Soles with Soul with Indosole’s Kyle Parsons

February 18, 2015

JOHN SHEGERIAN: Welcome to another edition of Green is Good. It’s a special edition here in San Francisco at the Green Festival. We’ve got a very special guest with us today, Kyle Parsons. He’s the founder and President of Indosole. Welcome to Green is Good, Kyle. KYLE PARSONS: Thanks, John. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Kyle, obviously, we have some of your great products here in front of us. Before we get talking about your brand and some of your great products, talk a little bit about your journey, your story and how you got to be into sustainability and then the founding of your company first. KYLE PARSONS: It started my sophomore year in college. I got a job at a recycling facility, basically a dump, and was recycling plastic products, having them bailed up and shipped off an island. That was my first introduction to recycling and the need for reusing products. That led me into some surf shop jobs, working in retail, selling sandals. Then, I grew into a sales rep job, selling sunglasses, snowboard gear and some other things. Got some retail experience. In 2004, I took my first trip to Bali, Indonesia, and I was just blown away by the beauty of the land, the people and how resourceful the people were, making really cool products out of trash. I found a unique pair of sandals that had tire on the soles of them, and I made a connection between a waste problem that had been going on there. There’s a lot of plastic, a lot of waste tires, and I actually learned that over one billion tires end up in landfills each year. I had an idea, and it was a hybrid of my previous experience in recycling and also working in the surf retail sector. I wanted to start a sandal brand made out of repurposed tires as soles. JOHN SHEGERIAN: That’s what Indosole is. It’s a sandal brand made out of recycled materials? KYLE PARSONS: Yes, absolutely. JOHN SHEGERIAN: What year did you start it? KYLE PARSONS: There were about three years of development, which started as just carrying suitcases through the airport packed with sandals, giving them away to my friends. As things evolved, I found a more professional factory that I could partner with and refine the product and get it ready for the U.S. market. We did our first retail delivery in May of 2010, so here we are in 2014, charging ahead. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Before we get talking about the samples right here, for our listeners and viewers out there, you can find Kyle’s products at www.indosole.com. Talk a little bit about what environmental problems, besides the fact that we waste so much on this planet, what other environmental factors were you thinking about, and what were you solving? What problems were you solving when you created these beautiful shoes? KYLE PARSONS: As we got going, we realized that we were solving multiple problems. First of all, there’s a lot of waste tires in landfills around the world. These tires take hundreds of thousands of years to decompose in a landfill. By preventing them from ending up in the landfill and making them into shoes, we’re addressing that problem. Another thing that we’re doing, actually, on the manufacturing end, is finding a cleaner and greener way to manufacture shoes. It’s almost like the old fashioned way of making shoes, by taking a tire, keeping it in its raw original form, and cutting it up and refining it, adhering it to the upper of a sandal. It’s a very organic process. There’s no melting down, there’s no toxins, and the tire is left in its original form. It’s actually different than recycling. It’s repurposing. It’s upcycling. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Is your company located here in California? KYLE PARSONS: Yeah, we’re based in San Francisco. All of our manufacturing is in Bali, Indonesia. We employ six Americans full-time and over 40 Balinese craftspeople in our factory. Our distribution is steadily growing each year. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Does that factory make a lot of products, or is it dedicated just for Indosole’s products? KYLE PARSONS: We’re their number one shoe client at our factory. There are some other customers, but none make products like ours. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Are there certifications when it comes to shoes? Is it similar to fair trade, in terms of sustainability standards and things like that? KYLE PARSONS: Yeah, we’re a certified B Corporation, which we recently got approved for and we’re proud of, which simply says that we’re doing our best to do things the best way we can. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Talk a little bit about these beautiful shoes we have in front of us and why they’re special and why your shoes are so special. KYLE PARSONS: Yeah. Our original products used repurposed motorbike tire. In Indonesia, there’s millions of motorbikes on the streets, hence lots of tires kicking around. So we took the tread and put it on the bottom of the sandal. The upper on this one uses repurposed burlap coffee sacks on the top and polyester. We don’t use any leather or any animal materials. It’s all vegan. We also use recycled trash as hang tags. This one happens to be a coffee wrapper. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Wow. That’s awesome. Beautiful. KYLE PARSONS: Some of the other materials we use are natural, just from the Earth. This is grass mat, so this is grass that’s grown in the rice fields of Bali, taken out, dried, and then spooled together and bound with thread and pulled together. This one says Bridgestone on the bottom of this tire. We put a lot of time into the comfortability of these sandals, too. There’s an embedded arch support and nice, soft foam on the inside. The ladies represent most of our business these days. Women love to shop, so we wanted to give them something that they really can feel comfortable in and feel beautiful in. JOHN SHEGERIAN: This really feels comfortable. KYLE PARSONS: Yeah, this model is called the Ikhanna. It has a zipper on the back, vegan suede. JOHN SHEGERIAN: I see the Dunlap brand right on the bottom. KYLE PARSONS: Yep, that’s right. We use all different kinds of tires, just continuing the journey, letting the good times roll on. JOHN SHEGERIAN: What do you got there? KYLE PARSONS: This shoe is called the Kelapa shoe. It’s just a nice, easy slip-on for women. It’s one of our top sellers. JOHN SHEGERIAN: I’m looking at the box here. I want to just turn this around. First of all, I love your tagline, “Soles with soul.” That’s awesome. Made from 100% recycled cardboard. This is a DNA cultural issue at Indosole. KYLE PARSONS: Yeah, what we like to say is that we’re either repurposing or giving things a future purpose. For example, our hang tags, too. At the retail level, we give these hangers to our retailers, and these are made from repurposed scraps from furniture makers. It’s used to display the shoes in the store, but when a customer buys the product, they can also take this hanger home with them, use it in the kitchen to hang dish towels or in the closet to hang belts or jeans. JOHN SHEGERIAN: How many lines of shoes and sandals do you have now? KYLE PARSONS: We have four models of sandals for men and women, and three different models of shoes. JOHN SHEGERIAN: What’s your bestseller? KYLE PARSONS: These two right here, the tan burlap and the green grass mat, are our top selling sandal models. They’re our originals. For the ladies, the Ikhanna and the Kelapa shoe, we have a variety of different colors. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Kyle, obviously, you are someone not only with vision, but with guts. You started a business all the way in Bali, and it’s growing, obviously. We’re now into the fourth or fifth year. How do you best market your beautiful products? How do you get the world to know about these products? KYLE PARSONS: First of all, it’s been an amazing rollercoaster ride, starting a business on very little capital, bootstrapping it to the hilt. It’s been a lot of fun with those challenges. All of our marketing has been completely organic. We’re on social media. Places like Green Festival, where we can connect with customers and tell them our story and then have them walk away with a pair of shoes. JOHN SHEGERIAN: They can see and touch and feel and really believe what they’re seeing. That’s great. Besides on your website, which again is indosole.com for our listeners and viewers, where else can they find your beautiful products? KYLE PARSONS: We have retailers throughout California. We have about 70 retail shops throughout the world at this point that are independent retailers. Here, locally in San Francisco, we sell to the San Franpsycho shops, and that’s four shops. We have our own shop at 45th and Noriega in San Francisco. JOHN SHEGERIAN: You have your own shop. Awesome. People can order online and you’ll deliver anywhere around the world? KYLE PARSONS: Yes, we do. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Do you have people buying them around the world? KYLE PARSONS: Yes, ordering direct through our website is a great way to go. We do free shipping within the U.S., and we can ship to anywhere in the world. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Wow. Well, Kyle, we thank you for coming on. You’re always welcome on Green is Good. Again, Indosole Shoes and you can find them at indosole.com. Soles with a soul, and you’ll make the world a better place. Kyle Parsons, you are living proof that green is good. KYLE PARSONS: Thanks, John. I really appreciate it. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Thank you.