and broke my neck when I was a freshman. Paramedics took me to Harborview Medical Center. The doctors told me, “You broke your neck, you broke your back, you have a spinal cord injury, and you will never walk again.”
There was a moment when my mom kneeled next to me and said, “It’s going to be OK.” I kind of lashed back and said, “This isn’t going to be OK, and it’s not worth living if you can’t walk.” I was at a crossroads: I could either stay in this darkness and let life pass me by, or shift my trajectory and focus on the things I still have. That was the route I chose.
in mechanical engineering. When I graduated from the UW in 2002, I landed a job soon thereafter as a mechanical engineer with the Federal Aviation Administration. I just finished working there.
in 2011, my friend Darin Donaldson told me he had set a goal: “I’m going to make a shoe.” I told him I had an idea for a shoe, too. Since I had broken my neck, I wasn’t able to put on my shoes. I just don’t have the dexterity to do the laces or step my foot into the shoe. My thought was to put a zipper around the toe so the whole upper part of the shoe folds over and you can put your foot in flat and zip it up. That’s how BILLY Footwear got started.
Our shoes sell at Nordstrom, Zappos and our website BILLYFootwear.com. One of our slogans is “Making a measurable difference in the world, one foot at a time.’’
because kids now are putting shoes on themselves. It’s really cool to hear stories like, “It has been a battle to get my child to want to put his shoes on—now he loves it.”
to the success that I’ve had. One is the concept of engineering. The biggest thing I got out of it was problem-solving. The other part was making a choice to not stay in that dark place I was at. Being able to associate with people who not only empower you but are door-openers.
called BILLY Cares. It allows me to make presentations at schools, clinics or hospitals or one-on-one, talking about attitude, reminding people of the capacity they have to do great things much more than they can possibly imagine.
what each and every one of us has within us. We truly have the ability to do great things if we apply ourselves.