MCDERMOTT COLUMN: Shoe innovator with local ties is quick on her feet
The Charleston-schooled business owner was heading late Thursday afternoon to a new Costco store at a big mall in Sarasota, Fla. It wasn’t a casual shopping trip.
“I’m meeting the CEO,” she said.
Not surprising perhaps since the big warehouse club, according to Barteet, projects it will move about $20 million worth of what she’s selling: open-toed shoes with decorative snap-on tops that can be swapped out in an instant, allowing women to accessorize a single pair of base soles for just about any occasion.
Quick Change Artist, her South Florida-based company, is the maker of Onesole. And the shoes have been a big hit, earning its inventor appearances on the QVC cable shopping channel and the ABC business reality show “Shark Tank.”
She said Onesole is now carried in 2,000 outlets in 80 countries. There’s even talk of a reality show featuring Barteet based on her desire to keep her manufacturing operations in the United States.
“I had no idea it would get to this point,” she said. “Ever.”
On a shoestring
The daughter of an Air Force veteran, Barteet, 47, is a pharmacist by training. She graduated from Goose Creek High School, the College of Charleston and the Medical University of South Carolina.
Afterward, she left the Lowcountry for South Florida with her then-husband. She opened a pharmacy that she still owns in Palm Beach.
She became an accidental cobbler in the back room of her drug store about a decade ago. Forced to spend many hours on her feet in her day job, she set out to design a shoe that was both comfortable and versatile. Onesole was born and it spread by word of mouth.
“Then it took off as a business without me,” she said. “I stumbled into it.”
She secured her first patent in 2007. The soles with a basic black top go for about $50 to $100, depending on the style, Extra tops range from about $10 to about $30 each.
Barteet also recognized the appeal of an interchangeable shoe for working women who travel extensively.
In the tank
A breakthrough moment was Barteet’s appearance last year on “Shark Tank,” which showcases start-up entrepreneurs who are seeking capital from a panel of sharp-eyed investors. She had 90 seconds to make her pitch before getting grilled.
“It was scary,” she said.
In a finale that aired in May 2011, Daymond John of apparel maker FUBU offered her $500,000 for 35 percent stake in her company. Barteet said the show would not her allow to disclose whether she ever finalized the deal and took the money. She described John as a mentor.
She noted also an interesting coincidence about her shot at fame: another Goose Creek High grad, Grill Charms inventor Leslie Haywood of West Ashley, also won over a “Shark Tank” investor who said Friday her stainless steel grilling markers are now being carried in TJ Maxx and Marshalls stores.
“So, we’re like a little club now,” Barteet said.
As her shoe business and travel demands have grown, Barteet hasn’t been able to pay as much attention to her pharmacy back in Palm Beach.
“I need to sell it, but I don’t have the time to sell it,” she said Thursday. “I actually was in four different Costco stores in two days Friday and Saturday. It’s tiring.”
Next up on her traveling road show is yet another Costco, this time in West Ashley. Barteet will be back in her old stomping grounds promoting Onesole at a “meet and greet” all day next Saturday and Sunday.
She’ll also be able to spend some quality time with old friends and her mother, Patricia McClain, who lives in North Charleston.
“I can’t wait to come back to Charleston,” Barteet said. “That’s my hometown.”
Reach John McDermott at 937-5572.