Interview with Bret Rasmussen, CEO of KURU Footwear
This article is part of a series featuring business executives who choose to live and work in Utah. If you know of an executive we should interview, please contact us.
Bret Rasmussen is the CEO of KURU Footwear, an 11-year-old direct to consumer shoe company that is on a mission to eliminate foot pain around the world. He started his entrepreneurial journey after winning a business plan competition at the University of Utah and has never looked back.
With a passion for footwear, Rasmussen took a new approach by inventing a technology that protects the foot from the impacts of modern-day life. That patented technology is the foundation of KURU’s success.
Rasmussen is passionate about making footwear designed for the outdoors and encouraging others to lead healthy and active lifestyles. He is also passionate about leading a business with the potential for global good. He also cares deeply about giving back and making an impact in his local community, which is something KURU Footwear has done since inception through the KURU CARES program.
The company selected causes that focus on The Four Pillars of Sustainability and Social Responsibility. The four pillars include education, economic development, health, and environmental impact. By selecting these pillars, customers can trust the chosen charities will make a lasting difference.
How did you get started in the industry?
I worked at a start-up company that licensed carbon fiber manufacturing technology. Unfortunately, we were unable to affordably and consistently mass-produce the technology. The company experienced too many defects, and I got laid off. I then decided to pursue my childhood dream and started a shoe company. With zero previous experience in the footwear industry, I embarked on a multi-year mission to build my network with professionals in the footwear industry.
Why did you start Kuru?
I didn’t start KURU to solve foot pain. I learned the science and biomechanics of the foot and applied those insights to invent our patented KURUSOLE technology platform. My goal was to invent a shoe technology that promises the proven benefits of an orthotic built directly into the shoe, giving customers a superior product that shaped their unique feet. We hear a lot of customer testimonials about how it is the first solution that reduces or eliminates their pain.
What top two recent professional accomplishments are you most proud of?
I’m proud of growing a company that is bringing real, meaningful value to the world. Our shoes help eliminate foot pain for hundreds of thousands of customers. Knowing that KURU is delivering a life-changing solution, at a cost that’s a fraction of alternative treatments, brings me a sense of pride and a smile to my face.
We also assembled a stellar team with a great work ethic, and we are in the process of building it out to help us scale and grow to the next level. We have a few more strategic hires to make in 2020 in our marketing and operations departments that will help round out our team.
What do you like most about living in Utah?
I’m an active person who loves the outdoors: cycling, hiking, skiing, motorcycling and more. Utah is the best state for living an active, outdoor lifestyle. Quality of life in Utah is second to none. In the spring, I can ski some of the world’s best powder and then go cycling in shorts and a short sleeve jersey—all on the same day!
What do you like most about doing business in Utah?
Utah is very pro-business. Our state government continues to invest in areas and initiatives that promote healthy business growth. Utah is filled with highly educated and talented information technology professionals, which is incredibly helpful when running a direct-to-consumer e-commerce business.
What advice do you have for individuals considering starting a business, or relocating their business, to Utah?
I have three pieces of advice:
- If you want to live an active, outdoor lifestyle while having access to some amazing talent, you should consider coming to Utah. You can maintain a great work-life balance, homes are still affordable, and the state is super friendly to families and singles alike.
- If you need outside investment for your business, Utah has come of age when it comes to accessing capital. Because of our reputation for starting and scaling incredible growth companies, Utah has the attention of some of the best venture capital and private equity groups in the nation.
- Lastly, with our homegrown tech boom fueled by Silicon Slopes, Utah continues to pump out amazing tech companies that are revolutionizing their respective markets. If your business is in the tech space, Utah has a lot of seasoned talent.
What is your primary challenge of doing business in Utah?
The job market is so competitive right now. The positive of this is it forces us to be competitive in the marketplace and to make sure it’s a good fit for both parties when hiring someone. The negative is it can be challenging to get world-class talent. Despite those difficulties, we’ve been able to hire some incredible team members who believe in the future we are building.
What is your business philosophy?
I’m fascinated with the concept of value creation.
If you can bring real, meaningful differentiation in your product or service that matters to your customers and do it at a price the customer is willing to pay, then you can create a business of real value. The key is to understand your customers’ needs deeply and uniquely solve their problems through a world-class product and customer service experience that is unmatched.
Are there certain styles of KURU shoes that are more popular than others?
We have three main shoe styles that are our best-sellers. Most of our female customers shop our Sneakers & Tennis Shoes as well as our Hiking Shoes & Boots, while our male customers focus primarily on our Shoes for Plantar Fasciitis.
Tell me a fun fact about yourself.
I’m a triple citizen of the U.S., Italy and Switzerland.