If you’re feeling like you’re in a bit of a funk, never underestimate the benefits of doing something to brighten someone else’s day — open a door for a stranger, buy the person 2 people behind you’s coffee, send a short message to thank someone who’s made a positive difference in your life or any little thing you think of on the spot. It generally comes back to boost your mood and brighten your day too.
As a part of my series about the women in wellness, I had the pleasure of interviewing Laina Gossman. Laina Gossman, the Founder/CEO of Soul Insole has a deep background in orthotic design, kinesiology, and biomechanics as well as multiple patents in her field. Her company, Soul Insole has grown into a well established and loved brand. Their foot rehabilitation products are sold online and in over 150 shoe stores, shoe repair stores, and doctors’ offices worldwide. Soul Insole was recently selected as one of just 6 finalists for Amazon’s Women-Owned Small Business Of The Year due to their success on the Amazon Platform and their inspiring efforts in helping people to get back on their feet and doing the things they love.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?
Soul Insole founder/CEO, Laina Gossman, got her start in a small San Diego shoe boutique that specialized in custom orthotics and fashionable comfort shoes. After exhausting every other resource including doctors, expensive casted orthotics, and surgeries, people began coming to Laina with their serious foot ailments to get something custom made that actually worked. With a background in kinesiology & biomechanics, Laina decided she wanted to help more people than she could by individually hand-carving orthotics. She filed a patent for her unique micro-size orthotic design, and as she began taking the steps towards manufacturing and building the brand, Soul Insole.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career? What were the main lessons or takeaways from that story?
Before I had begun production of my first product, I called up a foot-care distributor and asked to speak with the owner. Nervous and excited to catch him on the phone, I began to explain a little about my new product, how I was launching soon on Kickstarter, and I asked him if there was any chance that I could meet with him to learn more about his business and what he looks for when choosing products. He agreed to a meeting! After a short introduction, he proceeded to ask me if I knew how many people try to sell him their orthotics-” MANY!” Then he tossed his catalog my way and rhetorically asked me to flip through and see how many other brands of orthotics he actually carries-” NOT THAT MANY!”. I tried to hold back my intimidation and get to know him and see what I could learn from someone with so much experience in the industry. He warmed up, we had some laughs and eventually, I got the chance to show him my prototypes, which had no packaging, no displays, not even pricing yet. I got the feeling my time was up with him and graciously thanked him for his time. I asked if he was going to the FN Platform footwear convention as I planned to go check it out. He said he’d, of course, be there, paused for a few seconds and said to me “if you get your packaging, marketing materials, finished samples and pricing done by the date of the convention, I’ll let you stand in my booth. If your insoles sell, I’ll bring them on.” I did get those tasks done just in time, they did sell to about 12 stores at that first convention. The distributor has stuck with me over the years, opening so many doors for me, and he has become a dear friend. Be brave. Reach out to people who have been in your industry for a long time and seek advice. Talk on the phone, meet people face to face, even if it makes you nervous, you never know who will make the biggest differences in your business or personal life!
Can you share a story about the biggest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I initially began the manufacturing process with a man who was described as the best mechanical and chemical engineer in the footwear world. Unfortunately, my project did not rank high on his to-do list and he would take weeks and months to respond to simple emails and design improvements. Weeks became months, months became 2 years and the material never rose to the quality necessary for production. Finally, I decided to stop the headache of working with this manufacturer. I searched across the world, I made a list of over 60 manufacturers and narrowed it down to the one I have chosen to work with since my launch. They have impeccable quality standards, they were willing to take the time to develop my product materials to perfection and I have happily built a very good relationship with them over the years. I learned that the world is huge and not to be fooled to believe that there is only one person or one business who can accomplish a given task. I now search far and wide to find the very best at each task to move forward faster and smoother.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I’m eternally grateful for my mentor and friend, Michael Kendall. He is a genius biomechanist and he taught me almost everything that I know about customizing shoes and orthotics. I worked with Michael for over 7 years and had the pleasure to learn so much from him about foot care as well as health and longevity which are his other passions that he is deeply knowledgeable about. When I approached him about an orthotic design that I planned to patent, I told him that the idea wouldn’t have come without his lessons and if he would like his name to be on the patent, he is welcome to that. He said to me, “No, Laina, this one is yours. Go for it!” He is such a kind, generous person and I am so thankful to have him in my life.
Ok perfect. Now let’s jump to our main focus. When it comes to health and wellness, how is the work you are doing helping to make a bigger impact in the world?
Our feet support our entire body & I get to create effective solutions to support the feet. Foot pain can be debilitating & can impede our ability to work and to do the things that we love. My company works to improve peoples’ quality of life from the ground up. We also make an effort to be eco-friendly. We use recycled plastic in our packaging and we repurpose our boxes to create counter displays and reduce waste.
Can you share your top five“lifestyle tweaks” that you believe will help support people’s journey towards better wellbeing? Please give an example or story for each.
1. In the evenings before I go to bed, I like to write a list of my things to do for the next day. On my list, I also like to include an activity such as a hike, go to the gym, swim on that list. I feel like somehow when I’m sleeping, my brain is able to process that list so that I can get through more the next day.
2. I like to include a variety of vegetables and fruits in my diet. I also like to cook at home as often as possible. I’ve found that almost any vegetable can be cooked in a soup or curry and turn out tasting good and feeling healthy!
3. If you’re feeling like you’re in a bit of a funk, never underestimate the benefits of doing something to brighten someone else’s day — open a door for a stranger, buy the person 2 people behind you’s coffee, send a short message to thank someone who’s made a positive difference in your life or any little thing you think of on the spot. It generally comes back to boost your mood and brighten your day too.
4. Getting the right amount of sleep is key to feeling good and productive the next day. If I’m having trouble sleeping, I’ve found it very beneficial to slow my breath down by counting 5 seconds in, 5 seconds out, then 6 seconds in, 6 seconds out and building up the length of my breath cycle until I’m feeling more calm and peaceful.
5. Laughter is the best medicine! Of course, it doesn’t work for everything, but it sure makes me feel better and I think it’s a great ab exercise!
If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of wellness to the most amount of people, what would that be?
Plant a fruit tree in your front yard day. I think that if neighbors were to plant more fruit trees in their front yard to share respectfully with others, it could help neighbors get to know each other, it can provide fresh, nutritious, delicious sustenance to others in the community and increase sharing and kindness with one another on a large scale.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?
1. Before deciding on a person/company to work with, search far and wide so that you have a larger pool to choose from and you can make the best choice. This could have saved me a couple of years of wasted time and money!
2. The name of my company and my logo. I can’t tell you how many names and logos and domain names I went through, interviewing my friends and family on which they liked best before the day came that I woke up with an image in my head, designed the logo in a matter of minutes, didn’t have to ask anyone’s opinion and knew deep down that Soul Insole was the one.
3. Surround yourself with other entrepreneurs! They can be in almost any other field yet you will be able to relate and be able to learn valuable information relating to your own focus.
4. Appreciate each job you’ve ever had no matter how big or small. I feel that each place I’ve worked in my life taught me a lesson or a skill that I’ve used in my business.
5. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Starting a business is a continuous learning process.
Sustainability, veganism, mental health and environmental changes are big topics at the moment. Which one of these causes is dearest to you, and why?
Sustainability is an important topic for me. My sister is an engineer and she works for a company that turns waste into energy, so it’s something that we like to discuss together. The amount of trash that has built up in the oceans and on land is inconceivable. As a company, we strive to make the smallest footprint possible. We use recycled plastic for our packaging. We also recycle our box packaging to turn the boxes into counter displays for the retail stores and doctors’ offices, rather than making completely new displays which can later become trash for the landfills. We also refurbish returned insoles and use them for store displays.
What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?
Thank you for all of these great insights!