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Luc Houle (he/him)

Founder of Johnny Footwear
Johnny Footwear
Luc Houle à la maison
Luc Houle à la maison
Location Born
Location Now
Education Pathway

I create, manufacture and market biodegradable sneakers that grow into trees.

About me

I was born/grew up in: Sudbury, ON

I now live in:I currently reside in Toronto, ON

I completed my training/education at: I completed my post-secondary education at Collège Boréal in Sudbury for Animation

What I do at work

As the founder of Johnny Footwear, my daily activities are varied. The main focus of my work is growth of the business.  However, there's a part of my work that's dedicated to design and engineering. I rely on others who have skills and knowledge in particular fields. For example, chemical engineers are much better suited to developing biodegradable compounds. As a result, I delegate the work to them. I take the lead on footwear design, supply chain management, marketing and outreach.

The work I do takes place in stages. Designing and making the footwear was my sole focus for a few years. Once I'd completed that part of the process, I moved on to promotion and marketing. At the moment, most of my time is spent talking to reporters and TV news hosts. I am also working out partnerships with retailers who share the same values to inform them about our environmental initiative. Conceptualizing and developing a shoe that grows into a tree was big challenge. Now, I find making sure people find out about it is just as difficult!

My career path is

My career path took so many odd twists and turns. When I was in high school I expected to be working at Disney or Pixar right now. I went to college to study animation. I worked in the industry for about a year when the company I was working for shut down. My uncle got me a job working with him selling shoes. I didn’t think I’d like it but I found it interesting. Growing up I was into skateboarding. Here, shoes are a big part of the culture!

From there I went on to work in other parts of the clothing industry. I learned to design and I learned about sales. After I designed my first shoe, I continued to learn about design and production. I made contacts in the industry. I also saw that the shoes we buy, wear and then throw away, have a huge impact on the environment. A big impact is that almost all of a shoe is plastic. And plastic takes 1000’s of years to break down. I saw that some manufacturers were using recycled rubber. That is good but I wanted to do something that had more impact. I worked with engineering for a couple of years. I designed a shoe that will last as long as other types. The difference is that when it you discard it, the materials will biodegrade. Each shoe has an apple seed in the sole. If you plant it, each shoe will grow into an apple tree.

Now I am in the process of building my business and getting these shoes to market. I've got a theory that the universe is conspiring for you to succeed. So honestly, as long as you work hard at what you're interested in and you stay curious, the world will find a way to place you where you need to be. Then you will have the greatest impact.

I am motivated by

I enjoy the ability to create. This is definitely the most rewarding part of my job. Conceptualizing, fleshing out the way to build it, assessing the risks and possibilities for product failure, and then birthing that idea into existence is the most rewarding thing for me.

How I affect people’s lives

I'm so grateful that my path in life has allowed me to make real positive change. By eliminating plastic waste in footwear, I'll be able to make a big difference in the world. Then, by making sure that every pair of Johnny shoes grows into a tree (and by planting one for every pair sold) we'll offset a large amount of that buyer’s carbon footprint.

Outside of work I

I like to socialize in my spare time. I also oil paint, play video games and fiddle around with the guitar. I go to the gym regularly. I feel everyone should do some form of exercise daily to keep themselves healthy.

My advice to others

Stay curious. You never know what opportunities lay ahead until you dig into something new.

When I was a student, I enjoyed:
  • Art
  • Geography
  • History
  • Literature and Language Arts
  • Technology
  • Computer Science
  • Business & Economics
When I was a student, I would have described myself as someone who:
  • Brought people together
  • Always wanted to be outside
  • Liked helping people
  • Was motivated by success
  • Played video games
  • Was really creative
  • Didn't really care about grades
  • Always threw the best parties
  • Wasn't sure what I wanted to do
  • Liked to design or build things
  • Liked to take things apart to see how they worked

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