top of page

OTSH 77: Friendly Adapted Shoes with Joseph DiFrancisco, MS, OT/L, Chief Friendly Officer




Press play below to listen to the podcast

Or click on your preferred podcast player link!


Welcome to the show notes for Episode 77 of the OT School House Podcast.


Today we are talking with a former school-based OT who is well aware of the struggles OTs come across while working in the schools. In fact, it is that school-based experience in conjunction with other OT experiences that led Joseph DiFrancisco, MS, OT/L, (AKA - Joe Friendly) to create a new line of adapted shoes for people of all ages!


If you have ever had a parent ask about a shoe tying goal, be sure to listen to this episode. You may have a new favorite recommendation for those parents.


After you listen, be sure to check out Friendlyshoes.com to see all the styles Joe and his team have come up with to support those who may benefit from an easy to put on shoe.



Links to Show References:



Episode Transcript

Download or read a rough edit of this OT School House Podcast episode



OTSH_77 - Friendly Adapted Shoes with Jo
.
Download • 164KB

Amazing Narrator

Hello and welcome to the OT School House podcast, your source for school-based occupational therapy, tips, interviews, and professional development. Now to get the conversation started, here is your host, Jayson Davies. The class is officially in session.


Jayson Davies

Hey there, welcome back for another episode of the OT School House podcast. Thank you so much for joining me today. Whether you're listening in the morning on your way to work, in the evening on your way home, or maybe on a walk during the weekend, I really appreciate you taking the time to spend a moment with me and talk about school-based occupational therapy. So today we are talking with a former school-basedOT who knows all the struggles of what it is like being a school-based OT, but we're actually not going to talk about OT too much. We're actually going to talk more about his new company. Well, it's not too new anymore. But he is an occupational therapist, he still has his credentials, but he has gone on to use those credentials to create a product. That is for all abilities, people of all abilities will be able to use his. Well, I'll just share the news. Now. It's an adaptive shoe. But it is a shoe that can be used by anyone. He's here to share it with us. His name is Jo DiFrancisco, and he is the Chief Friendly Officer as he likes to say, of friendlyshoes.com. So let's go ahead, we're going to jump into this interview. I'm going to let Joe give a little background into himself and his career as an occupational therapist, and how he came up with the idea of making that adaptive shoe for everyone, kids, adults, whether you have a disability or not. Feel free to check out friendlyshoes.com and the rest of this interview with Jo DiFrancisco. Hey, Jo, welcome to the podcast. How are you doing today?


Joseph DiFrancisco

I'm doing all right, Jayson. Thank you so much for having me.


Jayson Davies

Yeah, definitely. It's a pleasure. Well, we met about a month ago in an OT program, entrepreneur type of deal, right?


Joseph DiFrancisco

That is correct. I believe it was the University of St. Augustine and Tech, USA.


Jayson Davies

The USA. St. Augustine. Nice. Love it. All right, man. Well, so I'm excited for this one. And I'm sure many of those who are listening will also be excited. Because as school-based OTs, we often get the question, what about shoe ties? What about the student's ability to put on their shoes, tie their shoes and be functional in the school? I'm sure you've heard that several times already from pediatric therapists. There's always a big question about shoe tying. So before we get into that, though, I want to give you an opportunity to talk a little bit about your career as an occupational therapist, how did you decide to become an OT? And where are you today?


Joseph DiFrancisco

Oh, great question. So I'm not really sure how I really ended up in occupational therapy I know that I grew up with a single mother kind of influenced me to help others. I finished my undergraduate and about physical therapy, ended up finding out about this thing called sensory integration while I was doing my kind of PT assistant work under an orthopedic in New Jersey. And no, it just seemed like there was so much more to it. So much of the unexplained I had gotten the opportunity while viewing the physical therapy stuff to watch the OTs, watch these children coming in maybe dysregulated. And then in the coming out, you're like, this is a whole new kid and, and the amount of information you were able to get into their brains during this sensory stuff. And I just one thing clicked and I'm like, Oh, my gosh, I would love to pursue this. It turned out. I think that my family and I were kinds of sensory kids. We chose sports to get this self-regulation. And I pursued it and then up at Seton Hall University.


Jayson Davies

Nice. And so where did life take you after college?


Joseph DiFrancisco

Ah, that's a great question. I have two cars, here, there and everywhere. I had plans to move to Hoboken, New Jersey, I was going to practice in Manhattan. One thing led to another my roommate fell through. So I moved to San Diego.


Jayson Davies

Oh, wow, big change.


Joseph DiFrancisco

Yeah, big change. I had the opportunity to get into San Diego Unified School District here and so out, practicing, you know, anywhere from high school mental health, middle school, elementary got to do special education, early childhood. Before I had actually come out here I practice for a couple of months by taking six months in early intervention. So it's interesting to watch through the lifespan, how much you've learned and how you can implement these things you've learned into other areas of practice. Give all of your listeners a lot of credit, school-based OT is not easy. Talking about the IPs. Talking about the data, talking about the interpretation of the data. We got out here initially, I'll never forget the first kind of tape recorder I had in front of my mouth and you're trying to do the right thing. I'm trying to help you guys. Like why are you trying to record me with this Your advocate there like it was, it was a humbling experience. But yeah, you guys do great things.


Jayson Davies

Thank you, Ben. So you're not in the schools anymore, though, are you?


Joseph DiFrancisco

I'm not. I made two years. And then my mom got sick, she got lung cancer. And then I kind of bounced around had some questioning of my whole life future had this OT education, my back pocket and just trying to think bigger, how I ended up in shoes, you assume that I wouldn't be a physical therapist. So now I ended up in shoes, I hate feet. This was also influential in my decision for OT. So I'm no longer practicing. But we still do have a rapport with some San Diego unified schools and giving shoeboxes for certain class projects and stuff. So it's good, I have a lot more insight regarding bureaucracy with my six and seven-year-old, you know, My son was having some learning challenges and speaking to the teacher, and definitely, some eye-rolling there when I said that he's having potential challenges with his Virtual Education. Like, I don't see that and you're like, Yeah,


Jayson Davies

Sure. Alright. Well, you kind of started to bring it up the shoes. That's what we're here to talk about today. And so I'm excited to have you on exactly to talk about this friendly. When I met you, you first introduce yourself as Joe friendly, because you are, as I like your title, the CFO of friendly. So you know, when I'm going to give you a second to just kind of tell us a little bit about what friendly is maybe like that elevator pitch.


Joseph DiFrancisco

The elevator pitch is always changing, I hate to say that, I've definitely turned a corner to a bit of a businessman, but I always appreciate opportunities to speak to OT. My initial kind of vision was being friendly, was helping others. And in practice, you know, starting out with, with the seniors, because I at some point was doing when I stopped doing the school-based, I ended up in skilled nursing and then home health. And then they would give us these, these hip kits. You know, these, these long handle repairs, and tight, nothing was working for me, there's a doctor told me this would work and outside of the socket, this thing ain't working. So I do this. And it just would frustrate me. In Home Health, I was able to kind of almost be friends, a couple of my patients where he had taken me when he finished his service. And we did private sessions, affluent guy here in Southern California, real hard worker, honest guy. And I had to adapt, I was looking at the shoes in the market. Everything was kind of you to know, disability shoes. If you look at some of those orthopedic shoes of the diabetic shoes, or even some of these, like easy access zipper shoes, just the upper is affected. And it's cool. But you know, people want options. So I did the right thing. And when I initially started, I started doing the fabrication of the shoe just like an OT would do a hacksaw zipper. I think I stuck a door hinge and the opposite side of the opening portal, we have Well, no, I got really unique and ended up getting something that I guess you'd call prototype, I'm not really sure. I met a cool patent attorney out here that was nice. And, you know, was friendly, in regards to prices. So I buy "be friendly", "friendly" and "friendly shoes" for trademarks. And they all went through. While that simultaneously was going on I just, you know, I was still practicing. And then I was working after hours to try to push this into real shoe manufacturers and took a lot of I guess adversities and a whole bunch of companies that just couldn't do it right and ended up in South Brazil. And then we got a prototype and I'll never forget looking at it just like now I'm gonna have to do this.


Jayson Davies

The real, the real moment set in, huh.


Joseph DiFrancisco

Yeah, the real moment set in I had my trademarks. And that takes quite a bit of time. And when we got the prototype, right, we were patent pending. And then we moved forward. And now in this process, we managed to get two patents thus far and more kind of pending. So things have changed, you know, the humility of being an OT is fantastic of my business partners are way smarter than me. We got JD is it just an attorney and a Ph.D. with some Pfizer experience and research and just a real detail-oriented guys, but they’re not like OTs, they're not willing to make as many mistakes are not willing to adjust and the ability to adapt is really what influenced us getting here are the guys that are always about being perfect and making mistakes. That doesn't really bother me.


Jayson Davies

Awesome. I love that being able to make mistakes and continue on. Yes. All right. So you went through a whole lot and we're gonna break that down a little bit more for everyone out there who you know, most of us are school-based OTs, we don't know patents. We don't know trademarks. We don't know all that. So we're gonna get them to break it down. But you actually mentioned that you were in a skilled nursing facility a little bit and I'm not gonna lie, I did a little bit of LinkedIn stalking you. And it says, aging in place specialist. I think it's kind of what you have out there. So share a little bit about that.


Joseph DiFrancisco

Yeah. So in my kind of endeavors to think outside the box, I ended up finding the ability to age in place. When you work in home health, it's just you really, sometimes in a school district or within a facility, or you're operating in big brother's watching, so you have these limitations on what you could do with home health, it's the complete opposite, right? You're just like, oh, gosh, what am I going to do? I couldn't even explain it, the simple adjustments I was making within the home, that would change everything without actually going through the thorax, right? That would actually go through some of the stuff that we were kind of forced to do within the therapy clinic. You know, for instance, color contrast thing with painters tape in the bathroom, individual with Parkinson's. I once had a gentleman that was co-morbidities, he had Lewy body dementia, and Parkinson's, and the wife was just, oh, gosh, what do we do and like, I was kind of a middle-aged five years under my belt, I was a competent therapist, but I was like, I don't really know. But I'm gonna work really hard to help, you know, figure out what we can do. And she was totally cool with my honesty. And I'm just taking that painter’s tape hitting the books, hitting online, and helping this individual age in his space that he wanted to agent. I mean, it's, it's an amazing thing, to have them actually be in their, their home and their desire environment where you know, they have this last chapter in their life. So that's how aging in place specialist started the email. And when I actually met with contractors, and I did a certain certificate through the National Home Builders Association, I realized, I knew nothing about No, I stopped doing that.


Jayson Davies

Awesome. All right. And so you started to go down the route. Also, in the previous segment, we're kind of talking about how you grabbed a hacksaw, you grab some zippers and, and created this first, "prototype", per se. Do you remember this specific client or that specific moment when you were? I mean, is there a story really behind it, where you decided to, hey, you know, this person would benefit from it, and you went forward with it? Or is this more of a, I don't know, an accumulation of items, then decided, Hey, I'm going to try it out.


Joseph DiFrancisco

I would say accumulation. I had multiple people in mind, one guy, I would say was my focus. He was, we're a big military town over here. So, you know, shout out to anyone that you know, serves the country, I think it's an amazing thing. This guy grew up with nothing and earned, you know, everything. And he would just fall and like, be like, you know, I felt like, I gotta report this to your doctor doesn't do it. I felt like four times like he wasn't, he didn't really care that much. He had a stroke. You know, when I had him do hand stuff he like, hated me. I'm like, dude, you gotta you know, this is important for everything. So he was a stroke. So neuro, you always kind of taking that same clinical approach, when you're trying to invent anything. And it just stuck in it, whether with thought processes or keys is this individuals going to do this, from what position, right, but you've been sitting most of the time, how's he going to get the foot in, he didn't have hip flexor to get the foot up. And you know, if collapsible heel technologies and various other adaptive shoes, which is great for us, that are coming to market. So he had to be able to keep his hip flexor to what it was. So entering through the back was important. And that was a guy that helped kind of influence how I manufactured the first easy shoe access. When you get to that stuff, you don't want to know about the patents and trademarks. And it's a bit of a legal wrestling match with words they make up. But when you post it, you just have to be careful what you post when you post because you know, big companies are watching, so I'll leave it at that. But looking at this individual had you know, comedy is affected extremity, upper, and how to affect his, you know, affected lower extremity. And he did have some visual perceptual issues too. So, I mean, how can I make it best for I mean, we'll call him Bill. I did it. Didn't really realize that once you actually get the foot and you got to accommodate that aging two-story perhaps.


Jayson Davies

Yeah, I can just imagine just like, "Yeah, we got the foot in now how do we close it up over his foot and make it so that it doesn't come off while he's walking and so many other problems that go into that?"


Joseph DiFrancisco

Yeah.




Jayson Davies

Alright. So I have a question for you. And that is, I'm sure you didn't just jump out and say, "Hey, there's no other shoe out there. That is adaptable". I'm sure you did some research, did your homework a little bit. What other types of things were out there and how did you set to be different?


Joseph DiFrancisco

So I mean, I did this so slowly, and admittedly, probably not to my benefit, where You have Zappos adaptive that's out there that are now our partners. They really helped out when I filed for the initial patent and trademarks, they didn't even exist. So I just kind of I did what I thought was right. And during the process, I mean, I'm sure this wasn't the best decision because I'm not a very good businessman. Currently, I wasn't aware of any competition, I think there was an easy shoe, and something called hatchbacks. That was kind of cool. But they kind of look for me, like, the fashion element is super important. So kind of, I don't want to break on a brand. But I mean, not what I was trying to work toward having this normalized upper, and how can you meet, you know, we want individuals to be friendly, and kind of like, you know, show your disabilities cool, like, you know, don't be ashamed. But we want people to have options. And this was the biggest challenge. To your question, I probably could have done more research, but I was practicing full time. And I had my son that was under a year old during the time. So I did not actively identify all of the potential competitors. And, you know, to speak to the patent process, before these large companies come to market, they have the ability to audit your stuff. So a large company came to market with something that was eerily similar to my shoe. And I'm just like, Oh, no, we posted, and they use something called a continuation pattern to defeat the claims that I had. And then, you know, the competitor and me, kind of leapfrog them. And that's where we sit today. I don't know what's gonna sit tomorrow.


Jayson Davies

Gotcha. And so your shoes, they don't have they have laces on them. But there's no lacing involved, right?


Joseph DiFrancisco 16:47

No, so we have elastics coming out. But that takes away the ability for tension opportunities. There's not that much research, but I feel like clinically, it's common sense, at least, maybe just for me. But if you don't have proper footwear, and you're wearing slippers, you're going to be you know, the potential increase in Fall probability. I mean, you need to have these on your feet, slippers move around, you don't get something that we've found in the research called fixation of the footwear on your feet. So all the laces are free, we do have one style called "our forces" that is more of a slipper, but it is intended in a wider foot to accommodate, you know, footwear issues like funyuns, hammertoes, all these, you know, variables that are associated with aging. So, ya know, we, I think we did well, in that keeping the free laces, we have pediatric lines coming out and based on feedback, limitations, when you don't have the laces, just not worth it. So it's kind of a set, you know, set it once and forget it. And then if you're going on long tracks, and you can't tie your laces at the one potential pitfalls, you will have to require assistance. But you know, the pros versus the cons. If you can't do it, then you can't do it. So you better be that way. Yeah, absolutely.


Jayson Davies

So then how is it going to be for kids who can't tie their shoelaces? Just like everyday wear? If they're at school and whatnot, what does it look like for that kid? That's going to have your shoe? Are they going to have to adjust the shoelaces at all? Or is it only? Not very frequently?


Joseph DiFrancisco

Great question. So our first line doesn't have laces at all. And that's our friendly force. It's a wider last. So you know, we have tried to make sure that it does have some depth, and something called the instep coming across the top of your ankle area to accommodate AFOs and SMO's and KAFOs. But if the child does have the laces, if you double knot it, you should be straight. We haven't gotten many issues. We're two years in now. So we've had we've gotten a lot of feedback. So should be set once and forget it, you double knot and there shouldn't be a problem. And the zipper in the back should, you know, it's a kind of separate, separate on the zipper and off you could do with one hand that was super important with me, you could actually do it without once it's broken and kind of like a baseball glove or that door opens up through that medial portal. You could do it hands-free, which was also important. If you have the balance, if not, right, you rest your hand on some type of surface to assist that ability. So you're always looking for different strategies, but that tension is super important. I just know the OCD in me is if the shoe is moving too much in the foot, it's not gonna be good. I agree.


Jayson Davies

I mean, growing up, I was always a kid. I had to have my shoes super tight. I played baseball, basketball, sports, everything. And yeah, it had to be super tight. If it wasn't super tight. Then I was like down on my knee making it tighter. So yeah, you got to have that tension. You're right.


Joseph DiFrancisco

The opportunity because everyone seems to be different.


Jayson Davies

I believe it. Yeah.


Joseph DiFrancisco

Now we have. My daughter's here talking to me more bringing out one of our new kids for back to school and she's helping us named Charlotte. What's the name Mr. sparkles. Oh, Princess Sparkles. As he said, Princess Sparkles and gold, pink Cheetah, and we're looking for real, you know, just to have that, you know, Flash, right to be able to have some swagger and your footwear? And I don't think it necessarily existed before. Yeah, we have two different types of easy shoe accesses and rear easy shoe access, which we do have the patents on. I mean, the uppers essentially look like a regular shoe. I mean, that was the trick. Yeah. And that was a difficult part.


Jayson Davies

Yeah. And you know, this is an all for the most part audio experience, we might cut this up a little bit and get some visuals, but friendlyshoes.com, right? It's where people can go and check it all out.



Joseph DiFrancisco

Yes, Sir.


Jayson Davies

Alright, and we will be sure to link to that as well in the show notes. So you can check it out. And yeah, you have the two styles that I saw was the heel cup, the one that kind of opens almost like a door in the back. It's like a little door. And then you have the other one correct me if I'm wrong, that opens up more like a what are the what are they called the Ferrari doors?


Joseph DiFrancisco

They kind of open up what is the full form of, yeah.


Jayson Davies

Yeah. So those are the two main ones are there more, you said something about a slip-on.


Joseph DiFrancisco

The slip-ons have that we call it front easy shoe access. And then we have rear easy shoe access. And the challenge with the rear easy shoe access as an OT, you know, your, if you bring the zipper line too long, you can't reach it, then you got to elongation pull tab, and that's where that publicly-traded company tried to really compete with us. And I think they lost to an OT and just one OT in that. Making that over open and stopping a certain area on the shoe, you had to make the opposite side of the zipper bendable. So you have a straight shot into the shoe. So making you know, if you have two firms it's called heel counter, it doesn't bend. So you essentially would have to hockey stop in, we make your zipper open. And then it just bends nice and easy. And then it's easy for the individual to reach for it. I think something that OTs would love is we added an eyelid in it. And some people think it's aesthetic. I'm not sure it gets used for this much. But it's for dressing. My goal is these I got to use this dressing stick or something. Because I'm not sure in 10 years of practice I ever saw it used for anything outside helping shoulder range of motion issues through an armhole and a shirt. So yeah, so the eyelid was initially made for a dressing stick. And as we're starting to go commercial and we're starting to scale. I mean, we're talking Canada, UK. We have an interest in New Zealand. We're sending them out in the next couple of days in Australia. They don't I'm not sure they people really realize but now we're just going with it, a dressing stick-holders. Now just part of the friendly story. You know...


Jayson Davies

I love it. OTs making a change in style.


Joseph DiFrancisco

And functional change.


Jayson Davies

Yes, absolutely. So from the zipper, the eyelid. What else have you guys done to make Friendly a truly friendly shoe for people of all abilities?


Joseph DiFrancisco

Oh my gosh. Alright, so I'm going to kind of give some information here at this podcast that I appreciate everyone being Hush Hush. So the simple thing, you have to make sure there's arch support, you have to make sure that their support shank or something in the heels. So you want to have the outsole firm, but not too firm has to have the cushion for individuals that might have co-morbidities we work on different pull tabs, so individuals with gross grasp, right, and individuals that have their fine motor are both able to do it. We are working on our kids and this is the Hush Hush. Don't tell these big publicly traded companies that y'all have them contact but we're working on sensory-friendly materials we're working on left-right discrimination. We're working on color contrast in certain parts of the shoes where it is visual impairment friendly. It's just the more and more information and the more shoes we sell, the better we get. Oh, I'm having a problem, and then you know, they kind of stick me in my dark area where I just think of how to solve problems and they push on the business stuff so we're always looking for different things of how to make it for all abilities. Our push toward having that front easy shoe access was because the rear easy shoe access no wasn't forced certain abilities. So this is surely not about the money for me at least. It just doesn't. My mind doesn't stop I guess. Perhaps my curse will someday be everyone's gift that their mind that just keeps ongoing. It's just I'm always trying to develop something new. I'm always trying to accommodate different people. That sensory-friendly stuff. I think a couple of shoe brands came out with color palettes to ease autistic children's effect or regulation and you like, okay. I'm back, see the research on that. So we're always trying to Google up always trying to talk to colleagues, we're working, you know, with a couple awesome publicly traded companies, I don't want to rip on them all on research that they might have gotten through their affiliations with pediatric hospitals, and all of that, you know, the context they've had, I said before, is Apple's adaptive has been absolutely fantastic. They've helped us in every way, including cash flow, you guys get the business, they have like, net, the 90s, net, 60s, net 45. So essentially, you have to, you know, bring the goods here, and then you have to wait a certain period of time before they pay. And they just mean, they really, they help us because they know the cash flows important for us to continue to develop, continue to get information based on their feedback, our feedback, and just create, you know, hopefully, something for all abilities. We all know as OTs that it'd be impossible to have one shoe for all abilities, but I'm hoping we get different iterations to accommodate all abilities. It's a big thing for me, like, I ain't making a disability shoe, I'm just not doing it. I want, you know, my vision is to have you know, a little brother, and the older brother, the little brother with a disability, like, you know, doesn't get to hand me downs from an older brother. And like that, you know, now he's going to take the hand-me-downs, his older brother that's typically developing maybe aspiring in athletics, he's able to, you know, little brother gets it. It's like, that's your shoe. And it's, you know, it just keeps it when you guys are wearing the same shoes. That's a real width challenge. We'll discuss that later. But that's my vision, all abilities. It's not a disability show.


Jayson Davies

I love it, man. That's great. Yeah, that's, that's full inclusion when we're able to have, like you said, one kid who needs it needs the ability to use a zipper and another kid who maybe doesn't need the ability to use a zipper. But hey, you know what, it works for both. They can both wear it. And that's awesome. So, I want to ask you this one, what has been the most rewarding moment you have experienced as a result of creating these friendly shoes?


Joseph DiFrancisco

Alright, you know, I've had a couple of them. Yeah, where you will, you know, and the first one I thought I was, you know, I knew what I was doing and shoe business or anything else you're getting into. Had a Ruth Segal, a Ph.D. professor at Seton Hall, they kind of said, "Hey, guys, your first two years, play conservative, you're not going to know what you're doing." And I'll never forget around the time I hit 2 years, like, everything slowed down in OT like I've seen a lot, you know, staying hungry, you're learning. I had a woman on our first day when we had our opening party at our pop-up store, and she couldn't put her shoes on. And well, then she could like, and, and she walked in and her husband, it was an Italian gentleman like myself are very family-oriented, and he got to take care of your lady. And you know, he's helping her in and she... you know, kind of slumped back and she puts on her shoes, and her posture comes up. And she just like walks out of his door. Man, it really was, it's, it's just an amazing experience. I had another couple of grown men shed tears when it's just, I mean, it's your ability, and I laugh with my colleagues all the time, I'm essentially with our video chat on friendlyshoes.com we have the ability to essentially give OT from afar. And if we can't, you know, accommodate their needs, then I'm going to put them some other shoe company that can that's just that's the way we are at friendly. And I've had a couple of grown men shed tears. I mean, it's just it's, it's that easy. You made the technology, the ability to reach out to scale now the ability to reach out internationally just we got a five star this morning from a gentleman with Parkinson's and I know Parkinson's well neuro was like my favorite thing and having these visual cues. The other thing in addition to the dressing stick was having the eyelid to create a visual cue for the individual with Parkinson's. And I know this is school-based but the visual cue helps in addition to carbidopa-levodopa and I send them in and the medication they're having with the dressing window where they have the most volitional control of their muscular-skeletal system so I seem to be getting them as their shoes get better and better I've become a bit of an addict of having these moments and unfortunate you know, to the other side of it when I cannot accommodate it, I take it personally and I know I can't touch that the scale but we are trying our best with our you know startup wrestling match we got going on here.


Jayson Davies

Good deal, man. That's so much going on. And I know you and me kind of had a little chat over email and like, you know what, what about the kids in school and you already mentioned it earlier that right-left discrimination being able to put the correct shoe on the correct foot. And one thing that I do like about what you have is that the way that the shoes open up, they almost kind of prompt you as to which foot should potentially go in, and it kind of looks like and you have the zippers They're on the inside, right?


Joseph DiFrancisco

Me outside. Correct.


Jayson Davies

So they're on the inside to also potentially not make them as seen as much. I don't know if that was part of the design to it, but they're on the inside so that maybe the zipper doesn't stand out on the outside. But yeah, I think that's great. Because I use stickers, I use Sharpies I use whatever I can to try and get a kid to know what shoe goes on what foot. And so I think that's great that even just a little design, but into you can do and it's not. Again, going back to will it work for every kid? Or does it only work for a kid who has right-left discrimination issues? No, it works for everyone. But it'll help that kid with a right-left discrimination difficulty. I love it. Alright. I know you're not doing this alone. So I want to give you a chance to talk a little bit about your partners, your... everyone working with you at “friendly” to make the world a great place who's all involved in this?


Joseph DiFrancisco

Now a great question. As I was kind of doing this, I had a CPA that was helping me with books at my aging in place specialist company once upon a time and we were talking we got the prototype to a certain point, as I said, and ended up in El Cajon, California and met a man named Edwin Lee was treating his father and his father had, he was preparing for hip replacement and preparing for a poster or entry or lateral approach, but he was going to have hip precautions. And I'm like, I gotta test this out. And now we just ended up talking and Edwin is he's a Ph.D. microbiologist that went to Berkeley for his Ph.D. University Chicago for his undergrad. And he's the brilliant quiet guy you got to watch out for in the room. You know what he processes and what you process are two different things. He's as trusting and honest as can be. So I met him and while we were working in a coffee shop and Little Italy, San Diego, we have this kid behind us. He's like, like, why is this kiddo? He's here. He's like, he's definitely listening. And he's on his computer. And that's the introduction of Ryan Garcia. Ryan Garcia is a gentleman from Hawaii. Waimea I think it's a big island. And he's a recovering attorney. He ended up being too honest of a guy to practice law, he had the opportunity to make a ton of money in personal injury law, which you call trial attorneys. And, you know, Ryan came on at the time he was a child author. he's a proud father. We both really I mean, how we develop our kids. Now they're developing side by side, we have both our girls and competitive jujitsu, and no gender lines. no stopping our killers are gals. So yeah, Ryan came on. And we definitely had no clue what we were in for in that first year, when you're penetrating the market. It's quite difficult. No one really knows about you. Your value propositions all need to be sharpened, your pricing needs to be sharpened. So you know, Edwin Lee, Ryan Garcia, no chance I'd be here without them. Our brains are so much different. And I think that's so important. He's a business undergrad, Edwin, as I said, was a research rat. And for me, it's all about function. So he started to grow from there. And now we have a designer in the UK, we have a shoe dog, and handles all that quality control and challenging stuff. So the team just kind of growing. And now we, you know, we try our best I know down the road, we might have to develop more of a corporate structure, but we keep it as family. For the time being, it's all about family. We have another structural engineer from Turkey. His name is Barack and he's come on since and he's our real computer Guru is stuff really well in person. It's not going to scale unless you put it on the computer and put it in the right column funnels, the ability to get the message out. And as we're developing these partnerships with Zappos adaptive, this company called Juniper that's out there and it's an adaptive market space this stuff, if any, y'all with your, you know, school-based thoughts. I know we talked at the gal at the USA event the University St. Augustine event, the Legiliner, just fantastic. And she's really thinking...


Jayson Davies

Polly


Joseph DiFrancisco

Polly Yeah, no, it's great. Y'all really don't know how good an OT mind really transfers to business.


Jayson Davies

The dog decided to come be part of the podcast, no problem. I always tell people it's a dog-friendly podcast.


Joseph DiFrancisco

Oh, yes. No, I'm sorry.


Jayson Davies

It's dog-friendly. I always tell people it's a dog-friendly podcast. Although your dogs good so far. Your dogs are barking it'll...


Joseph DiFrancisco

We'll see how she gets in the future. But she's not a barker. She actually was a rescue. And when you when you're a parent, you just learn to kind of let go of control in your house. That you could do. Yeah.


Jayson Davies

Awesome, man. Well, let's wrap this up with one laughs good question, I think here and that is what do you think the skill that you brought to the table as an OT really made Friendly be able to happen? What skill do you have that really helped to make Friendly come to life?


Joseph DiFrancisco

Great question. I would glad to hear that process, I would say perseverance, you know, being an OT, not afraid to get things wrong. I'm not sure I was diagnosed with a learning disability. Not sure I believed it. But I don't see letters as everyone else does is definitely visual perception. They call it SLD, a specific learning disability. So when you go into like paragraph form, I would have to rewrite entire books, break it up from my eyes, so it's an easier process. Yet the tactile, kinesthetic kind of learning, actually, like putting it down into the structure helped kind of get that in through an additional sense of perseverance, I got so much stuff wrong, developing as a child, it's not really that big of a deal to me, my mother was probably Middle School, you know, education. She was a high school dropped out, she dropped out by age of 16. And I did my Master’s. And I keep going, I just don't mind getting stuff wrong, like other people, just these are opportunities. I tell my son, a daughter this all the time that you know, if you're getting it wrong, like that's, that's actually the best thing you could do. But the issue is, if you don't study what you got wrong, and figure out why you got it wrong, it's not really that good. I just perseverance, I get it wrong. And then I study why, and then I fix it, get wrong again. Then I fix it. That's how we started this stuff, you know, alone, without anyone and this is years and years before we even entered the market, which was two years ago. So yeah, perseverance keeps at it. You know, kind of encourage anyone listening to it, you know, you have that advocacy for your students and you get stuff wrong and don't follow the book, per se, keep trying different things. Even in my parenting strategy, I'd be lying if I didn't use both classical and operant conditioning, a wooden spoon in the house, giving an auditory cue, really, you know, the way my mom used to do it, where they hear that spoon, and they're gonna respond accordingly. And then clearly, you got to have your know your positives, the positives in everything. But even as a parent, you get stuff wrong and you make adjustments and I think that will surely bring someone to the best place, whatever endeavor they choose to pursue.


Jayson Davies

Absolutely, can't be afraid to make a mistake here and there. Gotta be ready to go. So, Alrighty, man, well, obviously friendlyshoes.com. Is there anywhere else where people should check you out?


Joseph DiFrancisco

Yes. So we are, you know, helping Zappos with their singles program. So, individuals with these KFOS EFOs, SMOs, go to Zappos adapt, that they're fantastic. And for the first time ever, individuals with these orthoses can buy different size shoes, and there's no having to buy double. So I definitely encourage you to go to Zappos adaptive, you could get the kicks. And then if you go to Australia to a company called every human couple, the nice young gentleman over there ambitious, not afraid to get stuff wrong. everyhuman.com.au and yeah, no, that's we have now a juniperunlimited.com as I mentioned before, is, is another one and silvers.com in Canada.


Jayson Davies

All right, good to know. Sorry, when you said different sizes, you mean like a size eight for one foot a size nine for the other foot? Is that what you're talking about?


Joseph DiFrancisco

Yes, sir. You could buy. And we, not only did we reinvent the shoe, but Ryan, I guess the competitive nature and him had to outdo me for trying to reinvent shoes. So he redid the shoe box. So we have our friendly shoeboxes on the Zappos platform for this singles program. So you got an A a full you need a size eight and the right and your foot without that and about half size, sometimes full-size difference you by 7.5 in the left hand, no big deal, and they handle the returns and make it really easy for us. Nice deal.


Jayson Davies

That's cool. It's a good thing to know. All righty, man, well, thank you so much for coming on the OTs go house podcast really appreciate having you here. And I just love hearing about OTs that are doing different things in the world and making the world a better place. So kudos to you. And thank you so much, man.


Joseph DiFrancisco

Jayson, thanks so much for having me, man.


Jayson Davies

Definitely Take care.


Joseph DiFrancisco

Take care.


Jayson Davies

Alright, everyone, I hope you all enjoyed that real and candid talk with Joe. He is an amazing person super friendly. And he just has so much going on with friendlyshoes.com. I'm super excited to see where that leads to with Zappos and all the other big players in the shoe market. It's gonna be awesome. I gotta admit, I'm just so glad there's an occupational therapist behind the adapted shoe company that is friendly shoes. You know, just like me, and maybe some of you Joe started off in the schools and he has now gone on to create his own company. And I know he said a lot of terms that maybe you don't quite understand because you don't run a business. And that's okay. You know, neither myself nor Joe knew any of those terms, maybe 2, 4, 6 years ago, and we've gone to learn about it. As you said, perseverance is key. And as an occupational therapist, I like to think that we all have a ton of that. So whatever you might have in your mind, stick to it. Go on YouTube, learn, listen to podcasts, like you're already doing, and you will make it to be successful and whatever you want to be alright. So take care, enjoy the rest of your evening, your day, whatever it might be. And we'll see you next time on the podcast. Take care. Bye-bye.


Amazing Narrator

Thank you for listening to the OT School House podcast. For more ways to help you and your students succeed right now. Head on over to otschoolhouse.com until next time, class is dismissed.





Be sure to subscribe to the OT School House email list & get access to our free downloads of Gray-Space paper and the Occupational Profile for school-based OTs.


Have any questions or comments about the podcast? Email Jayson at Jayson@otschoolhouse.com

Well,


Thanks for visiting the podcast show notes! If you enjoyed this episode be sure to subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcast, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts






Comments


Single post: Blog_Single_Post_Widget
bottom of page