we are and how much they need. We would start by making shoes for people and then eventually you’ll almost build, like a Starbuck’s store. Those little mini manufacturing units for people across the country and then eventually around the world.
Could you briefly go over your process of building these shoes?
Yes, right now the easiest way to get your foot data is by using what you have in your pocket, which is a smart phone. So we have an app that’s just been released in beta, where you can take three photos of your foot and then it processes an accurate 3D model within thirty seconds. We’re not publicizing it yet. It will be publicized in a couple of weeks, so we’re keeping it hidden within customer trials right now.
First, it starts by getting that data. Once we know it’ll fit you, then comes the design and style process. You then choose a few buttons to customize how you want your shoe to look like. You’ll be able to choose the colors and the feel depending on your height and weight. Whether it’s a running style or a casual feel. Once you have finished, it will be 3D printed, put it in a lovely little box and deliver it to your door within seven days.
Some of the shoes we have takes three or four hours to make and others will be about sixteen hours for a pair. So the volume or length of printing depends on the style of shoe you have. You have a big ski boot versus a sandal, obviously it's quite different.
What type of shoes are you hoping to offer?
We’re starting with a comfortable/casual brand, just to prove that it actually exists. We want to offer something that you can comfortably wear every day. We’re not trying to be the couture model that you could only wear on a run way. We believe in delivering real wearable shoes. This is about something that will last for six months, which is how long shoes should last for you because your feet change over time or about five hundred miles. These 3D printed shoes are not only a nice visual object but custom made project by you that will feel very comfortable. We expect people to be astonished by others wearing our custom made 3D printed shoes.
To other start-ups, what suggestions can you make for starting or pitching a new idea or starting your own company like this? What has been some of your trials and errors?
There were two things that really helped me accelerate really fast. I went to some type of start-up business class. The one I went to was Founder’s Institute. Every week they teach you things like how to do a marketing plan, how to do a business plan and you have to practice pitching every single time. Four months later, I had pitched at least a hundred times, got tons of feedback and actually tested things with customers. Therefore, I was very far ahead but on the flip side, they don’t teach about 3D printing. So I went to a maker space. In this case, I went to a fab lab in San Diego. My advice is to go to a place where there is hardware. There are so many accessible things from libraries, tool, etc. There were all these wonderful people because this is so hot and trendy at the moment. You can just ask and learn so much in one hour than just from reading things online. If you want to do a start-up, go find those people and get the training you need.