Hands of fate

Sunday, September 26, 2010

ERIE, Pa. - Dr. James Lin never intended to have anything to do with his family's shoe business. He grew up expecting to be a doctor, eventually becoming a geriatric specialist. Then his father got sick, and

everything changed.

Lin traveled to Taiwan to help run the family business. Two years later, he returned to the United States, and that's when the hands of fate laid their fingers upon him. The result: Oasis Footwear, a manufacturer of

diabetic shoes.

"I would send my patients to get diabetic shoes, and the 10 or 15 patients who came back for a follow-up didn't come back with their shoes," Lin said. "Then I started hearing complaints: They are ugly...blah, blah, blah."

He made a call to Taiwan.

"I got my team together," he said. "I called my designer and my brother, and they caught on because I'm a physician and know about shoes. We put together Oasis Footwear in the states, started our line and launched in January 2009."

During its first year in business, Oasis targeted podiatrists. This year, the company expanded into the HME market. Oasis has been gradually building its HME clientele, but its first HME customer came from just down the street in Erie: Great Lakes Home Healthcare Services.

Oasis's line of men's and women's shoes allows Great Lakes to offer customers more choice. The provider also loves Oasis's line of slippers, which are a cash item, said Laurie Schneider, vice president of marketing and business development.

"A lot of times physicians tell their diabetic patients to wear something inside to protect their feet," she said. "When someone is getting their shoes reimbursed by Medicare, we can also show them (the slippers), which have a nice hard sole. We've been selling quite a few and getting positive feedback."

Because his family's company is one of the largest suppliers of Puma sneakers in Asia as well as a source for high-end European brands, Oasis has access to the latest styles and advances in materials for footwear, Lin said. 

"We've cut out the middle man for sourcing and some development costs, and that saves us a little bit of money," he said. "My goal is to make a pair of shoes that a person can wear every day without other people knowing it is a diabetic shoe."