By Jennifer Rader, Contributing Writer
How does one broken foot lead to an innovative product, create U.S. jobs and become a national fashion sensation? Gainesville resident Christina Daves, CEO, creator and innovator of CastMedic Designs, LLC knows how: just combine an untapped market segment with a creative mind.
With a tagline of “The Healing Power of Fashion,” the company’s philosophy revolves around making people feel better about themselves at some of their toughest times. For Daves, this need for fashionable healing power began in September 2010 when the mother of two broke her foot during a family vacation. Her doctor unceremoniously prescribed the infamous black boot. Daves was due to travel to New York and was self-conscious about being well-dressed with the obvious appendage on her foot. “I would have had anything [to cover the orthopedic boot]overnighted to my hotel room,” she said.
Soon after the trip and still outﬁtted in the boot, Daves researched products that would accessorize or “dress up” the boot, but found nothing. She said that wearing it felt awkward and ugly, but she knew that with some hard work, it could be remedied.
Daves started by making functional accessory prototypes of her ideas for fashionable and fun materials to decorate the boot. Both children tested the models by walking around in the initial designs. It took several attempts before ﬁnding stable pieces that worked. She held focus groups with orthopedic doctors and patients and found that there was a potential market for her vision. Research indicated that the boot was prescribed more often than traditional casts because of its quicker recovery and rehabilitation time, and that many wearers were conscious of its dominating appearance.
With research complete, Daves wrote the business plan and the hunt for a manufacturer began. This part proved to be the toughest aspect for Daves, who has a background in land development and as a retail store co-owner.
At a textile show in New York, she ﬁnally found a Philadelphia-based brokerage ﬁrm. Her fulﬁllment center is now located in Virginia Beach with administrative and IT contracts that help keep her operation and website, www.castmedicdesigns.com, moving product.
Daves was able to fully launch her product line in February 2012 and has made quite a splash with accessories such as fur cuﬀs, decorative stockings and clip-on decorations to dress up medical boots. Media outlets such as MomTalk Radio, FashInvest.com, Washington Business Journal, Trendhunter.com and Orthopedic This Week have featured Daves and CastMedic Designs. Daves was also named to Startup Nation’s “Top 200 Leading Moms in Business 2012” list. Even the style editor of the TODAY Show, Bobbie Thomas, got wind of the new product line. Thomas had a complete accessory package sent to her at the New York studio.
Daves was recently selected to participate as one of six contestants in the inventors competition that aired November 1 on the Steve Harvey Show. Sponsored and judged by InventHelp and Hillshire Brands, Daves won the top prize of $20,000! But it gets better: CastMedic Designs came to the rescue later that month in the “Ask Steve” segment of the show when a viewer asked about dressing up her medical boot for the holiday party season. Since then Daves has spoken on radio shows across the nation and made additional connections with major publications.
It seems that Daves has always been on the cutting edge of trends. In 2002, she decided to open a store selling items from the Southern Living catalog line. At a time when no big box stores were in Western Prince William, the idea was novel. Where others would see a challenge, Daves saw opportunity. Joined by her best friend and neighbor Barbara Diebus, she opened Details for the Home, operating from a quaint house built in 1889.
The two women started out with a budget and an idea, but no experience. Diebus recalls asking herself, “What were we thinking?” They worked tirelessly to secure the best products and meet customer needs. Daves feels this experience was a good foundation to launch her next step of entrepreneurship. “I could have never done CastMedic if I hadn’t had the store,” Daves said.
This vision, determination and commitment are assets Daves brings along to CastMedic Designs. Daves says that her ability to promote products and concepts is one of her greatest strengths. Linda Decker, president and CEO of the Flory Small Business Center, worked with Daves on aspects of the new venture, and seconds Daves’ self-assessment. “Her major strength is marketing. Her commitment and enthusiasm for providing this product is contagious,” said Decker.
Pointing out the diﬃculty of inventing a product and bringing it to the market, Decker says that doing one’s homework on developing contacts such as suppliers and distributors and knowing the product as well as Daves does is critical. Said Decker, “She understands marketing and communicating. Put those things together along with a willingness to do the research and you have a winning combination.”
Advice to Others
Daves cites a solid business plan, social media presence and connections as the foundation for her success. She believes that the business plan helps to determine if an idea is viable. “People will ask all along the way about your business plan. You will constantly refer to it,” said Daves.
As for the challenging task of establishing a distribution network, Daves credits the connections she built through social media site LinkedIn. She said that social media has become a primary method for moving her message forward. “This business is all about connection. The worst anyone is going to say is ‘no.’ You just have to ask,” she advised.
“What we started was one thing,” added Diebus of the home goods shop, “but to go onto something else while keeping up with a family….this proves she wanted to do something, she did it.”
Goals for the future include making CastMedic Designs a household name and launching several new designs. For now, Daves reﬂects, “I never thought about it, but you look back at decisions you made and you ﬁgure out that you’re destined to be a business owner.”
A nonproﬁt development director for over10 years, Jennifer Rader now works as afreelance writer and consultant. She lives with her son and husband in Manassas and can be reached at JRader@princewilliamliving.com.