Glenn Barrett’s impact on the footwear industry can been felt in many respects, from the fact that he’s made shoes across the world more comfortable through his high-performance insoles or that he was an early proponent of sustainable manufacturing, by incorporating recycled rubber into his products.
But on June 6, the founder and CEO of OrthoLite Inc. will be honored by Two Ten Footwear Foundation with the A.A. Bloom Memorial Award, which recognizes the hard work, dedication and unselfish actions of an individual in service to Two Ten.
Barrett recently served for two years as chair of Two Ten’s Major Gifts and Development Committees, and the nonprofit said that he “worked tirelessly to fundraise on behalf of the foundation.”
When asked about his best tactic for soliciting donations, Barrett said, “I lead by example — period.”
And indeed, he has. At the height of the pandemic, the CEO and his wife, Midge, stepped up in a major way, committing $500,000 to Two Ten’s COVID-19 Crisis Relief Fund. The donation helped people in the industry who were laid off or furloughed due to the health crisis.
Two Ten president and CEO Shawn Osborne told FN, “The spirit of [the A.A. Bloom] award is it’s someone who has always given greatly to Two Ten through not only money but initiatives and time, which is Glenn and how he has continued to support our organization for decades.”
Barrett’s honor this month is something of a full-circle moment, as it was the son of Two Ten founder A.A. Bloom who recruited him to the organization over three decades ago.
“When I first gained some success by selling my first company, I was approached by Fred Bloom at Two Ten,” said Barrett. “He explained that it was time for me to think about giving back to the industry that provided me with this opportunity. Fred didn’t offer me a choice really — he explained that basically it was my duty to support our industry charity. I agreed and did.”
After making his mark in the rubber sole business, Barrett founded OrthoLite in 1997, at a time when he said the insides of shoes were “a hot and smelly and sweaty place.”
Utilizing a new innovation — an open-cell, breathable polyurethane foam with antimicrobial properties — the executive set out to revolutionize the insole business.
His gamble has certainly paid off. OrthoLite now supplies footwear insoles to more than 350 brands, from athletic giants like Nike and Adidas to fashion players such as Michael Kors, Kenneth Cole and Sam Edelman. And the business continues to grow amid the market-wide shift toward sneakers and comfort-focused footwear.
According to OrthoLite, which as a private firm does not disclose its financial numbers, 2021 was the “best year in the company’s history” following more record-setting gains in 2020. That came despite the global supply chain crunch caused by factory shutdowns and shipping and distribution delays.
Even as the company is riding high, Barrett continues to look for ways to use his success to benefit others, noting that Two Ten is a key focus for his philanthropic efforts.
“Two Ten is such a unique and wonderful organization. What started about 80 years ago, when a bunch of salesmen in Boston passed a hat to help fellow workers in need, is pretty much how Two Ten works to this day,” he explained. “The shoe business has been very good to me. It’s important to recognize when you are fortunate and to give back.”