What’s your story?
From a small town out of Pittsburgh, PA, Andrew Rademacher excelled at track and field allowing him to reach the collegiate level where he became a decathlete for Purdue University. Andrew was then forced to wear 10 different pairs of shoes for each event, resulting in a myriad of injuries from what he believed was caused by the footwear. After graduation, he began dissecting shoes to understand the craftsmanship and design of the products in the footwear industry.
What’s your “why”?
During the time when Andrew could not find the right shoe for him, he took matters into his own hands by learning the ins and outs of the footwear industry. After years of research, he started to understand the biomechanics of the foot and footwear that would compliment the foot, instead of working against it.
At the time he was working for Starbucks, as well as a footwear store, fitting customers’ feet with different types of shoes. In his spare time, he would then cut up shoes that he owned to better understand the construction of each one. Using that knowledge, he set out to create a shoe that he thought would be a healthy alternative to what was currently on the market.
This process was around the time of the barefoot running movement with Fivefingers and Altra leading the pack. Rather than focusing on the running shoe market, Andrew set his sights on casual footwear. If people are conscious of what they’re wearing one hour of the day while exercising, why not be more in tune for the remaining 23 hours of the day? With that being said, in 2011 Andrew released his first product – the Primal, which is still the number one selling shoe that we offer to date.
How did you get funding?
Lems is not a public company and by such, all funding for current and future production is acquired by sales. We are 100% family owned without any investors or shareholders, and plan to stay that way.
What’s your flagship product or the main products?
The Primal 2, being our original product, has always been our top seller. With the release of the Boulder Boot in 2012, it quickly grew to be in line with the Primal 2 as one of the best products we offer. With the recent release of the Trailhead, Lems has tapped into a different market offering a transitional style for those looking to ease into a “barefoot” shoe.
Because our footwear offers health aspects that allow the biomechanics of the foot to move naturally, we’re able to reach a wide audience of those in high school, up to anywhere from age 75+ that are looking to keep their feet happy and healthy all day long.
Who’s your ideal customer?
In a day in age when the majority of footwear brands are under umbrella corporations where funding is not a concern, our ideal customer is any consumer who chooses to support our small, independent footwear brand.
Why does sustainability matter?
As much as we would love to have our manufacturing domestic, here in the U.S., it would substantially drive up the costs of our products for our customers. With that being said, we use a family-owned factory in China to produce our shoes that strictly follows Child Labor Laws along with fair and ethical working conditions. Andrew has a close relationship with our manufacturer and travels to China multiple times a year.
Do you contribute to your local community?
In any industry where products are manufactured on a large scale, the reality is that you are going to have some flawed products as a result. Whenever we receive such items, which could be the smallest of defects, those shoes are sent to Soles4Souls – in order to help those who are less fortunate.
Advice to other entrepreneurs starting out?
College classrooms can try and teach you as much as possible regarding the ins and outs of business, but it’s not until you start on your own where you find out and learn the most about what you want to achieve, and how you wish to achieve it.