Finding a following for her company, Shoe Gummi, was no problem for Shantel Jackson. She currently has 1.4 million followers on Instagram. “Building my following with Shoe Gummi came naturally, and it was built from my own personal following,” she explains. The company, which launched its MVP (minimum viable product) this week, already had 16,500 followers of its own at press time.
What wasn’t as easy? Filing a patent for her product. The process took two-and-a-half years of frustration for the influencer, best known for her role on the reality show, "The Platinum Life" and for her relationship with musician Nelly. But Nelly, a longtime entrepreneur and investor himself, would tell her, “You can’t rush greatness.”
Why was the process so long? First, Jackson says, there were the months of researching patents to know if her product was even worthy of one. Then there was finding the right lawyer. “Once the attorney sees there’s nothing like your product, then you can start your application and get the terminology together,” she says. Terminology? That’s right. Jackson says that learning patent law was like diving into a new language. Reading 20 pages at a stretch, “I felt like I was in kindergarten and I didn’t know how to read.”
After she and her attorney had put their application together and submitted it, there was still the wait for the examiner to look at it. Once the examiner was on the case, it was around seven months of going back and forth to prove that Shoe Gummi was a unique idea.
One difficulty to overcome was something called an “obviousness rejection.” That means the examiner thinks that the invention, while not yet patented, is too obvious to merit intellectual property rights. “That was a lot of headaches and sleepless nights,” Jackson recalls. The examiner also worried that other products designed to be placed on the bottom of the shoe were too similar. But in April 2018, Jackson received her patent.
Exactly how is Shoe Gummi different? Jackson first came up with the idea to put a pad on the outer soles of her shoes in 2009. She took the idea to her shoemaker at the time and found that she was able to walk much longer and with greater comfort in her high heels when she used the pad. “After that, I was bringing my shoes in 20 or 30 pairs at a time. I feel like it worked that well,” she recalls.
Through Nelly, she connected with orthopedic surgeon Dr. Richard Lehman, who was impressed with the invention and its potential to prevent metatarsalgia, pain in the forefoot (ball of the foot) caused by pressure being exerted on the metatarsal bones. Below is a pair of X-rays he took of Jackson wearing 5-inch heels with and without Shoe Gummis to illustrate the difference. The best recommendation? He's now a partner.
Jackson kept her invention a secret between herself and her friends for five years before the idea occurred to her to turn her idea into a business. Patience has been a virtue throughout the process, something Jackson learned the hard way. She was “hellbent” on promoting Shoe Gummi on "The Platinum Life" and getting the product out in time to benefit from the TV coverage. But when she got the first shipment, which she thought was ready for consumers, “I was like This is not right,” she says.
That was 2017. Since then, she’s been working hard on doing more research and development to perfect the product. That’s two years since she thought the product would be out in the world, with the promotional backing of a national TV show. But Jackson has learned that little in business goes the way you expect it to.
“I really took a blow to my ego,” she now recalls. “From there, I learned I have to do things in my own time. I can’t live by other people’s or social media’s expectations of when the product should be out. You can’t rush it.”
And now, it’s finally available. High heel-wearers, get ready for a more comfortable day.