It’s only been 2 short years since the idea for Gales was born, but we’ve accomplished a lot since then! As we continue to rapidly grow our team and work on new, exciting products, we wanted to sit down with our Founder & CEO, Rob Gregg, to check in on all things Gales and get a taste for what's to come in 2022.
Prior to founding Gales at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Rob was a GQ Insider, Forbes Under 30 Fellow, and Founder of Italian Luxury Shoe line Rob McAllan. He used his past experience in shoe manufacturing to fill a critical need in the PPE space; a shoe that's comfortable, protective and affordable.
In this interview, Rob discusses past accomplishments, challenges that we’ve faced as a brand, as well as some exciting updates regarding new product rollout.
What's the story behind Gales?
When someone really close to my family got sick with COVID, ultimately his life was saved by the NHS. I got a phone call on a Monday morning where they told us his body was shutting down and they were going to have to induce him into a coma. A very tough call to get; I had a board meeting at my previous marketing company that I skipped because they basically said now is the time to say what you need to to him, he cant get enough oxygen and his body is shutting down. Thankfully that day, a new type of facemask was created that gave him a better oxygen seal and so through innovation, the next 5 days in the ICU coupled with the care provided to him by the amazing medical staff, he was able to make a full recovery.
Immediately after, I wanted to give back, so I started donating directly towards a nurse group SONSIEL and connected with Rebecca Love, RN, MSN, FIEL, and that's where I learned about this massive problem and need for better comfort, protection and affordable footwear for the everyday nurse. Gales was born from there.
2021 was Gales’ inaugural year in business– give us a rundown of the highlights
Boy, we’ve done a lot! We crowdsource designed our first MVP product and released it to market officially in September to sold out production! We got into Techstars, closed our first investment round, we were named on both the Forbes Next 1,000 as well as being selected by Pepperdine as the Most Fundable Company in 2021 in Entrepreneur Magazine.
Amazon actually featured us on the Social Good Founders page, so that was pretty cool to see recognition there. Our team has grown considerably, we were a team of one, and now I’ve almost lost count of how many we have on the team now! I call it the “awesome humans club”; everybody that has joined the team has a really positive attitude and a passion for what they do, and it’s really exciting! Especially now that we’ve started to connect with you nurses and consumers, our team is committed to listening to their feedback and seeing how it’s impacted their lives.
To have a team that's happy and supportive to be able to provide better comfort and support for our healthcare community has just been a blessing and an amazing start to our Gales journey.
Who are the people who have been the most helpful in getting you to where you are today? How did they impact your life and your success?
My Family. My dad is my superman. I admire his intelligence and character, and he’s been instrumental in shaping who I am today. My mom is strong willed, always has my back and helped me push through difficult times in different stages of my life. I love my sister too, she is the most creative human I know. My family is everything, I owe it all to them!
Later in life, my first mentor was Gareb Shamus, founder of Comic-Con, just an all around awesome human! The way he carries himself and the way he is able to network and connect is something I look up to a lot. He taught me a lot about what it means to be a founder.
And I have to give a shoutout to Rebecca Love and the Levine family. They’re the ones who showed me the opportunity to donate towards SONSIEL for nurses, and that's when the whole conversation sparked around Gales when we uncovered the need for healthcare professionals to have better footwear.
A few more special mentions; Techstars has been a phenomenal community of mentors and founders. They have been really instrumental in getting us from zero to one. And then from one to two, Jessica and Kate, the founders of female lead VC Hannah Grey, a Colorado based venture capital fund for believing in us and leading our first priced round.
Lastly, kind of an odd one, but thank you to everyone who's said no! I’ve always tried to turn the difficult situations in my life into opportunities, and the people who’ve challenged me and have different ways of thinking that I might not agree with have helped me either strengthen my own beliefs or create new ways of thinking. I’m really thankful for the difficult people I’ve met in life for helping shape who I am.
What are Gales’ plans to continue supporting nurses in 2022?
So, as we ramp up and have more funds available it means that we can give back that much further. We’re sponsoring the Bonnie Fang Foundation 5K walk that's coming up in California that was founded in honor by the daughters of a nurse who passed away. We’re also partnering with nurse staffing companies and have a pretty exciting announcement that's coming up soon with some giveaways for nurses that will allow them to kick their feet up and relax a little–more to come on that!
Overall, as we develop our product, we’ve got some new things in the mix directly based on customer feedback. The reviews are overwhelmingly positive but it's also nice to hear any critical reviews or customer suggestions because that's going to help make us a better brand with better footwear to deliver the best possible product to our nurses, and we will continue to do so heavily in 2022.
What’s the biggest challenge Gales has had to overcome so far?
Shipping! We’ve moved everything to North America. It’s no surprise and it’s kind of become the norm that delays are getting longer and longer, so we’re very fortunate to have moved our supply chain to North America. Which now means we’re not going to be facing the same delays and shutdowns as other companies might, so we can continue to ramp up and scale, specifically providing footwear, as needed, on demand for nurses all across the United States.
What Gales achievement to date are you most proud of?
Our team, hands down. Everyday they surprise me with entrepreneurial thinking and new ideas. And the great thing is they’re not just good ideas; they resonate directly with our demographic. Their goal and intention always is how can we do more good in the community, and it never ceases to amaze me how incredible our team is, how thoughtful they are and what they create for the community. So by far, the biggest win of the year was recruiting and maintaining our constantly growing team!
Anything exciting product updates/ new releases you can share?
Yes! We do have a Pro line that's coming out. It’s in development, it’s going to take a little bit of time– it’s a very lengthy process! But once it’s done, we think that everyone is going to be really excited. We basically took any and all tidbits of feedback from our existing customer base and applied it to make our shoe that much better. The existing product will still go strong, as we have a ton of customers who absolutely love our original design.
But for the people who have different variations with their feet, and the existing Gales design doesn’t quite fit for them, this new Pro line should fill the gap and create a full suite of offerings for every foot type, and every type of working professional that's wearing our shoes today and in the future.
What are the plans for Gales in 2022 and beyond?
Right now it's really about further connecting with our audience. Now that we have more products in the market, it's getting real-time feedback, speaking with more nurses and understanding how we can continue to evolve. Ultimately where we’d like to go is to find organizations and mechanisms that actually find and buy equipment and PPE and uniforms for their nurses. We think it would be fantastic if hospitals and other medical facilities paid for protection and comfort for their workforce. We know it’s an uphill battle to climb, but we’re really excited to be opening doors and having conversations with groups that I think are going to be the path to us getting there.
Last few for fun!
Macallan whiskey neat!
Favorite gales colorway?
Fun fact– I’m color blind! It’s funny; the color that I can’t see is the one I’m most excited about - Mint!
“Evil prevails when good men fail to act.” It strikes a chord with me, especially what's going on in the world today—there's always going to be challenges. But as long as there are men AND women (that quote should be revised!) that are willing to do the right thing, I have faith in humanity and faith in what we’re doing and I always hope to be on the right side of that equation doing something positive to help people.
4 people at a dinner party, dead or alive
Easy, my family. I moved back to California to be closer to family and the production of our shoes, but any time I have spare time, I want to spend it with my family. I used to only get to see them on holidays, and even then, I worked so much so I couldn't see them for a good amount of time. Any opportunity for dinner with family– that's my happy place!