Most disruptive MBA startups of 2021: Fulton, Wharton School



Industry: Consumer

Name (s) of the founding student: Daniel Nelson, GT’21 & Libie Motchan, GT’21

Brief description of the solution: Fulton is a modern brand of arch support. We’ve released the most comfortable, strong, and durable sockliner on the planet, which conforms to the shape of your unique arches as you sink them. everything, whole body wellness starts with your feet.

Funding dollars: We raised $ 150,000 in funds for friends and family

What prompted you to embark on this adventure? We started Fulton after suffering from body aches from our non-supportive shoes. After suffering from chronic back pain, Libie decided to see a chiropractor who offered her personalized insoles for $ 500. She never even considered custom orthotics as a solution and was unwilling to pay that much money for just one pair. Hoping drugstore insoles might do the trick, Libie found herself staring at a wall of non-durable gel and foam insoles that were branded with overly medical terms and, of course, were generally ineffective. She felt left out in the sole market and expressed these frustrations when she met me. I reacted immediately, realizing that my persistent foot pain could probably also be resolved with insoles. We were not alone: ​​77% of American adults suffer from foot pain and 60% of them suffer from back pain. Good arch support is of crucial importance for our general well-being; yet shoe and insole brands have overlooked our customer demographics. So we decided to combine an innovative product with a well-known brand: and that’s where Fulton was born.

What has been your greatest success so far with venture? Our company’s biggest achievement has been to create the true Fulton sole. We spent over a year developing the product, half of which happened in the midst of the pandemic. After evaluating the existing soles on the market, we decided that we needed to create a completely different product than what is currently on offer and using non-traditional materials. We conducted extensive research to evaluate materials different from those traditionally used in insoles (i.e. gels, foams and plastics) and ended up using durable materials like vegan cactus leather. and cork. Additionally, we went through ten cycles of prototyping and user testing, iterating the product based on the feedback we received from the testers and our own experiences. Additionally, we have established a global supply chain that allows us to get products from factory to door in a consistently reliable manner. Building a solid foundation for us to scale our business has been an incredible accomplishment – now we are able to turn our attention to scaling.

How has your MBA program helped you move this start-up business forward? Wharton’s MBA program was essential to Fulton’s education. In fact, Libie and I met at the Wharton Welcome Weekend! From that moment on, the business school proved to be a two-year accelerator: we studied the most recent methodologies in the classroom, had access to a multitude of resources through the university and learned from experiences. of our classmates. Additionally, we have consistently leveraged the school’s vast alumni network, which is replete with founders and mainstream brand operators who helped turn our idea into a strong business.

Which founder or entrepreneur inspired you to start your own entrepreneurial adventure? How did it prove to be motivating for you?

Daniel: Steve Jobs has been my favorite entrepreneur for as long as I can remember. I used to walk out of class in college to watch him give Apple keynotes. I revered him as an entrepreneur for sharing a vision where he combined a one-of-a-kind product with an even better brand, creating a company capable of carving out a dominant place in the market. Even though I didn’t start my entrepreneurial journey until years later, I took these principles to heart when I was young and I have always conveyed my desire to be entrepreneurial to him.

Libia: I consider Neil Blumenthal to be the innovator of the DTC model. I admire the way he not only disrupted an industry but also a business model. He understood the needs of modern consumers and rather than sticking with traditional retailing, he created a business that best suited the lifestyle of modern customers. He took risks and innovated in a category ripe for disruption, and laid the groundwork for other brands (including Fulton) to do the same!

Which MBA class was the most valuable in building your startup and what was the biggest lesson you learned from it?

Each MBA course we took provided added value to building our business: whether it was learning operational strategy, brand management or venture capital, each course was important to understand in the context of the creation of our own company. As founders, we were able to apply lessons learned from conferences and case studies to our own businesses, avoiding countless mistakes and having well-informed discussions of our next steps. Pursuing an MBA while starting a business has helped us develop a thoughtful strategy to implement our vision. I would say that the class that allowed us to combine all of our other learning and gave us time dedicated to building our startup was the most valuable: implementing Venture with Professor Tyler Wry. During the course, we showcased our idea, refined our roadmap, and learned from countless guest speakers who have already started businesses. We met with potential investors, many of whom are still in contact today. Our main takeaway from the class was that there was no right way to approach building a business and that you have to chart your own path to follow since no one else has been on your side. place (except Fulton, of course).

Which teacher has made a significant contribution to your projects and why? Another professor who made a significant contribution to our plans was Professor Jeffrey Babin, our advisor during VIP-X (Penn’s Student Startup Accelerator). Professor Babin is a true startup generalist and has helped us tackle complex product development, financing and operational challenges as we prepared to launch Fulton. He has been one of our favorite sounding boards and to this day remains someone we come in contact with on a regular basis when we find ourselves in a bind. Best of all, he’s a huge Fulton fan, sporting our insoles in several of his shoes.

What is your long term goal with your startup? Over 99% of the shoes we wear today are not only unsupportive, but also unsustainable. We believe that everyone should wear shoes that are good for the body and the planet, and we work tirelessly to fix shoes from the inside out. In the long run, we want Fulton to be seen as the best way to walk and we make sure every pair of shoes has Fulton support.


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