When entrepreneur Maija Benincasa decided to switch careers at the age of 34, leaving her job as a senior brand manager at a major food company to enter the shoe business, she wasn’t about to offer consumers just another pair of pretty pumps.
Instead, she set about creating Benincasa Milano, a direct-to-consumer line of high-end footwear designed to alleviate the pain associated with wearing high heels. “Burning under the ball of the foot is the No. 1 issue,” she noted.
The start of her journey began by immersing herself in shoe design at the Arsutoria School in Italy, which offers shoemaking courses. “I wanted to marry the worlds of fashion and technology,” said Benincasa.
Next she reached out to the medical community to better understand the complex aspects of foot anatomy. She then worked with a biomedical engineer at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center to develop a technology that would offer each consumer a custom insert built into shoes designed to help relieve under-foot pain and pressure.
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The process is simple: Consumers select a style and size online, and they receive an at-home kit that they can use to take an impression of their feet, which is then returned to the company. Using 3-D imaging, the company uses these measurements to create individual inserts.
While the inserts are made in the U.S., the footwear is produced in Italy and retails from $475 to $525. Current styles include sandals, pumps and booties. Shoes are delivered within two weeks. And once a client’s measurements are on file, future orders can be easily customized.
And while shoes are customized, Benincasa says shoppers will still have the opportunity to return or exchange them unworn within 14 days.
Since launching the company six months ago — funded by Benincasa with support from and family and friends — she has been joined by her sister Anne Stockstill, whose background is in biomedical engineering and has now brought her expertise to the business.
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