Cause Haun was happily living her life as a mom and working with non-profit groups when she was struck with the idea of designing soft-soled, outdoor shoes for toddlers. She was unsatisfied with the selection of toddler shoes she found in stores and thought she just might want to do something about it. She did. Six years later, she's the co-owner (with her husband) and designer for See Kai Run, a popular line of toddler shoes.
See Kai Run is one of my favorite kids' footwear lines. How did you decide to become a shoe designer and fashion line owner?
Thank you! I'm so happy to hear when someone really likes our shoes. I never set out to become a shoe designer or a fashion line owner. When I had the need for outdoor flexible-soled shoes for my one-year-old son, Kai, and saw there wasn't anything available, I had the idea and it all flowed from there. I didn't have a background in footwear or design or anything related. But I knew there was room in the marketplace for my idea of fashionable kids shoes with flexible soles for outdoors.
See Kai Run is now a well known line; I see your shoes everywhere. You must be thrilled with your own success, but I'm sure it was a lot of work to get to this point. Tell us a little about it.
It has been thrilling to see our little company grow. We're actually still a pretty small company - a lean and mean machine of only 13 employees, including me and my husband. We've been incredibly successful and it's been a blessing for us in so many ways. Getting here, though, has not always been a smooth ride.
We've had to learn to manage people. Learn to work with retailers. Learn to work with sales representatives. Learn to work with the existing footwear industry. And learn to work with each other! My husband, Gang, and I started this company together. Working every day with your spouse leads, at least in our case, to some amazing discoveries about each other. See Kai Run's management team is also made up of close friends. So there was a period of adjustment, shall we say! We've all come out of these experiences stronger and closer, and I feel it's been a core element of See Kai Run's success.
Do you still remember the first time a customer wrote to you about your shoes? What did s/he say?
No, but I absolutely do remember the first time I saw a customer post about our shoes on a message board. It was thrilling! They basically said what our customers say today: Have you seen these shoes? They are so cute and the leather is butter soft. The rubber soles are so flexible and my child loves them! From those first postings, the word spread like wildfire. Moms across the country went to their local boutiques and told the owners they should carry our shoes. Our growth was amazing and completely organic, as we didn't spend one penny on advertising.
What were you doing before you became a shoe designer and co-owner of See Kai Run?
Pre-Kai, I worked with non-profit groups that coordinate high school international student exchange. I worked with wonderful, dedicated people (mostly moms) who made a difference in their communities by recruiting families to voluntarily host teenagers from around the world in their home for 5 or 10 months. I truly believe that student exchange is life-changing for the American communities that host as well as for the exchange students.
I know that See Kai Run participates in the Soles4Souls program, which is a wonderful charity. Tell us about that experience.
What an amazing organization! A former executive in footwear, Wayne Elsey saw the incredible waste in the footwear industry. According to Wayne, over 300 million children world-wide have never had one pair of shoes – the same number of shoes that are thrown into American landfills each year. This is not a matter of comfort, but a matter of preventing injury and infection in children who must travel great distances in their daily life. He saw a need and he did something about it. From the beginning, they have been really wonderful to work with, always appreciative of See Kai Run's donations, no matter how big or small. We have been able to supply tens of thousands of children around the world with needed footwear.