Necessity is the mother of invention and for West Vancouver resident Lisa Will, keeping her baby boy’s chilly toes warm was the necessity that inspired her to develop a line of practical children’s footwear.
In the winter of 2003, the active mom was snowshoeing in Whistler with her son strapped to her back. He was about 10 months old at the time and his slippers kept sliding off his dangling legs, exposing his sensitive skin to the elements.
“I couldn’t find anything that would stay on his feet, so in desperation I would wrap scarves around his legs,” Will recalls.
She scoured the children’s shops in Whistler Village with no success, then continued her search back in the Lower Mainland. Finding no warm footwear that would work for her child, Will decided to partner with a friend and the pair came up with various prototypes, eventually designing their signature product: a soft-soled, all-weather bootie with two adjustable toggles that tighten over the calf and ankle.
In 2004, Stonz was incorporated as a business and Will began working out of her garage. An energy trader by day, she would arrive at the office before 5 a.m., come home at about 2:30 or 3 p.m. and immediately shift her focus to footwear.
“I’d make sewing kits for all the sewers and I’d drive them all around and drop them off and then pick up the goods that were done,” she says.
Will would get her son from day care before dinner, carry out the evening routine, then get back to work.
“When he went to sleep, I’d go back out to the garage and make more kits.”
Business was good and in 2008 Stonz moved into its own warehouse and factory in East Vancouver. Though production has since moved overseas, the company remains headquartered in Vancouver and Will still lives in the same West Vancouver home where it all began.
There have been other changes over the years. Will and her business partner separated, and Stonz added more products to its collection to complement the original infant and toddler booties. There are now Mittz to keep small hands warm, and fleece Linerz that fit inside boots for added warmth.
Wanting to offer footwear options for older children, in 2013 Stonz introduced rubber Rain Bootz and hard-soled Winter Bootz for toddlers and youth. The Rain Bootz are available in a variety of vibrant colours and have proven particularly popular in the Lower Mainland thanks to our notoriously wet climate.
“On the West Coast here, they do really, really well,” Will says.
In addition to B.C. parents, Stonz also has a following among celebrity moms and dads. Neil Patrick Harris posted an Instagram photo of his daughter wearing bright pink Rain Bootz in New York City. When Halle Berry was in town a few years back, she bought a pair of booties for her daughter Nahla from the Stonz booth at the Circle Craft market. And Jennifer Garner’s youngest daughter, Seraphina, has been spotted wearing Stonz booties in polka-dot brown.
Will estimates Stonz now churns out well over 100,000 units per year – a big leap from the company’s modest beginnings 12 years ago. The products are sold in more than 200 stores in Canada alone, including major retailers such as Nordstrom and Sport Chek, and are also available in Europe, Japan and the U.S.
North Shore retailers include Active Baby on Lonsdale Avenue, BC Playthings on Edgemont Boulevard, Boomers & Echoes on Westview Drive, and Lusso Baby on Marine Drive. Shoppers can also buy online at stonzwear.com.