Following in your father’s footsteps in business may seem old-fashioned and cliché, but there’s nothing antiquated about the company that Bobby Kanter cofounded this year. In September, he and former Dr. Comfort vice president, Brian O’Reilly, CPed, partnered to launch what they believe will be the new face of diabetic footwear. In doing so, they’ve introduced the industry to Anodyne, headquartered in Milwaukee, WI.
Bobby was in high school when his father, Rick Kanter, launched the Mequon, WI-based Dr. Comfort, a successful diabetic footwear company. From stocking shelves in the warehouse to addressing customer concerns on the phone, he learned the business firsthand, from the ground up. Not so coincidently, he worked with and learned from his future business partner, O’Reilly.
Last spring, three years after Dr. Comfort was sold to Vista, CA-based DJO Global, Kanter and O’Reilly began to envision a distinctly different diabetic shoe company, one focused on customer needs they felt hadn’t been sufficiently addressed. For this new approach to become a reality, the partners agreed they needed to give the modern-day impression of diabetic shoes a makeover. A fresh design and an emphasis on customer care would become the cornerstones of their mission.
“It was time for a new player,” Kanter said. “There hasn’t been a new brand in the industry for ten-plus years, and there has never been a shoe so meticulously engineered for diabetics.”
The ‘cool factor’
By definition, an anodyne is “something that brings a sense of soothing or comfort.” That’s the overarching goal of the new company, Kanter said. Anodyne’s mission is to design great shoes and, in doing so, remove commonplace burdens associated with wearing prescription diabetic shoes. With this aesthetic encouragement to actually wear the shoes, common foot complications (including amputation) can often be avoided.
Kanter believes the way to achieve higher compliance rates is by using the same best practices seen at work with the world’s most successful nondiabetic consumer brands. “There’s no ‘cool factor’ whatsoever in diabetic shoes and we want to change that,” he said. “Starting from scratch, we’re making sure that every single piece of the Anodyne brand is carefully thought out with the customer in mind.”
When designing their shoes, O’Reilly and Kanter looked at every aspect of diabetic footwear to see where they could exceed the competition. This effort even extended to the packaging. Inside the lid of every Anodyne box there’s a mirror sticker that allows patients to easily inspect the bottoms of their feet for swelling, redness, or wounds.
“There has to be attention to detail because one little thing that’s wrong could cause a patient to lose his foot,” O’Reilly said. “Where many manufacturers are cutting corners and trying to save money, we’re doing the opposite. We’re spending more time and money on our shoes because we want to offer the best care for the patient.”
The shoes are manufactured overseas and inspected in Anodyne’s US warehouse. The company also maintains a fullservice in-house laboratory making custom accommodative inserts, partial foot toe fillers, and any requested shoe modifications. To streamline the process, Anodyne built an iPad app that interfaces with a Structure Sensor 3D optical camera (practitioners who purchase the software receive a code for 10% off the camera’s purchase price). Offices scan a patient’s foot and instantly email the scan to Anodyne. Custom inserts are manufactured and ready to ship in 24 hours.
“People look at everything we’re doing and say, ‘Why doesn’t everyone else do that?’” O’Reilly said. “We’ve had nothing but positive feedback so far.”
Although they incorporate industry and marketing best practices into every aspect of their business, Kanter and O’Reilly manage the day-to-day operations with the personal touch of a family run company. “We want dealing with us to be easy,” said Kanter. “Every account is set up with an individual customer support specialist in order to build real relationships. We have big business goals but maintain a family mentality in everything we do.”
Walking through Anodyne’s office, it’s common to see an employee with his or her faithful pup curled beside them. The conference room is outfitted with comfy sofas rather than a big wooden table and chairs. There’s a pool table in the break room. “Everyone’s doors are always open,” Kanter said. “You can tell the atmosphere is relaxed. We work hard but want to create a fun environment.”
Although new to the market in 2015, the company has already been met with enthusiasm at trade shows and the initial O&P offices that have been the first to carry the Anodyne brand.
In 2016, the team plans to expand its distribution, launch more shoe styles, and introduce a sock line as well as other, complementary diabetic footwear products. Most of all, Kanter and O’Reilly aim to build awareness for the brand while expanding distribution into offices across the US—and beyond.
“Our goal is to spread the knowledge of our brand and get our product out there,” Kanter said. “The more people with diabetes who have our products on their feet, the better off they’re going to be.”
Brigid Galloway is a freelance writer in Birmingham, AL.
Article sponsored by Anodyne.