By Molly Dill
May 15, 2019 - Finally, work boots designed for women.
Anastasia Kraft thought it was about time to offer females working in STEM fields a steel-toed boot that was fashionable and safe. The only options on the market were made by manufacturers who would “pink and shrink” their men’s work boots and market them to women, Kraft said.
“I worked in engineering for over five years and although I loved my job, there was one thing I truly hated. That was my clunky, heavy steel-toed boots that was based on men’s designs,” Kraft said.
Her co-workers and other women she asked in the industry felt the same way. So she decided to design work boots women could wear from an office environment to a manufacturing floor.
“I work in the office most of the time and then once in a while I have to walk out on the shop floor to check on a part or get to the different meeting room that is across the shop floor,” she said.
On May 9, Kraft and her husband, Dmitry Krivochenitser, launched Milwaukee startup Xena. She is transitioning out of her Milwaukee-based role at project management consulting firm Project Success Inc., where her clients included mining equipment manufacturer Caterpillar Inc., to focus on Xena full-time.
Xena is also currently taking part in the gBETA startup accelerator program offered by gener8tor, which has helped her connect with a wider network of Midwest women in manufacturing and engineering. Kraft estimates the market is more than 2 million women in the U.S.
“We’re bootstrapping it,” Kraft said. “We developed the concept and design here, but manufacture them in Mexico.”
Xena makes its leather safety boots in black and brown leather
The low-cut leather boots come in brown or black leather, and have a steel toecap and a rubber outsole that is heat-, chemical- and slip-resistant. Kraft created them to meet ASTM standards with the help of a contract designer and five rounds of prototyping with the manufacturer. They look very similar to standard women’s ankle boots.
“We don’t really have competitors that make a fashionable safety boot,” she said. “There’s a potential that they will pick it up at some point but there’s no female-focused brand out there.”
The boots retail for $170 on xenaworkwear.com. And Kraft is already working on the design for her next boot, which will cover the ankle to meet some companies’ requirements.