When senior communications major and TurfToes co-founder Braxton Norwood studied abroad, he noticed a few differences between Barcelona and his native Colorado. Chief among them, Barcelona’s shocking lack of grass.
“I thought it would be kind of cool to bring grass to every person regardless of their location,” Norwood said. “So you can be anywhere and experience that amazing feeling.”
This sentiment, along with partner and fellow Colorado State University senior Tanner Eley’s experience as Nike’s merchandise coordinator for the whole Hawaiian Islands, led to the birth of TurfToes and their signature product, the synthetic grass-lined sandal.
It was this concept that earned the duo a spot in the CSU Venture Accelerator Program. After graduating from the program in spring of 2014, TurfToes and four other businesses were admitted to The CSU Hatchery.
Since June, Eley and Norwood have been working out of this CSU-rented office space located in the Rocky Mountain Innosphere in northern Fort Collins, where Norwood said it has been helpful “having a space to lay your grass out and talk about stuff one-on-one.”
Using the same sort of grass as putting greens on golf courses, Norwood and Eley have created several prototypes for men, women and children that they say offer more comfort and longevity than your average sandal.
“What’s awesome about this kind of turf is that over time, over months of wear and tear, it’ll actually mold to your foot,” Norwood said. “[Our sandals] will actually keep the arch, keep the toe spots.”
While Eley explains that his experience with Nike has helped him make their sandals attractive and marketable, he believes it is the quality that is imperative to their success.
“That’s something that’s really important to a company is a product that not only looks attractive, but feels great and is long lasting,” Eley said.
Living in a college town, Eley and Norwood realize their product’s potential marketability among the local student populace, but they do not want to limit themselves to that market alone.
“Our main demographic is middle-aged people in general, whether it’s sports fans, outdoorsy type of people or just anyone in general that wears sandals,” Eley said.
CSU Institute for Entrepreneurship Assistant Program Director Jessica Rowley said that TurfToes has made great strides since entering The Hatchery.
“They’ve been really proactive about figuring out a plan, figuring out what needs to be done and creating a timeframe for development,” Rowley said.
The two student entrepreneurs intend to launch a mid-October Kickstarter with a campaign goal of $100,000 to fund their manufacturing. Currently, TurfToes’ sandals are not available for retail, but consumers are able to pre-order from their website.
“We’re looking to, in the next couple of years, be all over the U.S., possibly the world,” Norwood said. “We’re not trying to fit in, we’re trying to stand out and we’re trying to target those kinds of people that have that same mindset.”
Collegian Business and Technology Beat Reporter Nicholas LeVack can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @NicholasLevack.