MW of the Month // September 2, 2014

For Dr. Michele Colon you would think being a podiatrist with a thriving practice would be enough. But being made is all about wanting more out of life and working hard to get it. So this consummate professional didn’t stop there. Michele took her knowledge and experience as a podiatrist and started her own line of women’s shoes, 34 Minutes. The market for footwear is a crowded one, but Dr. Michele Colon has honed in on the one thing missing from the shoe racks: shoes with style and comfort.


Now Michele has two businesses and the creative outlet she always wanted. I wanted to find out what made her diversify her entrepreneurial efforts and how she manages it all. We sat down to chat and I was impressed with her poise and graciousness. She’s a doctor and a business owner for goodness sakes! Check out my interview with her below:


Serena Watson: Lets talk about your educational background. I know that you went to Cal for undergrad, and then you went to University of Miami for med school. Why did you choose Podiatry?


Michele Colon: Well, I chose Podiatry because I really love the profession. We get to do a little bit of everything related to the foot, including surgery. I knew that I wanted to be a mom, and I wanted to be able to work and so, that was another thing that really drew me to Podiatry. It was one of those fields that allowed flexibility, I could really structure it and make my own schedule. I really made it into a 9-5 practice and I’m able to be home with my daughter in the evening, so it really worked out for me.


SW: So after four years of med school and another two years of physical training you had your private practice. Why did you decide to go ahead and create the 34 Minute line?

MC: Well, what I was noticing over the years, was so many women asking me, if I could fix their feet so that they could wear their high heels. I started looking at the shoes that they were wearing and what type of problems they were having, and noticed that there weren’t many options for them. They didn’t have [options with] a stylish look and feel but that would address those issues with comfort; a little bit wider, a little bit more stable, a little bit more arch support. So I started looking into designs of my own, created my prototype and assessed it. I decided that I could help a lot of women by creating more comfortable shoes for them.


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SW: Your line of shoes is intended for women in business, entrepreneurs. What is the mission behind the line in your own words?


MC: The mission is to show women that they don’t really have to suffer. You always hear the saying that beauty is pain. I really want to change that idea and show [women] that they can actually have both. You really don’t have to suffer, you can still look good and feel good at the same time.


SW: OK, so we talked about finding the right shoe, what are the worst shoes for women's feet?


MC: The worst shoes are actually the really, really flat shoes. Take an Ugg style boot for example. It’s completely flat, has no arch support. Or a flip flop or the type of sandal that’s completely flat. Those are actually the worst shoes because they don’t give any support so they kind of wobble.



SW: OK, got you. I’ll keep that in mind. Can you talk a little bit about the harmful effects of wearing these types of shoes. The really flat ones, or even the really high heels over time.


MC: Yeah, studies have shown that women who only wear high heels and wear them for years and years will actually have effects on their feet later. Their Achilles tendon starts to get tight and then contracted and then when they wear flats, they’re very uncomfortable and have to end up wearing a little bit of a heel all the time. When people wear the really flat shoes all the time, they end up getting a lot of problems like heel spurs, bunions, hammertoes and deformities like that. When the foot doesn’t have that any support and it moves too much from side to side, the toes work in a way that they’re not supposed to. They kind of grip the floor. Picture your toes gripping the floor and turning into little monkey fingers, that’s actually the shape of your toes when they get older and when you wear those type of shoes over the years.



SW: Yikes! Good to know. So, I read about this a little bit on your site, but why 34 minutes?

MC: We took the name because 34 minutes is the average amount of time before high heels start hurting a woman's foot. I get so many reactions from women when they hear that like, “I can only wear my high heels for five minutes.” Which is funny because there are some shoes that as soon as you put them on, they hurt. So, [34 minutes] was an average of over 4,000 women who answered a study conducted by a podiatrist.


SW: What makes the 34 Minutes line different from other shoe brands?


MC: When I was researching shoes and designing my own prototype, what I found was shoes were usually too narrow in the front, they squeezed the toes too tight causing some of the deformities. So I have a little bit wider base for a shoe box, I have some really supportive materials through the arch set and I have a really nice arch support inside every shoe. A lot of people said they would get store-bought arch support and put it in their high heel, but it would slip around and wouldn’t fit properly. So we built that into every heel. Also, our heel is a little bit more sturdy, and a little bit chunkier so it could give a little bit more support rather than a really pointy stiletto.


SW: Can you describe the process of going from design to production on the shoe?

MC: I had to create my own prototype, frame, dimensions, all of that, and have that made somewhere. Once I had my prototype made, I was able to take that to the factory and ask them if this was something they could duplicate and then they worked on the design back and forth with me. Luckily, I found a factory in the U.S. -- it’s actually here in Los Angeles. So I’m able to drive over there any time I want and work with them. Once we got all of the designs worked out, ordered all of our products and materials, we were able to start production. It was about a two year process.

SW: Where do you get your inspiration for designs?


MC: I actually work with my sister who is an artist and fashion designer. We work together on the styles and she is amazing, she can come up with so many original designs and then from there we decide which ones will work, which ones we want to modify and that’s pretty much the way we work together on that.


SW: That’s really cool that you guys are working together. What is the response that you’re getting from women who try on your shoes and can can wear them longer than 34 minutes?


MC: Oh my gosh, it’s so awesome to see women try them on for the first time because almost every time the first thing they say is “ohhh” or “ahhhh” or they make some type of little noise that’s just like that. Like they’re surprised by the comfort they feel when they put the shoe on. Some of the shoes they’re trying on are 4-inch heels and they’re just amazed that they can be that comfortable. After they purchase them or wear them for a while, I just get a lot of emails and comments back from them saying, “I love my shoes, I can’t wait to buy my next pair” and “I told my sister” or “I told a friend about them” and it’s really lovely comments like that from everybody.


In her desire to help her patients beyond their regular doctors visits, Michele Colon has discovered another successful business for herself. Can’t be mad at that! She is just another example of how reaching for more can bring about huge change and much success beyond your wildest dreams. For more information on Dr. Colon and her shoe line visit 34minuteshoes.com!


Published in Business