Katherine Connors has run 17 marathons and never gotten a single blister. That’s 445.4 miles of sneakers pounding the pavement friction free. If only the same was true for her average work day. As soon as she puts on a pair of heels for work, she knows she’s going home with a blister.
Connors sees this daily discomfort as just another challenge facing women in business, whose professional wardrobe often requires uncomfortable footwear. She and fellow Northeastern graduate Jacqueline Quill decided that the way to solve this problem for women in the workforce is by starting their own business.
“Our philosophy was that if we could find a product that helped women to comfortably own their stride on the pavement and at work, it would foster a great sense of confidence,” said Quill.
Connors and Quill launched the company, which they called blistabloc, after they designed a clear adhesive insert that anyone can tape into their shoes to prevent blisters. Its patent-pending design is supposed to react as your feet move to reduce friction, which is what they say causes blisters.
They see their product, called b.bloc, as an alternative to bandaids or moleskin that you stick directly onto skin to alleviate blistering. Their flexible adhesive is a long-term preventative solution, they say, because it is attached directly onto the shoe prior to blisters forming.
Quill is an Insanity fitness coach and cycler, and Connors is an avid marathon runner, so the entrepreneurs are well acquainted with foot pain. Yet they both say that wearing heels at work can leave them in more discomfort than their fitness exploits.
“I live in sneakers because I hate blisters. I even wear sneakers out to bars,” said Quill. “Coming up with a product that allows me to wear heels on my long days at work is life changing.”
Betsy Ludwig, who is the executive director for women’s entrepreneurship at Northeastern, said female entrepreneurs are struggling to gain access to the capital and resources to launch their own businesses. Although women make up 40 percent of entrepreneurs, they only receive 3 percent of venture capital funding, she said.
“We need to identify, foster, and fuel more women entrepreneurs like Katherine and Jacqueline,” said Ludwig. “As a society, we are missing innate design and innovation by women, for women.”
When they’re not working on blistabloc, Quill is a product manager for DraftKings and Connors works in customer marketing at Liberty Mutual.
They came up with the idea for the company in a product development class while working toward their master’s in business administration at Northeastern. A $10,000 grant from IDEA, Northeastern’s business accelerator, helped them develop and launch their business. The packaging for blistabloc and website design were co-created by the women and the university’s student-led design studio, Scout. The women graduated less than 24 hours after officially launching their company on Aug. 30.
“We didn’t know each other before the class and now we talk to each other more than a significant other,” said Connors. “Not only did we come out with a business plan, but also with a strong relationship and team.”