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Shoe idea gives Troutdale man a run for his money

Self-designed lightweight footwear favors simplicity
by: Jim Clark Corey Rust has created his own line of athletic shoes called ENVi.

As a young, aspiring airline pilot, Corey Rust once aimed for the sky.

A recent business endeavor, however, plants his professional feet firmly on the ground.

A Troutdale resident and Mt. Hood Community College student, Rust, 24, spent much of last year designing his own line of athletic footwear. Now, with the finished products boxed and stacked in his garage, Rust is marketing and selling his ENVi brand shoes through a website and word of mouth.

Available in six colors, ENVi shoes distinguish themselves with a sharp, yet unflashy design and - the aspect Rust is most proud of - lack of bulk.

Featuring a mesh-with-leather-overlay design, the ENVi weighs 8 ounces. That's 2 to 3 ounces less, he observes, than comparable shoes from big names such as Nike, Asics and Brooks.

'What I wanted was a lightweight shoe,' he says from the living room that serves as ENVi's de facto headquarters. 'Anything that's heavy drives me crazy. It just seems that (weight) adds more to what you're doing' as a runner. 'I took a minimalist approach.'

Rust left the traction design to the factory in China with whom he contracts. The rest of it is all his.

'I designed the upper part of the shoe,' he says.

Aside from the weight, Rust concentrated on a shoe that provides plenty of room and ventilation, features that keep sweat and moisture from the foot and sock.

'Technically, there's not a lot to it,' he adds. 'It's a basic shoe design. There's optimal padding around the ankle, 8 millimeters of cushion in the heel portion. I deliberately chose the materials because of those qualities - flexibility, durability. It's not going to wear out in six months.'

Rust received his first shipment of 130 pairs of ENVi shoes - for which he also designed the distinctive lowercase 'e' colored logo - in early December 2010. He's been selling them through the ENVi website, envi-footwear.com, a Facebook site and word of mouth.

The startup investment came out of Rust's savings from working various aviation-oriented jobs. When not studying business management at Mt. Hood Community College, he works on ramps and the Intel air shuttle at the Hillsboro Airport.

'I don't really have a budget for marketing,' he says. 'I've had to be creative in that sense. It's hard to get a new brand out there without a huge financial backing. You have to make a sacrifice.'

For Rust, he saves money by living at home with his mother, Bonnie, and his three siblings, and switching gears on his longtime dream of flying planes. The 2004 Reynolds High School graduate was on his way to earning a commercial pilot's rating when he had a change of heart.

'All my life I planned on being an airplane pilot,' he says. 'The lifestyle and the demands of the industry just didn't work for me anymore: being away from home, the instability of the industry. I still love aviation, but that career path wasn't a good fit anymore.'

His segue from flight to footwear wasn't quite as random as it may seem. Rust says he combined a longtime love of drawing and creating airplane designs with a desire to do his own thing as an entrepreneur.

'I always liked the idea of creating something and managing something,' he says. 'I thought, 'What a great idea. I'll come up with my own design and make a business of my own.' Taking something from paper to a tangible item, that's always intrigued me.'

Self-taught in the ways of digital shoe design and marketing, Rust credits instructors at Mt. Hood Community College with inspiring his athletic shoe endeavor.

'Hearing all those stories from teachers, of success in building a company, the creativity of starting a company, I always liked that,' he says. 'It got my brain flowing in a creative way.'

Content with his balance between work and school, Rust plans to transfer to the University of Oregon after a couple more terms at Mt. Hood. He says time will tell whether ENVi shoes or some other concept will lead to a viable career.

'Who knows where it goes,' he says. 'I got to this point, and that's far beyond the expectations of most people. I just think if you have an idea, find a way to make it happen.'

Lightweight shoes

What: ENVi footwear, a versatile athletic shoe available in six colors

Who: Designed and marketed by Troutdale resident Corey Rust, a Mt. Hood Community College student

Charity: Rust is donating 10 percent of all sales to Mercy Corps to assist earthquake and tsunami survivors in Japan

Website: envi-footwear.com