Founder, Shift Brands - athletic footwear designed especially to meet the needs of nurses. www.myshiftshoes.com
Putting one foot in front of the other isn’t always the easiest task – especially when it comes to the actual business of launching your own shoe brand.
“Sometimes in the fashion and retail industries, we’re not so much numbers driven as weird as that sounds. It can be a more emotionally driven decision-making process, which can be hard when you’re pitching new ideas to any kind of fashion or footwear company,” says Morrissey, the founder and lead designer of Shift Shoes, footwear specifically designed for nurses scheduled to launch in May 2024. “(My vision) just wasn’t translating to the branding of (my former) company at that time and the direction they wanted to go, but I still felt like it was a very important mission. I was excited to leave that company and start this on my own.”
Thanks to a $10,000 launch grant courtesy of Main Street Ventures, she is taking another step in the right direction to making her dream a reality.
STEP RIGHT UP
A 14-year veteran of the footwear industry whose experience includes stints at Anthropologie, Adidas and Rockport among others, Morrissey launched Shift Shoes in 2019 to address a market she feels is underserved: The estimated 3 and-a-half million people currently working as nurses in the United States. Set to launch in two styles and 8 colors, Shift Shoes feature specialized insoles, foam cushioning, contours and support along with a toe box designed to accommodate foot swelling when standing for extended periods.
The grant Morrissey received from Main Street Ventures has been utilized to conduct product testing with local Cincinnati hospitals. Additionally, she says some of the money has gone to help fund development costs for her product’s insoles, which are “really the differentiator when it come to the comfort package of our shoes.”
Morrissey is confident her product will bring a smile to the faces – and relief to the feet – of her potential client base.
“I always tell nurses, ‘Your feet are not the problem. There are a lot of nurses out there that feel like they’ve tried everything and it must be their feet … We just need to make a really great solution for you,” she says. “Nurses are on their feet continuously for 12 or more hours at a time; they're running, standing and walking on the hardest surfaces known to man. Running shoes are made for linear motion on pavement and nurses are running, walking, standing on extremely hard floors with exposure to fluids – what runner do you know that runs for 12 hours straight, day in and day out? Nurses need something that is much more durable, that is very easy to clean and is extremely breathable.”
Morrissey’s inspiration for and desire to be successful with her company comes from a very personal place: Her husband James and her parents, Sandra and Drew Parsons.
Noticing that James, a former nurse within the Air Force who is now completing his degree to become a nurse anesthetist, would routinely come home sore after working long shifts, Morrissey thought an easy fix existed to alleviate his pain. That was not the case, however, leading the Pennsylvania native – who ‘always’ told herself she would never start her own footwear company – to start seeking a solution.
That eventually grew into her exploring the idea of launching her own company and Shift Shoes was born in 2019. Pouring her savings into the idea, Morrissey also received emotional and financial support from her parents, noting how her father’s enthusiasm also served as inspiration throughout the development of her product.
“I’ve been very impacted by nurses throughout my life. I felt compelled to be the one to finally service them properly,” she says. “When my dad passed away in 2021, it just gave me that much more drive to really complete it.”
FASHION WITH PURPOSE
Nearing the end of a long journey where she has battled everything from a pandemic to supply chain issues, Morrissey hopes to make her husband, father and everyone who steps into a pair of Shift Shoes proud.
“Before my father passed, when I had this idea and I wanted to do this full-time, he was 100% supportive. I was very excited about the brand and the opportunity of doing this on my own,” she says. “I am hoping to really make an impact and hopefully make nurses proud to wear these shoes. I'm excited to see – and hopefully hear – some words of relief from nurses. I feel that I must take care of them (for) as long as they have taken care of my family.”
The support of an organization like Main Street Ventures, she says, has been “pivotal” to her journey’s progression.
“I'm not originally from Cincinnati or the Midwest – I'm from the East Coast – and breaking in and networking is hard. For me, I found a huge value not only with the grant, but what feels more important is the support system Main Street Ventures provides,” Morrissey says. “I had been talking with the head of the Entrepreneur Program at the Fashion Institute of Technology where I went to school. One of the first suggestions he had for me – and he's all the way out in New York – was to work with Main Street Ventures. Not only had I heard about them, but I also had been pointed in their direction from someone who is well connected but not even Cincinnati-based. That was huge for me … Just being a part of their network is awesome.”