Women in the Spotlight: Heather Van Gilder

by Jessi Burg

Today’s blog brings the spotlight onto Heather Van Gilder, master boot fitter at Boulder Orthotics. Her mission? Helping people with their feet by getting them properly aligned, so that they can continue to enjoy the activities they love. For those of you who are very active, or work in the trades and spend all day on your feet, keep reading – it is important to pay more attention to your feet, and know that it’s something worth spending the money on!

JB: Why feet? 

HVG: My background is in ski boot fitting, but I am also a board certified pedorthist – which is someone who gets referrals from doctors about people who need help with foot support/are tired of their feet hurting. 

JB: What is the process like?

HVG: The process goes something like this:

First, we need to figure out what kind of appointment is necessary. I have them fill out an intake form before they come in, and have them bring their footwear so that I can see what needs to be replaced and why. I recommend a brand of shoe, and then mold their feet in a seated position to ensure a perfect fit. I have a lab in the back of the store where I can make the orthotics on the spot, so at the end of a two hour appointment, the customer leaves with custom orthotics. The goal is 90% comfort, and I recommend that they come back in two weeks for a recheck to see how things are settling in. I also sell slippers, because some people need foot support all the time, even when they are walking around the house.

There is a break-in process for orthotics, so I recommend a set schedule for getting used to them to avoid blisters and achiness in the feet or joints as the body gets used to the support. Your bones aren’t used to being supported in those positions, so they need time to adjust. I know that it can be tough for people with certain jobs, like servers or construction workers, to switch out their insoles midday, but breaking them in is crucial.

JB: What other kinds of orthotics do you offer?

HVG: I can build accommodative and functional orthotics. Accommodative orthotics require molding the orthotic to the foot as is, whereas functional orthotics focus on getting the foot and the ankle into alignment so that your ankle bone is sitting right on top of the heel bone. Most retail stores only offer accommodative orthotics.

When I take a footprint I can tell a lot from that, like if one leg is longer than the other. You’re printed barefoot, so the width under the center of your foot should be the same on both sides. If one is significantly wider than the other, you can guesstimate a difference – a true measurement would come from an x-ray, but there are some alignment markers that help with that. If there’s a big discrepancy, you have to build that into the shoe. It’s really fun to help people with chronic pain or lingering issues from polio or childhood illness. I really like being able to help someone who was in pain leave with a smile. Teenage boys are especially fun to work with because they like to act cool, but then I can get a smile out of them. 

JB: What got you into orthotics?

HVG: I was a skier, and I went to school for archeology and was really into the bone structure and physical archeology pieces. I took a job fitting boots, and then I branched out into hiking boots and other types of boots. I ended up buying Boulder Orthotics when the previous owner retired. It’s a weird thing to admit that you like working with feet, but I really do love it, and I was required to do a thousand hour internship before I could go to school for it.

JB: What are your top tips for people who are just starting out in the field?

HVG: Spend the money and the time to address your feet. Steel toed boots and concrete floors wreak havoc on the body if you’re not supported, but a properly fitting shoe of good quality makes all the difference. Spending extra money on a good shoe will make a lot of things better – and no one even has to know you have a fancy orthotic in there. The sooner people pay attention to their feet, the happier they will be. If we were hunter gatherer people who walk through the forest all day, barefoot shoes/five fingered shoes would be fine. But pavement is much harder on your feet than a forest floor. 

JB: Tell us about running your own business.

HVG: As a business owner, I have more freedom to provide services that I think are beneficial. Other retailers may not want to offer those services, and I wanted to find my own way to help people. As a retail space, your customers come in and expect that they will get whatever they want, but when people seek me out, they want to listen to my expertise because they really just need my help. My customer service is always on point, because there isn’t anyone else there. I think about business growth all the time, and I am always trying to learn new things and continue my education. 

JB: What do you wish people knew about your business or your industry?

HVG: Although I’m technically in the healthcare field, it doesn’t feel like a doctors office. It’s very relaxed, and I wear a dirty ski apron and not a lab coat. There is still professionalism and expertise, but it doesn’t feel sterile, if you will.

Want to know more? Find Boulder Orthotics online or through Facebook here:

Women in the Spotlight: Emily Soloby

by Jessi Burg and Kelly Sullivan

Happy Wednesday to all of our readers! Today we’re interviewing Emily Soloby, CEO and Founder of Juno Jones, about her vibrant spectrum of talents and a knack for business solutions. Emily has been advocating for women since the beginning of her career, and we’re excited to share her story.

JB: How did you get into the trades?

ES: I have a background in women’s studies and law. I was a domestic violence victim advocate in college, so I went onto law school to continue that work as a lawyer. Eventually, I wanted to switch careers because I needed a break. I went to graduate school to study broadcasting, where I met my husband. Together we co-own a truck and heavy equipment safety training firm. We have spent the last 13 years growing that business from a mom and pop shop into a national level consulting firm.

JB: How did you start a women’s work boot company?

ES: I have always been a boot lover. I trained in shoe making in Cuernavaca, Mexico and at the Brooklyn Shoe Space in New York. I found myself in need of some steel-toed boots that could work for both being around equipment at job sites and meeting with clients. I realized that there was a gap in the market when I couldn’t find anything I liked between the two options on the shelves. I started talking to women in various trades businesses about the lack of options in safety footwear, and decided that I wanted to change that. I’ve learned even more about boots since opening Juno Jones.

JB: Where did the name Juno Jones come from?

ES: Juno Jones is a fictional character that I created. I was aiming for a name that was easy to remember and fun to say. This character is intended to represent the modern woman – like a superhero who isn’t afraid to try new things and take on the world.

JB: What is Hazard Girls?

ES: Hazard Girls is a free Facebook community powered by Juno Jones. I launched Juno Jones in February of 2020 during the peak of Covid-19 lockdown, and we had a lot of extra time while we were waiting for the shoes to be produced, so I created the Hazard Girls group. I was starting to build a community on Instagram, and I would receive a lot of messages from women looking to be introduced to other women in similar industries. At first I wanted to direct them to Facebook groups, but quickly learned that there were no groups that were all encompassing women in male populated fields. I took the opportunity to create that group, and Hazard Girls was born!

JB: How did the Facebook group turn into a podcast?

ES: I was a guest on the Women in Manufacturing Podcast, and they loved my content so much that they wanted to give me my own podcast. Our team worked with Jacket Media Co. to create and produce the podcast. We now release a new episode every week, each that explores a different field through candid interviews with women leaders about their professional journeys. Starting this podcast has helped me grow a community to network with, and I have learned so much from amazing women in all different types of trades.

JB: What is your favorite thing about working with this population of women?

ES: My favorite thing is connecting with this community of women that have now become my friends and colleagues.

JB: What do you wish people knew about working in the trades industries/hazardous, non-traditional fields?

ES: My mission is to spread the word so that women know it is always an option for them. It’s easy to not consider those types of jobs when starting out on a career path, but there are many well paying jobs that need more women on board. I want them to know that men and women can have that same independence and financial freedom with a career in the trades.

JB: How can people who are building their businesses better support women in these fields and support that culture?

ES: Hiring women is an obvious answer to creating a diverse team. But not just women, ALL diverse candidates across the board so that you have all different voices and perspectives at the table. Oftentimes, business owners feel that they don’t have those options to hire, or don’t see many diverse applicants. One way to create a diverse team is by actively seeking out those applicants and putting structures in place to add more training where needed. This helps open doors for more on-the-job-training in order to hire women and other diverse candidates.

JB: What should men know about Juno Jones and the Hazard Girls?

ES: We find that most men want to be allies and want to support women in these different industries. They (and society as a whole) are starting to realize that yes, there is a shortage of workers across the board in many industries and yes, women are a great untapped resource. Anything men can do to support this will benefit our economy as a whole. Everyone wins!

To find out more about Emily Soloby and her many hats, visit any of the links included below.

International Women’s Day Highlight: Mary Walton

by Kelly Sullivan

In honor of celebrating International Women’s Day and Women in Construction Week, we are highlighting Mary Walton, a female inventor from the 1800’s who received two patents for her railroad sound and pollution fighting inventions. There are so many forgotten women who made an impact in the trades in a time when very few women worked on the railroads in any capacity. Not only that, but Walton also cared about sustainability.

In 1879, Mary Walton kept a boarding house stationed right next to the Early Gilbert Railway in New York City. In the midst of the Industrial Revolution, lots of new jobs were becoming available that brought immigrants and workers into the city. While this workforce boom improved the livelihoods of many citizens, complaints increased over the noise and the smoke brought on by the railroads. The thick, toxic smoke and screeching of the trains against their steel tracks was a problem.

Walton decided to take matters into her own hands. She experimented with the cause and effect of the noise. She rode the trains for days to find the cause of the sound – she had a reputation for being smart and resourceful. Even Thomas Edison, who also tried to solve the noise issues, gave up after a short time. 

Elysia Segal, in an article written about Walton, wrote that “after just three days of observation, she noticed that the tracks seemed to amplify the sounds of the trains due to the wooden support boxes that they sat inside, similar to the way the sounds post works within a violin. She built a model of the tracks in her basement and discovered that by lining the support boxes with cotton and sand, the noise could be significantly reduced.”  

Walton picked up the tip of using sand to dampen sound from her father. He used sand to quiet the clanking of the anvils that echoed from the blacksmith shops near their home when she was a child.

She patented her idea, and sold her discovery to the Metropolitan Elevated Railroad Company for $10,000 and royalties for life. Her method was soon adopted by other railway companies, completely reimagining the noisy mode of transportation.

Before receiving her patent for stifling railroad noise, Walton also received a patent for creating a system designed to reduce the harmful effects (on both people and the environment) of different types of smoke being emitted from chimneys. Her system channeled the emissions produced by factory smoke stacks into water tanks, where the pollutants were held and then flushed into the sewer or other redirected into other more suitable channels..

Walton was clearly ahead of her time, and although she was not an officially educated scientist, she did her own hands-on research to solve a problem that resulted in a massive discovery that still benefits us today.

Mary Walton set an early stage for women’s accomplishments, reinforcing something very near and dear to our hearts – that women are capable of incredible things, even when they’re not being watched.