Founder Spotlight: Libie Motchan
Tell us a bit about your company
Fulton is a modern brand of arch support, we developed a supportive, sustainable, and comfortable insole made from innovative materials like vegan cactus leather and cork. We seek to empower consumers to live healthier lives because wellness starts from the ground up.
What inspired you to start your business/ what opportunity in the market are you seeking to address?
Fulton is a modern brand of arch support. Our first product is a comfortable, sustainable and supportive insole. The idea behind Fulton started before I came to Wharton. While sitting at my desk job, I started experiencing back pain. I treated it very reactively — I would take painkillers, get massages, foam roll, etc. I was treating the symptoms, not the cause. So I went to a chiropractor who suggested insoles after explaining that posture starts from the ground up and that your feet affect the alignment of your entire body. Unfortunately, all of the custom orthotics were well over $100. I looked for a more affordable alternative at a pharmacy, but felt completed disconnected from all the insole brands I saw — they were so geriatric and medically focused. After seeking advice from friends, I realized that there wasn’t a resounding brand that people were drawn to and so I saw an opportunity there.
Ultimately, everyone needs insoles because the shoes that we wear today are lacking proper arch support. This causes immediate pain in your feet, knees, and back, but also causes long-term pain. We are trying to make a brand that is as relatable as possible to as many people as possible and turn arch support from a novelty to a necessity.
What are one or two of the biggest wins or most encouraging experiences you’ve had so far?
I never could have predicted how rewarding launching my own venture would be in so many different capacities. First, I am solving a problem that I personally experienced and that resulted in physical pain throughout my body. I have the opportunity to educate consumers and help them prevent pain in the future, and knowing I am doing that feels really good. Nothing feels better than customers reaching out and sharing how Fulton has healed their chronic back pain or helped their Plantar Fasciitis; but the best is when the feedback comes from people who have never worn insoles before because that means that we have effectively educated a customer about the importance of supportive footwear. In addition to helping customers, I feel very rewarded knowing that I have built something new. I don’t have a background in orthotics or podiatry, so I had to learn so much about materials, biomechanics, anatomy, etc., in order to create our first product. It feels so incredible to know that I created something new; a physical product that is different from anything else out there. It required extensive hard work, testing, research, and iteration, but the final product is something I am so proud of.
Entrepreneurship sometimes feels incredibly uncertain. I am the type of person who prefers a clear plan: but with a startup, there is only so much you can predict. Furthermore, since so much of the industry and category is new to me, there are often many more questions than answers. I’ve learned to lean into the uncertainty, by understanding the gaps in my knowledge and prioritizing getting answers. Another challenge of entrepreneurship is balancing life and work. Fulton has become so central to my identity and my life that it is hard to turn it off, and I often don’t want to. I find myself working at all hours. The transition to working on Fulton full time has been challenging as well, and I am still in the process of creating more structure in my work life.
What about your personal background, experience, or perspective fuels your passion for this venture?
I have known that I was interested in starting a business since receiving my first allowance. I was a thoughtful hustler; curious to understand the needs of others and find ways to meet them. I thought about different ways to create value. I opened up lemonade stands in the summers, and hosted bake sales after school; eventually, I started a business on eBay when I was in sixth grade. I enjoyed working for myself and the creativity involved in building a business. Furthermore, as the child of immigrant parents, who were both business owners, I never felt tied down to traditional career paths. My mother opened and operated a gallery in Soho and my father ran a graphic design shop. They served as my inspiration and role models and encouraged me to question the status quo. I also witnessed the ups and downs of owning a business: while my family experienced several years of financial hardship, I learned the value of hard work and perseverance. As I started my career I knew I wanted to start something that would make an impact, but also allow me to utilize my creativity, curiosity, and grit.
Anything else you want to mention?
Our first product is a cork-based insole with a middle layer of latex foam and a top layer of vegan leather made from cactus. The insole is carbon neutral to manufacture and will provide proper arch support in the shoes that people currently wear. Cork is not only sustainable but naturally takes the shape of the wearers foot over time while still providing proper support. Therefore, we can personalize each insole to the consumer with just a few days of usage and mitigate pain. Beyond our first product, we are planning to build a brand that modernizes arch support. In line with traditional direct-to-consumer brands, we plan to leverage our sustainable, digitally native brand to produce sandals, shoes, and other footwear products that are supportive, sustainable, and fashionable. Through a strong, mission-driven brand and an effective, pain-mitigating product, we will be able to improve people’s lives and improve the planet.
How can the WAFFA community help you?
Any opportunities for exposure would always be very appreciated! We’re also going to be kicking off a round of fundraising in mid-September, so connections to anyone interested in investing would be hugely beneficial (angels, VCs, etc)