• Katie McLean

Pivoting For Good

How this Vancouver based shoe company employed their existing resources to alleviate the overwhelmed healthcare system, while simultaneously increasing their own production.

When Braden Parker and Kevin Reid began their shoe company, they weren’t able to foresee a global pandemic, but their variable production model allowed them to change direction and pivot quickly and efficiently. Braden tells us that Casca was created in hopes of breaking into the athleisure market, under the idea that shoes should last longer than a couple of months. They sell shoes that have a five-year lifetime and are designed to be versatile enough to be worn in a multitude of situations. This situates them in the market for sustainable production while attempting to contribute to lowering mass consumerist tendencies. “We want you to buy less” is featured prominently on their website, showing their commitment to decreasing the quantity bought while increasing the quality.

The ability to pivot and shift direction in the face of a crisis is only made possible when the existing infrastructure favours the ability to vary outcomes depending on changing demands and situations. When the stay at home order went into effect in March, Casca like most other retailers, had no choice but to temporarily close their Vancouver flagship store which had been experiencing steady growth in the first two months of 2020. Casca quickly shifted focus to ecommerce and leveraged their fleet of 3D printers to design and print medical grade face shields for hospital workers and have seen a significant spike in sales over the past two months. Casca uses 3D printers to produce the insoles of their shoes, this tool allows them to have some flexibility in what they are able to create, seen through their rapid shift from shoe insoles to face shield production. Their use of 3D printers allowed the shoe company to test a few different designs and then rapidly iterate until they found a design they liked. The actual production is much slower compared with mass manufacturing, but the ability to change the design instantaneously and begin creating at a moment’s notice is instrumental to the tools needed in this quickly evolving crisis.

The ability to assist healthcare workers is impressive, but the company has also been able to see an unexpected surge in growth during this time. In addition to their retail location in Vancouver, Casca sells a high proportion of shoes through their website. By having this infrastructure in place prior to the COVID19 crisis, Casca was able to quickly shift to selling solely online, and as a result, have been able to continue growing throughout the crisis despite having to close down their retail store. Online shopping is currently the only option for a lot of products, and by having a business which operates both in person and digitally, Casca has been able to seamlessly increase online sales. Braden attributes the easy pivot to the fact that they’ve always designed their website for e-commerce, meaning that despite many of their shoe sales being in-person, their website was able to accommodate greater online demand.

Braden makes it clear that they aren’t just relying on the early success of Casca during the current pandemic, instead, the team is trying to find even more ways to evolve in order to make sure they are always in the right position.

“I’m grateful this is the situation we’re in, but at the same time if we think that this is how it will always be - that’s when things can become problematic” - Braden Parker

Businesses are going to need to constantly redesign themselves and pivot, allowing yourself to stay aware of changing situations creates a model that is open to change and can be easily adapted to a variety of unforeseen circumstances. When asked about the culture and values of Casca, Braden immediately pointed to stoicism as central to their business. The ability to stay calm in the face of rapidly changing realities has proven to be instrumental in maintaining growth and contributing to the fight against COVID-19.

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