uri Footwear was one of the most outstanding shoes companies in the world. Being simple from the first sight, their shoes were on the borderline of fashion and high technology.
“We protect the most beautiful part of the human body - the human foot”.
Since 2006 to 2011 the company was a producer of stylish footwear for people, melded with efficient tuning, inventive outlook and specialized materials that were far further than competitors’ at that time. Made with leather from Italian manufacturers, the shoes embraced a consistent combination of advanced technology including dynamic suspension design, pressure control and being resistant to exhaustion when wearing. It is hard to believe that such a small and usual thing in everyone’s life as shoes has so much work inside, which in addition also contained removable foot beds, regulators of the temperature, super thin interface innovation filled with liquid, and encapsulated gel technology.
Established in 2006, Auri launched several absolutely best store retailers in its first two years of making business. After the company achieved success with its men’s shoes collection in 2008, Auri Footwear worked out an innovation and implemented it into a ladies' design of shoes.
Ori Rosenbaum: from car industry to high fashion
The central figure of Auri Footwear was the American entrepreneur Ori Rosenbaum. He moved to the United States when he was five, and his parents keep homes in both the US and Tel Aviv, Israel - the country where Rosenbaum was born.
Ori Rosenbaum has always been that kind of person that works non-stop. In the interview for Forbes he stated that his typical working week is over 60 hours. Auri Footwear wasn’t an average company with shoes from cheap Chinese manufactures. It was a complete start-up. As being a founder of something brand new, Ori had to be involved in almost every single step of the venture.
“I always try to maintain my focus on the brand image, integrity and product design. In the end, those aspects will be the value of the venture. If I had more time, I would work to create new avenues of distribution, develop more long term-strategy, spend more time in the field with our retail partners and work even more closely with design and manufacturing”, said CEO.
From communication with Rosenbaum, from the fact how he talked about Auri Footwear, from his sparkling eyes and passion in the voice, it becomes clear that being an entrepreneur for him is not about money at all. The best feeling for him has been the thrill and excitement. Ori said that it had fed him, and it energized him to work ridiculous hours without exhaustion. Such dedication to work has always forced people to sacrifice something. In Rosenbaum’s case it was giving up his favorite hobbies. Tricky thing that the founder of Auri had to realize from the start: having a business doesn’t mean to swim in the pool full of money. The financial stresses are always looming overhead and being responsible for everyone involved in the venture is always a heavy load to carry, and so he did every day.
“My ultimate goal is to first create a globally recognized and respected brand”.
From that point, the possibilities were limitless. Ori Rosenbaum is a great dreamer. His desires included developing marketing strategies and utilizing philanthropy to both provide a sustainable and long-term ROI and to do good toward those in need around the world. From his words, he knew it's been done before, but not with the kind of efficiency as he wanted it to be.
37 years ago, Rosenbaum started making business in the field of automotive aftermarket parts with his brother. Their company had a huge success in the USA, but that was not for long.
Subsequent to selling his share of the company, Rosenbaum utilized his insights and experience to establish an audio speaker business, which then was sold to Stillwater Designs just a half year later. For the next 15 years, he had been working as a delivery expert in the automobile and high-tech industry, including Jaguar, Porsche, Apple and Sony.
He was actually an outsourcing employee. During that time Ori got acquainted with lots of experts in engineering, architecting, designing, creating houses, and processing plants. That was the reason why he knew exactly whom he could involve into the footwear business.
A good idea becomes a great idea when you let it out
"The explanation why I launched Auri Footwear is that I saw a colossal void in an enormous industry – I was unable to find shoes that I liked," Rosenbaum confessed.
However, Rosenbaum had no fashion background in footwear or style (only as the customer), yet, he said, he had heard plenty of typical same complaints among retailers and ordinary people, and had a belief that he was able to offer the solution.
Once Rosenbaum was in Las Vegas and there was this huge group of girls that had flown from all over America to celebrate some bachelorette party. They were dressed up wearing stunning dresses, but at the end of the night he watched every single one of them walking out holding their shoes in their hands. None of them was wearing her shoes. At that moment Ori thought that there had to be a better solution.
People convinced Ori Rosenbaum that there was no possibility to create something original, new, fresh and exciting. He often heard that it makes no sense to reinvent the bicycle and the shoes will always be the same. But with his strong point of view he knew that he could breathe new life in the industry.
Technology: why has no one tackled this problem before?
Rosenbaum decided to make a hybrid shoe or a “fusion” shoe as he called it. He embodied the dream of many girls: to wear high heels that don’t hurt. And that worked - the line also included boots that look good in the town but at the same time can handle a technical hike, and sports footwear that would pass as shoes fit for a night party.
The problem is simply this - all the body's weight is elevated and then slid down, and the complete weight is put on our two little bones right in the forefoot area. What Rosenbaum did is that he took an encapsulated gel pack and the reason this critically facilitates walking is that it's like a waterbed that widens the contact patch.
It actually conforms to the bottom of the foot. Underneath there is a suspension and this is a trampoline, so the flex happens all the way through.
There's also the upper in the vamp area. The leather typically holds the foot back, so there is a massive pressure point on top. And to mitigate the process of walking Auri Footwear used a technology called liquid cell. There's actually a liquid barrier, so people don't get that biting feeling, they don't get that red mark when they're in Auri’s shoes whether it be a 3-inch 4-inch or even 5-inch heels.
However, as soon as the designers started developing heels, a new crop of technological challenges arose.
“The minute you elevate the heel, you start dealing with weird geometries and pressure, but we have something called an asymmetrical arch support system,” Rosenbaum said. “It’s a gel that conforms to the shape of the foot to mitigate the weight transfer. Then you have some heel support and a cup to hold the heel, and, of course, all the technology of the cushioning, yet it’s still a beautiful shoe.”
The end result was that it didn’t look like a comfort shoe at all. They were leather, they were gorgeous and that's the point when ideas in high technology meet high fashion.
Shocking archeological excavations
There was a discovery about ten years ago. Archeologists found a shoe in Armenia that was about 5,500 years old. Could you imagine that it is older than the pyramids in Egypt? It's older than Stonehenge. Such a long time ago, so many millennials ago was only the beginning of civilization and that shoe was similar in construction to the modern design of Auri Footwear. The thing that is impressing is that how can something that's 5,500 years old be at all relevant today.
Rosenbaum started looking inside the shoes' industry, exploring how shoes were designed and how they were made. Guess what conclusion did he come to? He realized that there was no evolution.
In the shoe industry that simply didn’t happen. Whatever you buy this year next year it's not going to be better. It'll be different, you'll have a different design, a different color, different look, a different buckle, but it'll be the same.
“It's got to be fashion, it's got to be function, and it's got to be better than everyone else’s, otherwise you lose.”
When Ori decided to develop shoes in a radically different manner, the team decided to use automotive platform protocols. It's the way that the automotive industry is allowed to develop and improve custom.
Rosenbaum asked for advice among podiatrists. One of them told that human feet need a “foot bed” - something that holds the structure of the foot, has an arch support, heel support, anti-splay and anti fatigue technology.
Feel closer to stars
One more thing that totally differentiated Auri Footwear from ordinary shoes is using a material called Outlast. Outlast was developed specifically for NASA for Space Exploration suits, and it's used in these suits until now.
The attraction of this material consists of lowering the heat, that in turn lowers sweat and when you're cold it keeps you warmer.
So, now you can see the whole picture: these were the shoes that were functionally superior to any other shoes on earth.
It was vital for Rosenbaum to hold the brand on a high level. That’s why he needed reliable importing partners of leather and other materials. Top 4 trading partners of Auri Footwear included:
- BENE INT’L COPR
- BENEL INC
- SPEEDWELL AND CO. LTD
- SAX LOGISTICA DE SHOWS E EVENTOS L.
Their cooperation lasted from the very beginning in 2006 till the closing of the company in 2011.
Reviews from customers
Forbes named Auri Footwear “one of America's most promising companies” in 2009. Forbes’ interviewers asked Ori about what specifically did he learn about his business from taking this title and this is what they heard:
“Maintaining focus on the core values, principles and direction of the brand. Take notes of everything you've done do to develop the direction for the brand and the product and refer back to them constantly. Focus and execute. It sounds extremely simple, but is much easier to get off track than one would imagine.”
Auri changed the game and that certainly reflected on customers. The team made sure that their consumers’ experience is something they never felt before. Rosenbaum literally reinvented the concept of luxury, the brand - that is what differentiated them. Here are some of the consumers’ reviews that can be found on Amazon:
“I bought these shoes before going to San Francisco and did a ton of walking in them. They were so comfortable - at the end of the day my feet were still happy. And the price can't be beat! These shoes are over $100 on other sites”
“Loved them and blue is a great color and they are so comfortable! They were so worth it!”
“Auri Men's shoes are comfortable and stylish. I have several pairs and wear them almost all the time”
“What a great bunch of guys. Totally insane crazy, and what shoes”
“These shoes are amazing! Finally, someone listened, understood and did something to make something we all need and use every day and make it as good as it actually can be. Congratulations and thanks for caring!”
Such highly technological shoes couldn’t be cheap, you might think. But actually, the prices were a wonder. The women’s line retails at $100 for ballerinas, $145 for sport shoes, and $180 for some high-heel styles and unique sandals, with boots going as high as $200. In men’s, retail prices range from $150 to $250.
The hardest thing for Rosenbaum was to convince women that comfortable heels can be fashionable and comfortable at the same time.
There were some more challenging things in the shoe business. Rosenbaum mentioned also launching into the recession. It required immediate deliberation and rapid execution of some painful decisions. He lowered salaries, negotiated lower rent, pushed out legal fees and cut PR and marketing expenses on all but the most critical aspects. Auri also lowered their sales expectations to be more in line with the economic shift, and even adjusted the product offering, marketing language and retail price points to be more in tune with what they felt was the new consumer paradigm.
“The costs associated with being a footwear brand are exorbitant,” said founder Ori Rosenbaum. “It’s overwhelming.”
Rosenbaum cited the high costs associated with trade shows, samples, marketing materials, factories, inventory, being a public company and low prices for shoes.
He said the decision to move away from manufacturing was almost the only right decision. The company closed its North Laguna showroom and headquarters in 2011.
The agreement closed February 25, 2011, and resulted in Auri Footwear becoming a public company. The name of the company was changed to “Auri, Inc.” As a result of the reverse merger, the previous owners of Auri owned and controlled the majority of the common stock of Wellstone Filter Sciences, replacing the current management with an Auri management team. Auri CEO and President Ori Rosenbaum remained with the company in the same role. Auri selected a reverse merger rather than a traditional IPO in order to avoid the heavier costs and extended timeframe usually associated with a traditional IPO process, but that step also had not helped much.
There were no updates and posts in all social media of the company since 2011.
I am inclined to believe that the era of Auri Footwear was truly marvelous. So much work was done, so many brilliant minds were involved into manufacturing. Though the company stopped its existence, it is still possible to find Rosenbaum’s shoes in shops. More than a decade ago he shared two kernels of wisdom that will be always relevant.
- Communicate with your potential clients as early in your ventures launch as is realistically possible. Spend as much time building relationships with them and do so as early in the process as you can. In the end, they will be the deciders of your ventures success.
- Be optimistic, motivational and emotionally tied to just about every facet of your business except one, the financial part. Finance in business is pragmatic, cold and emotionless. Treat it with the respect and clarity of thought it is due.