Earlier this year, we invited some 2011 Mass Challenge finalists to visit SolidWorks headquarters in Waltham, MA. If you’re not familiar with the Mass Challenge, it’s a Boston-area organization that connects early-stage startups with the people and resources they need to get started.
One of those resources is a space where entrepreneurs can work until they can afford offices. The space includes a few computers with SolidWorks installed (SolidWorks is a sponsor). Startups must apply to be included in the program. In 2012, 1,237 startups applied, and only 125 were accepted–that’s a lower acceptance rate than many Ivy League universities.
As I mentioned, we invited a few of the 2011 finalists to visit us, including Candice Cabe from Day2Night Convertible Heels. I wanted to take a few moments to talk about Candice’s story, because I think her company is a bit different than many of the SolidWorks customers you hear about, and also because it encapsulates the entrepreneurial spirit of the SolidWorks community.
Day2Night is a company making a unique kind of ladies shoe—one with five interchangeable heels. When I asked Candice how she got the idea for this kind of shoe, she told me that the idea first came to her long ago. Her first job out of college required a lot of travel as well as numerous kinds of shoes. Working in the boating industry, she often found herself going straight from a boat to a fancy dinner—and trying to change from a low heeled shoe to a higher one in between. On any given business trip, she found herself packing a suitcase filled with nothing but shoes to accommodate her various needs. Candice told me she found herself wishing she could take one pair of shoes that could work for every situation.
Candice later entered the MBA program at Babson College in Wellesley, MA, which is one of the best programs in the US for entrepreneurship.
While she was there, she decided to pursue her idea of making a new kind of shoe—one with interchangeable heels—and asked some of the engineers she met how she might go about creating a prototype. She ended up learning all about 3D CAD, and just as importantly, 3D printing.
Candice started contacting every school in the Boston area with a mechanical engineering department to recruit designers. She was eventually invited to participate in the Mass Challenge, and with her new recruits, began to take advantage of the free SolidWorks licenses. As she progressed in the design process, her local SolidWorks reseller also helped her with the first 3D prints of her convertible heel design.
Candice decided to try using Kickstarter to raise some initial funds, and came out with over $16,000 pledged through the presale of 400 pairs of shoes. She used that money to hire a professional engineering firm to help her move closer to a production product, and is continuing to refine the prototype. Candice told me that the 3D printing process—along with the Simulation capabilities in SolidWorks—has been what really made the project possible at all.
As the heel height changes, the center of gravity changes, necessitating slight design changes for each heel profile. Making a 3D print helps
the Day2Night team understand how a heel will perform under stress, pressure and load, as well as verify the aesthetics. This would not be possible with other materials like foam, blocks of wood. She and the designers can also simulate stress scenarios from surfaces such as cobblestones, and the torque a heel experiences while the wearer dances.
Day2Night has now reached the point that they’re ready to move into the production phase. To simplify the process, the shoes themselves will be made by a traditional shoe manufacturer in China, and the heels will be made separately at an injection molding plant. The heels will then be shipped to the shoemaker for packaging.
But she still needs another $60,000 to hit full production, and is actively seeking investors to make her dream come true. Being a Mass Challenge finalist has really helped Candice and her company get closer to their goals, and Candice told me that she now requires that any potential partner or supplier use SolidWorks. It always excites me to see someone with a great idea turn it into something real with help from SolidWorks software, and I know that Candice’s story is only one of the thousands that are out there. If you or anyone you know might be interested in a single pair of shoes that can go from the office to the nightclub, keep an eye on Day2Night. And if you have a similar story to share, let me know.