All White takes boots and all approach

HAMISH MCNICOL
Last updated 05:00 03/02/2014
Tim Brown
KEVIN STENT/Fairfax NZ
STEPPING OUT: Former All White Tim Brown on the family farm at Pauatahanui with an example of his woollen shoes.

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Former All White Tim Brown has given his woollen footwear business a year to gain traction among the big sportswear brands dominating the market.

And just days after kicking off sales of the woollen runners online, it appears he might be on target, with about $70,000 raised on 500 pairs already sold.

Last year Brown's company Three Over Seen, formerly called ToBe, was accepted into a United Kingdom Trade and Enterprise scheme called Sirius, essentially a business incubator programme.

The company was one of seven picked from hundreds of applicants for the scheme, and began this year giving Brown's team all the infrastructure, advice, and guidance needed.

Sirius also offers some money to the company, without taking any equity, which Brown said basically gave them a 12-month runway to see if the idea could get off the ground.

"It's a pretty cool opportunity and it's kind of just come at the perfect time.

"We've dived into that, since the start of the year I've been in a business incubator in East London and just kind of working on this fulltime."

The company was formed with his brother Paul and former teammate Michael Wilson.

The idea of creating the world's first woollen running shoe, which fought smell without the need for socks, had been banging around for a couple of years, Brown said.

"[Mike's] got smelly feet, I don't.

"We started playing around with this idea of woollen shoes and why had that not been done."

The idea received a $200,000 development grant from government-owned Wool Industry Research Limited after approaching AgResearch with the idea.

AgResearch had been working on stab-proof wool technology but figured the intellectual property could be applied to a shoe, which Brown said subsequently allowed them to make footwear out of wool.

He said the product provided the New Zealand wool industry with new commercial uses, which it had been "crying out for".

"Wool's got these inherent properties that make it just amazing for footwear.

"Wool kind of whips away moisture inherently, and it's antibacterial so it reduces odour in a pretty impressive way.

"It's also sustainable, super comfortable.

"So it does all this stuff off the bat, before you've even started."

The rubber-soled shoes were designed in partnership with Auckland designer Jamie McLennan, and would be manufactured in Portugal.

But the running shoes only became available last week, courtesy of a Kickstarter page.

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Three Over Seven has already doubled its month-long fundraising goal of US$30,000 (NZ$36,000), as nearly 500 shoes have already been pre-ordered.

The US$98 (NZ$120) had raised more than $70,000 so far, which would provide capital as the firm looked to establish itself this year.

Brown retired from professional football in March 2012, before completing a management course at the London School of Economics.

He is now based in London and said he missed football and his friends, but was relishing the challenging of "starting again" after building a career in foot- ball.

"Sometimes you think you're doing the best thing ever and others think you're completely nuts.

"At the end of these 12 months if it falls over and this whole thing's a big failure I feel like I'm learning a tonne so I think that's always helpful too."

- Fairfax Media

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