When Jill Shuman started pitching retailers her natural blister prevention product, eNZees Foot Soother, in 2016, Backcountry Experience was her first stop. Having built his business on expert bootfitting, Ben Rockis, the store's owner, was immediately all in.
"She looked at me like I had three heads," Rockis told SNEWS. "I knew exactly what it was for and it was something the industry had not seen before."
The support for one another's business—both based in Durango, Colorado—came full circle this week, when Rockis announced his acquisition of eNZees Foot Soother.
Made entirely of New Zealand lambswool, eNZees Foot Soother is a natural alternative to traditional adhesives and gels. When it's tucked inside the sock and directly next to a hotspot, the wool wicks moisture to reduce the friction that causes blisters.
Aside from loving the product and its results, Rockis also hopes the new venture gives him a leg up as an expert bootfitter. He's keeping the brand as separate as possible from the store, but he'll also bring a new point of view to eNZees because he understands what it's like to be on the front lines of retail and connecting with customers.
"This is a game changer for the person who has blister problems," Rockis said. "I think that the big task ahead of us is educating the consumer that you don’t need adhesive to protect blisters."
BACKPACKER Magazine gave eNZees a nod in 2017 when they awarded it with an Editor's Choice award. "Who knew a swatch of wool could be so helpful?" Senior Editor Maren Horjus told SNEWS. "I was skeptical at first, but as the champion of blisters on our staff, I was the royal taster, and what can I say? It works."
Right now, eNZees is sold by more than 100 retailers in close to 175 storefronts. Two replicas have popped up since eNZees' founding. But eNZees is the original. Rockis is focused on being the reigning blister preventer and getting it in front of more customers.
"I think this is a product that should be in every store that sells hiking boots," he said.
Backcountry Experience is cool in so many ways. Here's how they launched a women's event that's become wildly popular over the years and tips on creating your own must-attend shindig.