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Farewell, Feetz: 3-D-printed shoe company moving to Silicon Valley

"It's been a hard decision," Beard said. "We found that Chattanooga is growing and it's getting ready to take on the rest of the world, but it hasn't yet got to that full maturity level."

It wasn't an easy decision, but it was a necessary one.

Lucy Beard, founder of Feetza company that makes customizable footwear using 3-D printing technology and has called Chattanooga home for about two yearsis moving the business to Silicon Valley.

"It's been a hard decision," Beard said. "We found that Chattanooga is growing and it's getting ready to take on the rest of the world, but it hasn't yet got to that full maturity level."

NewsChannel 9 featured Feetz in a recent Made in Our Hometown segment:

Although it's becoming easier for people across the globe to telecommute, Beard's business is a physical one, so she needs to be in a place where there are people who have the skills to help move her company forward, she said. And there just aren't enough people like that here, especially because the skills she needs to build her company are very specialized.

She needs material scientists. She needs someone who knows how to run a footwear company.

In addition to needing to be closer to people with the right skills, she also needs to move closer to bigger opportunities for funding, she said.

"[One of the] realities of a startup is you need more money," she said.

In the past two years, Feetz has worked with hundreds of people in the community and employs about 10, one of whom is a key employee and will stay in Chattanooga.

The company was funded for just over $1 million last year, and most of that went back into the Chattanooga economy, Beard also said.

Last month, the company put out its first 100 shoes, some of which are being worn around Chattanooga now. That gave the city the distinction of being the first place in the world where a custom, 3-D-printed shoe was released, Beard said.

"That will always be the case," she said. "That is a true innovation story."

After developing technology here and getting the first product line out, Beard wants to accelerate the product push moving forward, and the company has almost closed on its next round of funding.

There are also major new partnership announcements coming in the next few weeks, she said.

The JumpFund, a Chattanooga venture capital fund that focuses on women-led companies in the Southeast, was part of Feetz' first investment, and they will maintain a board seat with the company, The JumpFund general partner Kristina Montague said.

The JumpFund's leaders believe in Beard, her product and her team, and Montague said they will continue a close relationship.

Beard said the amount of support and genuine help she's gotten in Chattanooga is hard to describe. She said she was blown away by the way the entire community encouraged and helped the company.

And both she and Montague said her positive experience provides her with the opportunity to go out and spread the word about the Gig City.

"She's absolutely going to be an ambassador [for Chattanooga]," Montague said.

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