Sole Choice, Inc.

(Submitted by Kelly O’Bryant, Business Specialist, SBDC Export Assistance Network, OSU South Centers)

At one point in history, Portsmouth, Ohio, was a shoe-making mecca with 5,000 industry employees. When the last of the industry was on the verge of closing, seven partners some investing their life savings to keep the, then, Michellace, facility open. In 2009, Sole Choice, Inc. launched. Located at 830 Murray Street in Portsmouth, Ohio, it occupies a manufacturing space on a five-acre site in Portsmouth, Ohio. Built in 1918 and expanded in 1929 and 1947, the building has survived the economic decline as well as the 1937 Portsmouth flood.

Sole Choice began with 15 people on staff and 24 customer accounts. They currently have more than 50 on staff and over 400 customer accounts. They are a team of hardworking, honest, and dedicated individuals, who provide innovative and flexible solutions to meet the needs of customers. They have been providing quality products to the retail and industrial markets for over 100 years and take pride in their history. This is company with a long-term reputation for innovation, quality, efficiency and delivery for serve on a local and global basis.

Sole Choice manufactures:
• Trims: hood cords, twill tape, binding and webbing, tipped, spooled, blocked, hot cut, and cold cut put-ups with dye to match colors
• Shoelaces: found, flat and oval, tipped or fused in a variety of lengths, waxed and anti-wicking treatments available, available colors
• Print lace and ad specialties: designed products for sporting events, radio stations, give-a-ways, direct mail, and trade shows — offering customers the creative option of printing up to six colors and using a variety of textiles including polyester, nylon, cotton, Kevlar, reflective material, and wax

Bryan Davis, Executive Director, shared, “Our products are ‘Made in America.’ We source most of our raw material right here too. Our yarns come from North Carolina, South Carolina, and Alabama. Our primary customers are the footwear industry, medical industry, Department of Defense, and our work with the apparel industry has been growing over the years.”
Ryan Bouts, Executive Director, said, “Our willingness to work with clients to develop and produce designer products sets us apart within our industry. At any given time, we have 10 to 12 new products, colors, or designs being developed.”

When Sole Choice, Inc. began focusing on marketing their business, they met with Kelly O’Bryant, director of the Small Business Development Center’s Export Assistance Center at the Ohio State University South Centers-Piketon. Davis mentioned, “Kelly suggested the Ohio IMAGE Grant to help us expand our marketing and international reach. Kelly explained that the program is funded federally through the State Trade Expansion Program (STEP)–in essence, we are getting some of our tax dollars back. Kelly was very hands-on through the whole project. The application process was simple and took only minutes to apply. We doubled our attendance at key international industry tradeshows across the country. We also developed a customer brand book.”

Bouts added, “Kelly was very responsive to questions. She walked us through the application process. It is still a bit early to record impacts; but we have been able to budget for more international trade show exposure. Also in less than a year, we have gleaned more than 50 new contacts. It opened up a whole new region for us in Asia.”
The company has certainly been involved with some interesting projects over the years: a 100 ft. long shoelace for a 15 ft. tall boot for Redwing’s 100-year anniversary; a commissioned nautical rope-like shoelace project; the glow-in-the-dark lace project, where laces glow up to 4 hours; the Bluelace Project, where a strongman pulled a 13,000 lb. truck with a pair of 51” shoelaces; cords on space shuttle; cordage for catheter bags for hospitals; cords in radar systems for Royal Navy; shoeslaces in first-line military boots; shoelaces for forest firefighting boots; organic cotton shoelaces made for an all natural product shoe; and much more.

Bouts said, “We’ve modeled our company to cater to the industry design element. We don’t have the cookie-cutter approach to our product development that some of our competitors do. When we are challenged to come up with a solution, we don’t shy away. We work closely with customers to reach their product goal.”

Davis added, “Also we are strategically located in a textile hotbed with ¾ of the population within 600 miles. We can ship within two days to Norfolk, two days to Chicago, or three days to Jacksonville or Mobile.”

For more information about Sole Choice, go to http://www.solechoiceinc.com, call 740-354-2813, or email sales@solechoiceinc.com.