Twenty years ago, Seattle native Billy Price was involved in an accident that left him paralyzed from the chest down. Unable to use his fingers, Price had difficulty performing daily tasks such as getting dressed.
Since his accident, Priced learned tricks to dress himself and tracked down a number of clothing brands that cater to the adaptive community. But finding shoes that functionally worked for him proved to be a more elusive task. “With persistence, I found work-arounds for almost everything, but I never conquered shoes,” he explained. “I could never find a pair that was both attractive and that I could put on independently.”
So Price made it his mission to come up with a solution for his challenges — a mission that soon grew into something bigger: “It became a quest to create shoes for everybody and ensure they were both stylish and functional. I didn’t want to wear shoes that screamed adaptive.”
Together with business partner Darin Donaldson, Price created Billy Footwear, a collection of styles featuring a patent-pending design that uses zippers along the side of the shoe and on the toe. Once unzipped, the shoe’s upper opens and folds back completely, enabling the wearer to place his or her foot inside unobstructed. A quick tug on the zipper-pull closes the shoe securely around the foot. “After an immense collective effort, we nailed it,” Price said of the concept.
Tonight, Price and Donaldson will be featured on Oxygen’s “Quit Your Day Job” docuseries, as they pitch their idea to a panel of angel investors who include Zuckerberg Media founder Randi Zuckerberg, sister of Facebook mogul Mark Zuckerberg.
Consumers can order Billy’s shoes through a Kickstarter campaign that starts today. Both adult and children’s styles are available. Price and Donaldson have set an initial fundraising goal of $30,000 and plan to use the seed money to expand their offering with larger sizes, widths and half-sizes.
Although the shoes are particularly relevant for people with disabilities, senior citizens and young kids, Price hopes to take his brand to the masses.
“Our target customer is everyone,” he said. “Yes, our shoes have adaptive characteristics, but we wouldn’t call them adaptive in the traditional sense of the word. Adaptive refers to a niche market, and although we can satisfy that market, we are not constrained by it. We prefer the term universal design. Our shoes work for and appeal to everyone — from your child who can’t yet tie his shoes, to your grandparent with arthritis, to your lazy roommate who simply doesn’t take the time. We’ve got you covered.”