The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

February 23, 2011

Ala woman's sole idea takes off

Associated Press

— BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) Doris Collier's husband was a bit skeptical when she told him she wanted to form her own business.

"I don't know why you want to work," said her husband of 25 years, Nathan, a doctor at the time.

But Doris, a stay-at-home mom, had raised three children and was eager for something new. She enrolled at UAB, majoring in psychology and minoring in business.

"I was ready for a new challenge in life," she said. "I love meeting people and traveling."

Nathan isn't skeptical now since he was able to retire with her help.

Collier's Gadsden-based business, Magic Feet LLC, sells ergonomic insoles to regional and international companies, such as Tyson Foods, JBS, Pilgrim's Pride, Coca-Cola, International Paper, the Ford Motor Co., Frito Lay and General Mills.

Collier founded her company almost six years ago and still keeps her husband on as "physician consultant," she said.

"Our business trips tend to last an extra four or five days when we combine them with pleasure," she joked. Her daughter Juli Antanaitis also manages the company's online sales from Chattanooga, Tenn.

Collier sells a heavy-duty insole designed by Spenco Medical Corp. of Waco, Texas. Spenco began in 1967 and sells to different markets, such as podiatrists and sporting goods stores. But most of their sales come from distributors such as Collier, who works in the occupational market.

"She's definitely been a great asset for us to have," said Dusty Williams, marketing manager for Spenco. "What she's done in the short amount of time she's been operational has just been phenomenal."

Magic Feet is also certified by the Women's Business Enterprise National Council, the largest third-party certifier of businesses owned, controlled and operated by women in the United States.

Nathan did encourage Doris in forming her business, as well as indirectly suggesting what direction she pursue.

For years, Nathan talked about the number of patients he saw suffering from lower back pain. The insoles are designed with arch supports and a disk on the heel of the insole to help those who work on concrete floors by taking pressure off the lower back. They can fit in many different styles of footwear, such as work boots or athletic shoes.

Collier markets the soles to companies as a cost-saving measure to prevent lower back, knee and foot injuries.

"They're more cost-effective than floor mats, which have a trip hazard," Collier said. "Studies show worker productivity increases because the worker isn't as fatigued by the end of the work day."

To market the shoe, Collier and her husband have traveled to safety and health conferences and offer custom fittings at factories for employees.

"We go in to make sure everyone has a proper fit," she said.

And then, the two are off to their next destination. Business has also given the Colliers an outlet for mission work in Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico and Costa Rica, Doris said. The two distribute free medicine in temporary clinics for one-week stretches and share their faith.

"I tell people, it's not about the sole, it's about the soul," Doris said.