Corporate social responsibility is not an afterthought for locally based FORUS — just in the midst of launching its cutting-edge shoe and athletics gear company.
For Forus, which is the brainchild of a group of IUPUI students, making the world a better place is as important as improving the quality of sports shoes available in the marketplace.
Though it has yet to earn a profit — it is currently engaged in a crowd-sourcing campaign offering cut-rate prices on its elite-performance athletic shoes to consumers and distributors— FORUS has pledged from the time it was conceived more than three years ago to return 10 percent of the company's profits to children's charities around the world and to scholarships for college students with a demonstrated commitment to working with children.
So far, more than 120 people have committed to buy more than $22,000 in FORUS products through the fundraising website indiegogo.com, pushing the company more than halfway to its $40,000 fundraising goal with just over a week left in the campaign.
The name FORUS literally means "for us."
"This brand is 'for us' who want maximum support and performance from our running shoes, and 'for us' who wish to make a difference in our communities," the company's promotional materials explain. "What if one step towards making the world a better place did not require an individual to donate but simply make a choice?"
While its philanthropic vision is a core feature of the FORUS corporate identity, its PolstarMax6 insoles are the key to the innovations FORUS claims to have harnessed in its products. The company claims the innovation offers greater support at a lighter weight than is currently available in other support models.
The local community has embraced the FORUS vision in many ways. More than 100 people, for instance, participated in a recent flash mob on Monument Circle.
When describing the
structure of FORUS, FORUS co-founder Arsene Millogo, a former member of the
Ivory Coast Olympic Training Team, explained that the company does not have
"I am referred to as
'That guy.' Why? Because I am 'that guy that dared to dream that people like us
could also be entrepreneurs and most likely, enter a market where the bigger
brands have solidified their presences unlike in any other industry.
[Co-founder] Steve Fartouh is 'The go-to-guy' because he is the one you go to when you need things done and you know he will always rise to the challenge.
[Steve's wife] Taryn Kelly is the 'The go-to-girl' because just like Steve she will go above and beyond to resolve issues. But more importantly, she will think about creative ways to tackle obstacles.
Also, we have had a lot of 'movers and shakers,' people who volunteered and interned at FORUS and that had/have an impact on FORUS like no other. They made things happen despite the resources we have and they always had to think on their feet since we are a start-up."
Millogo recently checked in with NUVO for an update on how things are progressing with the company:
NUVO: What was the inspiration to begin this company?
Millogo: When I used to train, I always removed the insoles from my running shoes simply because I did not have enough support. The aftermarket insoles on the market are designed separately from the shoe, resulting in poor fit. Our goal was to create shoes that would not only give you better support, but also provide perfect fit.
NUVO: What was the process for creating the insole?
Millogo: It was a very intensive process. The materials we used for the insoles had never been combined before –it took input from chemistry and engineering. The name of the insole is Polstar 6 because we went through six different insoles to get to where we are today.
NUVO: In a nutshell, how do differentiate it from other products?
Millogo: The upper part of the insole is a mixture of memory foam and forced bounced glue, which offers comfort and absorbs your body weight. When you step on the insole you feel the bounce – it makes the shoe comfortable and it gives you maximum support.
NUVO: What are you trying to accomplish with the current fundraising campaign?
Millogo: We've had interest from different stores, but you don't get paid upfront. The $40,000 will raise the money to build up the inventory. If you were to order shoes in the current campaign, you can expect to receive in about three weeks.
NUVO: How does your philanthropic vision fit into this story?
Millogo: I'm a law student – and I've focused on human rights as one who sought political asylum. We want to have people be proud of wearing the brand. We visited 17 factories in China before choosing the two we chose based on their efforts to offer better working conditions and how willing they were to embrace FORUS's mission.
We noticed 90 percent of all factory workers were women ... all the workers literally immigrate and stay near the factory so we are working to establish a facility to provide free day care for their children. We hope to create a partnership where students from the U.S. will volunteer to help at the factory.
NUVO: How has it been to start a sportswear company in Indianapolis?
Millogo: Indianapolis has been amazing for FORUS. When we started, we were told to move out of Indy if we wanted to succeed. But many movers and shakers have embraced the vision. FORUS is literally the fruit of many people coming in at different points and they've proven to be the biggest resource that we've had.
NUVO: What kind of response are you receiving?
Millogo: One of the FORUS shoes — the Nitro 90 X — was worn by members of the South Korean Olympic Team during the recent competition in London.
NUVO: Any other items of note?
Millogo: This coming spring, FORUS will provide scholarships through a competition on our website. If you want to be eligible for a scholarship you can upload an essay and then you have friends and family weigh in on why you deserve it based on what you posted.
To view the FORUS product line or participate in the crowd sourcing, visit indiegogo.com.