Many businesses claim to be customer-centric, but few back up that aspiration like Ped Lite President Scott Sutter. More than a dozen years ago, Sutter started his own durable medical equipment (DME) company. Making the rounds from Chicago to Gary, IN, he fit shoes on diabetic patients. “I got a taste of what it was really like to service the end user,” he said. “I got to feel the heart-warming experience of putting a good-fitting shoe on someone you’re really helping.”
Today, Sutter’s inherent understanding of and dedication to his customers keep him continually innovating his diabetic shoe and insert business.
In 2006, Sutter founded Ped Lite just outside of Chicago in Merriville, IN. From the beginning, his goal was to create a superior product at a competitive price. He started out offering high-quality custom and prefabricated shoe inserts. After a few years, as customer demand for diabetic shoes grew, Ped Lite nimbly shifted its efforts to include the creation of men’s and women’s therapeutic footwear. Although he doesn’t have diabetes, Sutter tested those first shoes on his own feet to make sure the designs were comfortable.
“I don’t trust anyone else’s opinion on men’s shoes,” he said. “I like to see a shoe on my own feet and see it how it wears. With that first shoe, we spent about a year in development.”
Today, with a variety of therapeutic shoe styles, Ped Lite aims to give its customers more choice and selection than any other supplier. The shoes follow the latest fashions in dress, athletic, walking, and casual footwear. From Mary Janes and sporty sandals to leather athletic shoes and adjustable penny loafers, Ped Lite offers a variety of colors and sizes in medium, wide, and extra-wide widths. All are created to accommodate inserts that maximize the mobility and comfort of patients with or without diabetic complications. All Ped Lite products are SADMERC/PDAC approved.
For their custom inserts, all three layers are made with EVA foam. Practitioners can mail biofoam imprints or email scans of patients’ feet to Ped Lite, where the orthoses are designed on Ped Lite’s computers using Delcam software. A foam positive is carved from this image and placed in a vacuum press for formation. Many accommodations can be made for the patient at no additional cost.
Although Ped Lite uses advanced technology to create its shoes and inserts, Sutter believes it is his company’s old-fashioned know-how, common sense, and personable approach that distinguish it from the competition.
“We provide a nicer style shoe that gives our customers great comfort and at a better price than anyone in the industry,” Sutter said. “We also give them more availability. We have one thousand eighty-nine shoe SKUs [stock keeping units], and we’re not out of one of them. We consistently pick up customers from our competitors that are out of stock. We surpass the competition in style, inventory, and price.”
On a typical day, Sutter arrives early to communicate with his suppliers and manufacturers on the other side of the globe, since much of the fabrication process is completed in China. Ped Lite uses numerous Chinese factories, each specializing in a specific style of shoe. They also contract with a Chinese factory to manufacture some of their orthotic designs. Sutter follows his products every step of the way, traveling several times a year to meet with his manufacturers. In addition to maintaining quality control, Sutter’s trips to China allow him to show his appreciation to the men and women in the factories there who create his designs.
“The factory owners over there are part of our family, too,” Sutter said. “Our relationship with them is essential, and it’s one of mutual respect.”
Always looking for new ways to expand and grow, in 2015 Ped Lite will launch a new product line that will extend the company beyond the shoe and insert categories. “We’re very excited about the new line because it complements our current product line really well,” Sutter said. “It would be easy to keep the status quo, but we have to be aggressive and innovative to remain successful.” (Find out more about Ped Lite’s new venture in LER’s February issue.)
Forward-thinking leadership helps Ped Lite continue to grow despite challenges in the market. Sutter also credits his dedicated employees for the success of the business. The Ped Lite team handles everything from customer service and sales to tech support and manufacturing. Sutter often refers to them as his family, and in fact, his son, Austin, is now following in his father’s footsteps as operations manager. “Everyone works extremely hard, and they work smart,” Sutter said. “I’m proud of all my employees.”
At the end of the day, Ped Lite’s success comes from the cumulative desire to provide the best possible footwear products that help improve the lives of diabetes sufferers.
“When we hear how much patients love our shoes, it creates incentive for us to keep raising the bar,” Sutter said. “I’ve been there, and I know how hard our customers work for the end user. It’s not an easy job, but it’s fulfilling.”
Brigid Galloway is a freelance writer in Birmingham, AL.
Article sponsored by Ped Lite.