In 2013, after managing a team of over 70 people as a Director at Zynga, Lucy Beard quit her job to take a break from the outside world. Along with her beloved dog and husband, Beard embarked on a 6-month trek throughout Alaska, wearing down several pairs of her favorite shoes while traversing some of the world's most beautiful landscapes.
Upon her return, Beard searched for a new pair of shoes, but became frustrated when she couldn't find a pair perfectly fit for her. Around the same time, she also stopped by a coffee shop and noticed how the coffee machine could spew out dozens of drink varieties, all tailored to each customer’s needs. In this moment, Beard had an epiphany:
How could three machines make 87,000 types of coffee and I couldn’t get a pair of shoes?
Beard realized that while there were available technologies to aid consumers in finding shoes that fit, there were less technologies allow personal design. Doing some research, she developed the idea of employing emerging 3D printing technology to create customizable shoes. With this basic framework for a business idea in mind, she joined the San Diego Founder Institute to further develop the idea and kickstart her progress.
“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.
Beard graduated the program as the Founder of Feetz, a company that 3D prints custom shoes, with a mission to "offer 7 billion sizes: 1 for everyone in the world". Through a simple smartphone app, customers can take pictures of their feet from multiple angles, and then order a pair of shoes to be custom printed from a Feetz factory, where all manufacturing takes place in the United States.
The ability for 3D printers in controlling every layer and hence creating material mimicry by printing techniques means we can disrupt the current method of shoe manufacturing.
Since graduating from the Founder Institute, Feetz has gone on to raise several million dollars in funding (including an investment from the former CEO of Reebok), won multiple pitch competitions, set up offices in Nashville Tennessee and New York City, and gained features on major media channels like the Wall Street Journal, Fast Company, and more.
In addition, Feetz signed a partnership with DSW Inc., America's leading footwear and accessories retailer, to provide custom 3D-printed shoes at their stores.
If Lucy Beard keeps up this fast-pace of progress, then your next pair of shoes may be perfectly fitted to you from Feetz, in a one of 7 billion designs.