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Christina Daves, the visionary behind the CastMedic brand, conceived the idea while wearing an orthopedic boot following a foot fracture.
As a businesswoman who previously owned an upscale boutique she began searching for products on the market to dress-up the unattractive, heavy black medical boot. With nothing available, she began designing cuffs and accessories to take the boot from a casual affair to the office to formal events with styles for both children and adults.
CastMedic Designs has created MediFashions to help the injured look and heal their best and experience, The Healing Power of Fashion®
MO: Do you really believe that fashion has the power to heal?
Christina: Does it have “the power to heal”? No. Does it have the power to help you feel better about yourself and in-turn have a more positive outlook on the injury? Absolutely! . Studies have shown the power of positive thought and laughter, which creates endorphins, can help in the healing process. If you are placed in, for example, a big, bulky medical boot, people are going to stare at it and might even ask what happened, why are you in the boot, and in general, feel sorry for you. When you go out in an accessorized fashionable boot, people instead will say, “Oh my gosh! That is SO cute!” This creates a positive message and positive energy, which makes a person feel better about the injury.
MO: Can you talk about your entrepreneurial journey and some of the challenges you encountered when trying to fuse high fashion with orthopedic boots? Did anyone think that you were crazy or were people supportive from the start?
Christina: Interestingly, people have been very supportive about it but that is because SO many people have either been in a boot or known someone who was in a boot. There are close to 4 million people a year in the U.S. prescribed medical boots. People complain about them all the time but no one ever came up with a way to make them look better. When we held focus groups, the participants loved the products! We had a hard time narrowing down the line.
As any entrepreneur knows, there are MANY challenges we face along the way. Our biggest challenge at the beginning was manufacturing the product. We had no idea how difficult it would be to get a new product concept manufactured. The U.S. factories didn’t “get it” and weren’t willing or interested in taking on the project. It took several attempts at working with different manufacturer’s reps of overseas factories to actually get the product made. We literally wasted almost 8 months during this process.
Then, we finally had a product line ready to sell, but how does one make the public aware of a product that has never existed before? We had no idea the challenges in this. We have a great product, a great website but how do you get people there? Even a top SEO company advised us not to work with them (or anyone else yet) because no one would be searching for this product so search engine optimization wouldn’t matter yet. We are overcoming this obstacle but it was one we did not expect.
One of my personal entrepreneurial lessons I love to share is that you have to be adaptable. Just because you have a plan written down on paper does not mean that IS the only way it is going to work. You have to be willing to fail and realize that you have failed, figure out why, and move in a different direction in order to ultimately succeed. There is nothing wrong with failure as long as you learn from it and adapt. Trying to force the failure will cause ultimate failure.
MO: Orthopedic boots have a long standing reputation of being unattractive and unstylish. Now that I see your boots and accessories it just seems like such an obvious market. Why do you think no one has ever tried to combine fashion and orthopedics before? What have been some of the challenges of being first to market?
Christina: I can’t tell you how many people have said, “This is one of those… Duh! Why didn’t I think of that products?”
The reason I moved forward with this product line is because I felt unhappy and depressed when I was in the medical boot. I’m normally such a positive person and I really couldn’t stand those feelings so I decided to focus all that negative energy and turn it into a passion to help other people in a similar situation. I can’t imagine anyone has ever said, “Wow! This boot is awesome… and so stylish!” Now, CastMedic Designs has found a way to make it stylish and create a positive conversation if someone wants to comment on the boot.
As I mentioned above, the biggest challenge we face now is product awareness. Being first to market is great, however, people need to know the product exists.
MO: What does your marketing strategy look like and how have you been attracting an audience in a narrow market?
Christina: We are constantly striving to make the orthopedic industry aware of the product as well as the general public. We have been featured in many magazines and trade publications. We have been interviewed on various radio programs. We were covered on a Fox affiliate segment entitled,“From the Red Carpet to the Real World.” And, we have been written about in many blogs. For CastMedic Designs and our MediFashions, it is all about product awareness and we continue to send press information, story ideas, respond to reporter’s inquiries, and contact people in the orthopedic and podiatric communities to raise that awareness.
MO: You actually have a big selection of fashionable boots and accessories. Where do you find your inspiration and do you have any favorite designs?
Christina: The first designs were the faux fur Wrap-Its, which are cuffs for the top of the boot. The thought was, “Why not make it look like a fashionable winter boot?” I just imagined a woman injured on the ski slopes and stuck in the lodge for the rest of her vacation. Making it look like a gorgeous winter boot would let her “fit in” to the styles at the lodge.
Then came the thought of how to make it fun and fashionable for summer? I wanted to find a way to dress up the body of the boot so I designed the Sock-Its, which are half socks that go up the liner of the medical boot. Obviously bright colors are so “in” right now so I went with those. Missoni recently crashed Target’s website with their designs so I thought I couldn’t go wrong choosing a similar zig-zag pattern. Houndstooth is timeless and so great for the corporate woman. For the boys I went with jersey mesh and camo, which are timeless as well. I went with flower Strap-Its because flowers are always in style and always make people feel good. Just waking up in the morning and being able to put my medical boot on and a flower would have changed my mood for the day and made me so much happier.
Lastly, I wanted to come up with something fun for kids. Doctors are trending away from hard casts to give patients more mobility and less rehab. So the kids get a great fun-colored cast for 1-2 weeks and are then moved to the big, ugly black or grey boot with no way to have fun with it. We designed not only bright colored Sock-Its but also ones they can have their friends sign like they do the hard casts. And the great thing about a signed Sock-It versus a signed hard cast is that the kids can keep the Sock-It whereas the cast is cut off and thrown away. I also came up with Click-Its which are fun themed buttons they can put on the straps of the boot. The best part about our products is that the flower Strap-Its come with alligator clips and pin backs and the Click-Its have pin backs so all of these can be used after injury as well.
I don’t have any particular favorites. They all serve a unique purpose whether it’s going to work, a party, school, or just running errands but wanting to feel better about yourself.
MO: Can you expand on how you’re working with orthopedic suppliers to get your products in doctor’s offices across the country?
Christina: I have partnered with one of the largest orthopedic suppliers in the country and through his distribution network we hope to have these products available in orthopedic offices throughout the United States. This way, when the doctor walks in the room and places the patient in the medical boot, right then and there they will have the opportunity to dress it up and instantly feel better about themselves before they even leave the doctor’s office.
MO: I love that you invite your customers to share their recovery stories on your blog. How does it feel to be connecting with your customers on such a personal level and do any of their stories stand out?
Christina: We hear all the time, “I wish I could break my foot to wear your designs.” Of course no one really “wants” to break their foot, but it is so great to know that if they do, we are here and can make a positive difference on the recovery process. People love that they now have a gift they can give a friend or relative when they are recovering from surgery or an injury. I had one customer call me to make sure his order would arrive before Mother’s Day. He was SO happy that he had such a great gift to give his mother, who “has everything” but was in a medical boot for some time. He knew she would absolutely love it!
I think my favorite story was my very first non-friend or family customer. Somehow she found out about us even before the website was up and she wanted items for her boot before her trip to Paris. She was so lovely and sent pictures of her in her decorated boot in front of all the famous Paris landmarks! My very first customer took us international!