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Washago woman's business proposition to be featured on Dragons' Den

By Gisele Winton Sarvis, Special to Postmedia Network

Washago resident Sue Kenney puts her Barebottoms shoes on Arlene Dickinson, an investor on the CBC TV show Dragons' Den, last year. Kenney's appearance has been selected for the show. The episode will air Jan. 15. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)

Washago resident Sue Kenney puts her Barebottoms shoes on Arlene Dickinson, an investor on the CBC TV show Dragons' Den, last year. Kenney's appearance has been selected for the show. The episode will air Jan. 15. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)

Sue Kenney is dancing in the snow.

The Washago woman's pitch for Barebottoms sole-less shoes will be broadcast on the hit TV show Dragons' Den Jan. 15 at 8 p.m. and Jan. 19 at 9 p.m. on CBC.

She is planning a party Jan. 15 in Toronto and Jan. 19 in Orillia at Brewery Bay Food Co. during the broadcasts.

“Everyone is invited to come out and watch the show. It will be fun,” Kenney said, clearly excited about the show, the details of which she has had to keep quiet since the episode was filmed in April.

She auditioned for the show in February when her sole-less, handmade shoes were in the conceptual stage.

“They audition thousands of people. They pick about 200 to pitch to the Dragons. I pitched it in front of the Dragons in April. It's pretty exciting because they only pick about 60 to be aired,” she said. “It's all secret. I can't say what happens."

"I pitched my idea not as a working business, but as a concept idea. It was really challenging. The Dragons put their own money into these investments. They are tough,” Kenney said.

Going barefoot is an excellent method of connecting to the earth, Kenney believes. It's also a great way to develop muscles in the feet.

But Kenney has found some business owners don't want barefoot customers, so she designed the shoes to cover and decorate the top of the feet, give a little grip, but otherwise be open on the bottom.

While she uses the shoes for many purposes, she has marketed them for barefoot fitness activities such as yoga.

She has been selling the shoes through her website, suekenney.ca, for $48. They are also available in Orillia at Kind Living and in Barrie at Ann Green Yoga.

Until recently, she had been hand-making the shoes with two assistant “cobblers” from Barrie.

Since making her pitch on Dragons' Den, she has been selling more shoes than she and her cobblers can make, so she's sought out a manufacturer.

Hides in Hand in Rockwood, which has workers hand-making the shoes, was chosen.

“I had to have dyes made for the pattern and work closely with Hides in Hand so that it works,” she said.

Then, she decided to get the shoes into retail stores, but found out she had to have packaging for them first.

“So, now I have a bright orange box that the shoes go in,” she said.

“The next step is to find a Canadian distributor and a U.S. distributor.”

She is also working on expanding the product line to another material, a “vegan option” that will be coming out early in the new year.

Local videographer Tyler Knight created a YouTube video for her about Barebottoms and she has a Facebook page.

Social-media savvy, Kenney also plans to use Skype technology during her show airings to share the celebrations with as many people as possible and be able to converse with people afterward about the outcome.

gisele.wintonsarvis@sunmedia.ca


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