In 2018, SOLO Labs will celebrate our 35th anniversary. Throughout the year, we’ll share pieces of our history as told by SOLO founder, Barry Sokol.
You know the challenges of starting a new business and the statistics are grim. Back in 1983, Barry Sokol decided to start SOLO Labs, a custom foot orthotics manufacturer. With little more than determination to succeed, he built a business that has endured for 35 years.
In this post, SOLO founder, Barry Sokol shares how the steps of his youth served to build a strong foundation for his future.
Hard work was part of everyday life for Barry. Growing up in Kutztown, a rural community in southeastern Pennsylvania, provided an abundance of opportunities for those who were willing to work. One summer he spent baling hay. “It was hard work. When you’re finished you’re tired but have a great sense of accomplishment,” noted Barry. He would frequently get compliments for his hard work. That provided motivation to him and imparted strong work ethic.
While attending high school, Barry played center halfback in soccer and got noticed for his ability to kick the ball for long distances. A coach encouraged him to kick a football. He took the advice and became a walk-on football player at Kutztown University. Playing football was his motivator as he studied elementary education.
Barry paid his way through college by working in local shoe factories in the area. “I learn things quickly,” noted Barry. Back then, minimum wage was 75 cents an hour, and he was earning $1.25 through piece rate. “My first semester of college was $75. I could work all summer and pay for a year of college,” he added.
His summer work experience provided an enduring lesson on the value of hard work and left an indelible mark on his life. “I worked with really nice people who were hardworking,” he remarked. “Many were husbands and wives who owned a small house, spent a week at the Jersey Shore and could make a living because of their commitment to hard work.”
At the shoe factory, Barry saw how an assembly line worked and that became instrumental when he started SOLO. This inspired him in his early days in the orthotics business.
As his college years ended, Barry left with a degree in elementary education and a the prospect of a new bride. Barbara Schlenker graduated from Kutztown University and both became teachers. They started their careers as a team teaching at-risk youth for The Lutheran Home in Topton, Pennsylvania.
The principal offered him a teaching position and he quickly assumed the role of building head in the elementary school where he was assigned. Early in his career, he was being prepared to be a leader.
So how did an elementary school teacher become the founder of SOLO Labs? Watch for future installments to learn the answer.
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