Bedford sophomore Katie Luck forms company to make Irish dance socks
Angry, hot, blisters the size of deflated golf balls all too frequently plagued nationally ranked Irish step dancer Katelyn “Katie” Luck, a junior at Bedford High School.
The dancer rebelled at the idea that blisters were inevitable as she spent hours in pursuit of her passion, Irish step dancing. She saw a problem and she developed a solution. She started a company, katieluck.com, and now is selling socks she designed especially for the sport of Irish dancing. They are socks that do not encourage the formation of blisters.
Luck, 16, currently dances for Murray Academy of Irish Dance, an Exeter enterprise supporting dance at its highest levels. She is an accomplished performer, winning a fifth-place world medal in Dance Drama and second-place honors at Nationals on a Ladies Ceili team. She has placed in the Top 30 in the nation as a solo dancer.
Hours of practice helped Luck identify the problem – traditional cotton socks worn inside leather dance shoes can cause blisters. Cotton collects perspiration. The sweat-laden fibers then rub against the foot and the friction causes blisters. Luck spent a year developing an idea that has evolved into a business focused on producing comfortable, noncotton socks for Irish dancing.
The socks, offered in ankle and traditional length, feature proprietary custom blend fibers in an easy-stretch poodle weave with breathable fabric at the arch and a minimized toe seam. The innovations help reduce friction, improve breathability and most importantly, improve comfort.
Luck’s socks bear a trademarked name, Katie Luck – Dance in Comfort. They are socks, she proudly admits, that were developed by a dancer for dancers. The idea of designing and manufacturing socks specifically for dancers became her quest.
“I hike in hiking socks and ski in skiing socks,” Luck said. “So, it made sense to go to the source with my insight as a dancer to make the right socks for dancing.”
The socks are manufactured by Cabot Hosiery Mills Inc., of Northfield, Vt. It was Marc Cabot, chairman of the firm – a family-run business for three generations – who embraced the project and offered wholehearted assistance in manufacturing the product. Luck found the man appreciative of her plan.
“Marc Cabot is all about quality,” Luck said. “He’s made his reputation on making only the best socks here in the USA. When I presented my idea to him, he saw my passion and commitment to the pursuit of a truly unique and comfortable Irish dance sock.”
Cabot’s initial expectation of a small order, a few pairs of socks for Katie’s personal use, soon dissipated as the magnitude of her enterprise became apparent.
“He thought I was there to see if he could make me a few pairs,” Luck said. “But I came to him with a business plan, a marketing campaign and some detailed consumer research to back me up. Before long, we had a partnership.”
Luck’s product, available on her website, katieluck.com, also will be on sale at the 2014 North American Irish Dance Championships, an international competition held from July 2-6, in Montreal, Canada. The event draws 3,500 dancers and hosts 5,000 visitors, including dancers, teachers, musicians, judges and vendors.
“With a little luck, the socks will be a hit,” Luck laughed, pun intended.
Luck thanked business owners who helped her along the way. Allegra Printing Co., in Bedford, donated expertise with materials like business cards, displays and banners. Centrix Bank and David Cassidy, executive vice president, helped Luck’s business establish a line of credit. Bourque & Associates, of Manchester, helped secure a copyright. Professionals from business associations, including Merrimack Valley SCORE, branded as Counselors to America’s Small Businesses, and N.H. Small Business Development Centers showed her the ropes of starting a business.
Luck’s sister, Kyra, 18, serves as acting president of the corporation, and her brother, James, 13, is Luck’s biggest fan.
Luck and her parents, Michael and Dorrie, also recognize the support of many at Bedford High School, especially guidance counselor Nadine Palmer, who Luck said showed confidence and trust throughout the process.
Dorrie Luck recalled times when she and Katie had to go to Vermont during the production process. There were several trips to settle myriad details, not be divulged.
Nevertheless, when the straight-A student and family members asked for time away from classes and could only explain that Katie was working on starting a company, school administrators and Katie’s teachers were supportive.
Luck said the sport of Irish step dance is thriving. Many styles are performed, some in hard shoes with dancers rhythmically pounding their shoes on the dance floor in time with the beats of the music. Dancers also click their heels or toes together to make sounds. In other dances, soft shoes are worn.
Luck said her favorite dance is the elegant slip jig, one in which she wears soft shoes called pumps.
Hundreds of online references note that Irish dance is rooted in Irish culture. Today, there are increasingly modern influences including ornate stage costumes, fancy wigs and stage makeup. Irish dancing long ago incorporated intricate choreography, as seen in the hit show, “Riverdance.”
Luck emphasizes that socks are an important part of dance because the footwork in Irish step dancing is so rigorous. Dances called jigs, reels, slip-jigs and hornpipes sometimes require hundreds of footwork maneuvers. Blisters, until now, were hardly avoidable.
Irish dancing calls for the dancer’s upper body to be held in a rigid pose that emphasizes the footwork. Luck said that when paired with unyielding leather shoes, the work leads to tons of stress on a dancer’s feet.
“I knew I could not make the dancing easier,” Luck admitted. “It is way too complex and strenuous. My goal was to make it comfortable for dancers. Hopefully, I’ve been able to do that.”
For more information on the Katie Luck – Dance in Comfort socks, visit www.katieluck.com or email Katie@katieluck.com.