Unbelievable Testing Labratory and their Impossibly Light Shoes.

We have featured Unbelievable Testing Laboratory on FIVE THOT in the past – from their wildly successful Kickstarter campaign to their push to change the way footwear is brought to market globally through partnering with Crowdtilt. This time we asked ­­Co-Founder Joseph Constanty how he got to where his is today, how his company is doing, and what keeps his fire burning.

 1.     Tell me the story of the company. How did you get started? What was your inspiration? What was your original idea and where did it come from? How were you able to manifest that idea?

The concept of THE UT.LAB started over two years ago when my business partner, Token Hu, started playing around with TYVEK® while working at frog design in Shanghai. At the time he was working with TYVEK® in the office, he had been tinkering on a personal shoe-making project using traditional materials at home. Then he got to thinking, that it might be possible to work with the material for shoes, and that's when the prototypes of the original LIGHT WING started to take shape. Weeks later he quit frog and started THE UT.LAB. Fast-forward a couple months and that is when I was introduced to Token by his previous frog design GM, who was a mutual friend. And what was supposed to be a quick cup of coffee, turned into hours of brainstorming as to how we could build THE UT.LAB globally. And a few months after that we launched the LIGHT WING TRAINER on Kickstarter in the summer of 2013. 

2.     How do you see your company changing things for the better, and making our world a better place?

When we came together to set out on this project as a group of three founders (Token Hu, Shaun Nath, and myself) we all told each other that the only way we would work together on the project is if we were equally committed to building a company and making products that would enable us to help and support the community around us. Make cool products that people loved so we could empower the community we lived within.

Naturally we all had a passion for education, but we also knew that the three of us were not individually equipped to go out and make the world's education system better over night. So we looked to team up with an organization that had similar ethos as our team, and would ultimately allow us to take our passion globally. We decided that Teach for America was the ideal partner, especially with their commitment to STEM education, to help us fulfill our mission to empower tomorrow's leaders through access to great educators. Not only do we donate money when we sell shoes, but we have also created a design contest with Las Vegas Valley TFA students, where one student's winning designs will be crowd funded on Indiegogo this July 2014, you can check out the 12 finalists here: http://theutlab.com/pages/tfa-design-contest. We also just piloted "#MeettheGeek" between NASA and one TFA physics classroom, where we video conference science and technology professionals into high school classrooms so students can have a Q&A session to learn more about what a future in STEM might mean for them. Let's just say this keeps us very busy, and we absolutely love it.

 3.     What is core to your company DNA? What makes you tick?

  • We create footwear that is impossibly light. 
  • We advance science through every aspect of our design, material choice, and business model. 
  • We are empowering tomorrow's leaders by cooperating with leading education organizations to make science cool. 

That's the easiest way to elevator pitch what we're all about. But in a nutshell we are three founders that have been building a small team that keeps similar ethos and goals in life that can help us fulfill our ultimate mission to empower kids with access to great educators. It's this common thread that gets us excited about creating amazing designs, and perfecting them to get them ready for the global market who is looking to identify with our brand, support our products, and most importantly identify with our mission.

4. How do you foster ideas within your organization?

We tend to keep a very horizontal organization. Where designers can chime in on marketing, marketing can make comments about what is going on in manufacturing, and the like. We have employees or contracted team members spread across the globe. In terms of building the organization, you can never find all the people you want in the city you are located, but you can definitely find people around the globe that have similar passions. So we try our best to find these people around the globe, wherever they may be, and let them work with us from wherever it is that they love to live. 

 5.     What are your biggest opportunities today and where will you grow? Where do you see yourselves headed in the future?

By our very nature as business owners we like to remain very close relationships to our customers, so nearly all of our business to date is done b2c online. We like having that 1-to-1 relationship with our customers. We like to hear directly from them about what they like and sometimes what they don't like. It helps us fine-tune our product, our team, and our brand. This biggest opportunity on the near term horizon is the wholesale market to retailers in the United States. We want to stay highly focused on the US market in 2014-2015. Maintaining laser-like sharpness on our target is essential to success.

 6.     Do you have a mantra?  Do you have something that guides you each day? What is it?

Be inspirational today.

 7.     Who influenced you the most, and why?

Personally, it's cliché, but my mom and dad created such an awesome environment to grow up in and learn. I think I am very fortunate to have two parents that gave so much of their time and energy to me and my little sister, Rachel, to make sure that we believed we could do anything one day. Running your shop is never without ups and downs, but it is the belief that has been instilled in me since I was young that I can make anything happen as long as I put my best foot forward, is what drives me inspires me everyday.

 8.     What keeps your fire burning, keeps you coming to work every day?

I get to work with a bunch of people that are amazingly creative and a lot of fun. Also I like to look at each day as a new lesson, and it's what gets me going.

 9.     What makes you furious?

You know the "pin wheel" that spins on Vimeo/Youtube videos when your internet connection sucks. Well that is an endless battle when I am in China. It makes me nuts. 

 10.  How do you stay balanced?

I run. I play soccer. I read a ton, and I try to take a 15-minute afternoon nap on a regular basis (all great leaders in recent history have been chronicled to have taken naps for a mid-day recharge). I also spend half my time in Las Vegas when I am not in our design studio or factories in Shanghai and Southern China. Vegas is known for the casinos and nightlife, but you really need to check out the unreal nature that surrounds the city. I can't get enough of it.

Personally, it's cliché, but my mom and dad created such an awesome environment to grow up in and learn. I think I am very fortunate to have two parents that gave so much of their time and energy to me and my little sister, Rachel, to make sure that we believed we could do anything one day. Running your shop is never without ups and downs, but it is the belief that has been instilled in me since I was young that I can make anything happen as long as I put my best foot forward, is what drives me inspires me everyday.

See Unbelievable Testing Laboratory’s latest (and already successful) Kickstarter campaign featuring the Ninja, their lightest shoe yet.

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