Greetings, my name is Olguy Songolo; I am the CEO of Sports Medicine the Difference. I am the developer of the new, innovative, disruptive Heelless technology and own an athletic shoe brand.
Can you describe your journey and how you got to this moment in the present?
The journey started back in 1997. Initially, I was from Cameroon, and my father came to America for his studies - he is the one who invented the shoe - I just developed it. As an avid runner, he was still getting injured, and he wanted to figure out why he was still getting hurt. He did his dissertation on muscular skeletal injuries at Boston University and found that it is the shoes that we are wearing that are not allowing us to use the proper mechanisms to land correctly. This means that many people who run are what they call “heel strikers,” people who land from their heels and move from their heel to the toe. Avid runners realize that you are not supposed to land with your heel first because your heel is just a dot; there is essentially no shock-absorbent mechanism when you land on your heel. It is not a problem when you are walking because there is always a foot on the ground. However, when you run, there is a time of suspension where both feet are off the ground, and now you have an equal reaction force at least three times your bodyweight that is impacting the ground. Imagine every time you are running you are hitting the heel; now you start to have your knee problem, shin splints, and lower back problems. My dad said, “with all of these shoes that are out there, how come none of them have been able to solve this problem?” He performed research at Boston University to see if this landing pattern happened to people worldwide - long story short, it was.
One day my dad said, “why do we even have the heel on the shoe? If we just remove the heel, that would prevent the person from heel-striking.” He took a pair of his shoes and he literally cut off the heel and went for a run. It worked well, then one morning I got up to go to middle school, and I picked up my shoes, and I saw no heels on them. I went to school, and surprisingly enough, I was comfortable. He then tried it out on my sisters and my mother - it worked for them. He filed for a utility patent and was faced with the choice of pursuing the shoe and going into production or raising his children. He decided to invest in his children.
Fast-forwarding to the present, I graduated college in 2009, and I asked my dad if he ever was going to do anything with the patent. He said no and gave me the responsibility to sell the shoe. The first thing I had to do was create an outsole model of what the shoe will actually look like. I realized that I had to use a factory in China to produce the shoe. The twelve-hour time difference made me have to stay up until 2 AM our time to talk to them at 2 PM when they were done with their lunch; I landed at one specific factory because they told me that I would have to go there for them to produce the shoe and I really liked their honesty. The massive culture shock freaked me out at first. Fast forwarding, I was supposed to be there for three weeks, but after finishing the prototype I sent it to my dad and he said, “this is not the shoe.” I decided not to come back home until I had the prototype complete. At that point, our problem was that we were out of money, and my family came together and put everything they had into the business. The first thing I did after this was learn the basics of mandarin by hiring a tutor.
I ended up being in China for one year; throughout the whole time, many things tested me for my true grit. As an entrepreneur, the one thing that you want to understand is the word grit. This is how far you are willing to push yourself to achieve what you want to achieve. Throughout the time I was there I got hit by a car while I was riding a bike, we went through some typhoons, and I lost my relationship. On my final day, I got my sample product that we finished at 3:30 in the morning and had to get on my flight at 5 AM. I only had enough time to grab it and throw it in the suitcase; I didn’t have enough time to wear it or try it on; I just had to trust that the shoe was good after a full year of work. When I touched back down to Boston, I pulled out the sample, and my dad said, “this is my shoe.”
Part 2 of Olguy’s interview will be live next week!
Check out the podcast to listen to our whole conversation!