In 2004, Cause Haun was a mom on a mission. In search of a shoe that combined cutting edge style and quality design for her son’s growing little feet, she came up empty. So, like any devoted, entrepreneur-minded American mom, she decided to do something about it. She started her own shoe company and named it See Kai Run after her toddler son, Kai.
When Haun approached independent business owners in Seattle about her idea for a flexible-soled shoe for babies learning to walk, they assured her their customers would welcome such a product. At that time, doctors were advocating the idea that barefoot was best for developing babies. But, other than booties, there was no flexible, soft-soled shoe on the market that little ones learning to walk could wear outdoors.
Haun, a college graduate with a degree in international business, worked with nonprofit groups that organize international student exchanges when she and her co-founder and husband, Chen Gang, started See Kai Run. In the beginning, the family business relied solely on word of mouth for advertising and sold in local boutiques. Haun credits the company’s success, in large part, to the lessons learned through working with family and close friends.
The company’s rapid growth was completely organic. Now owned by Fundamental Capital, See Kai Run’s current distribution includes North America, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Taiwan, Israel, Panama and China. It’s fairly obvious that their designs became a favorite not just of American moms, but also of moms around the world — and perhaps most importantly, the favorite of moms who have children with disabilities.
One such mom from Chicago discovered See Kai Run in 2014 when a nonprofit organization called Peach’s Neet Feetpresented her daughter Tinley with a pair of hand-painted See Kai Run shoes made especially for her. Tinley was born with Apert Syndrome, a disorder that causes deformity of the skull, face, hands and feet, which can make finding a good pair of shoes a significant challenge.
“Sometimes children with Apert Syndrome have difficulty wearing just any shoe,” Tinley’s mom, Sarah Britton, told Opportunity Lives. “Their toes are fused and some have surgery making it very difficult to fit into regular shoes.”
But the parents did their research, she explained, and found that because their shoes are made with such a generous toe box for extra wiggle room, the See Kai Run brand was absolutely perfect for children with Apert Syndrome. Before long, a partnership was born.
While Haun’s original mission was to develop happy, healthy feet, her dream quickly grew and See Kai Run began partnering with multiple charities, foundations and pay-it-forward organizations like Soles4Souls. Today, the mission of See Kai Run isn’t just to meet the needs of their toddler clientele by providing quality stylish shoes for their growing feet; it has expanded in an effort to also develop happy, healthy children. In that effort, the See Kai Run Superstar program was created to honor children with special needs for their courage and character, and little Tinley Britton became their very first of 10 Superstars.
“We thought that by creating our Superstar program we could help bring awareness to the challenges these [children] face, and acceptance by showing they are really just like other kids,” See Kai Run spokesman Steve Hart told Opportunity Lives.
Both See Kai Run and Peach’s Neet Feet are making a real effort to encourage awareness and acceptance of children who face challenges due to disability or serious illness. Through creating custom hand painted works of art for them, Peach’s Neet Feet has had a hand in connecting people from all walks of life who would’ve probably never otherwise met.
“Today, what began as a love of art and giving has grown into a movement of kindness,” explains the nonprofit’s website. “The only thing that PNF asks for in return is that the children and their families pay it forward and “Hustle Kindness” themselves.” And, as usual, See Kai Run met the challenge.
While See Kai Run has been providing shoes for Peach’s Neet Feet since 2014, the company decided to team with the nonprofit in a larger way this year with a new line of shoes called See Kai Run Superstars. Ten percent of the proceeds from the sale of these select styles marked with the “Hustle Kindness” logo will go directly to Peach’s Neet Feet.
It only seems fitting that they’ve named the “Hustle Kindness” line after their brave little Superstars, who exhibit a great deal of courage as they set a very high standard by hustling kindness themselves. Superstar Tinley Britton is as proud as a little girl can possibly be of her “Tinley shoes,” and according to her mom, tells everyone about them wherever she goes.
Cause Haun has proven that a mom on a mission can never be underestimated. She saw a need, worked tirelessly to meet that need and in doing so founded an incredible company that is making a difference in the lives of children all over the world — not just with a cutting-edge product, but by encouraging kids to be healthy and happy.
This article was written by me and published by Opportunity Lives on March 15, 2016. Photos: See Kai Run, Facebook