Interview taken from London Daily News

Ones Leisure Trainers – An exciting Midlands start up trainer business with a Soul

Ones Leisure Trainers launched in December 2021. Simon Caulton (Ones Founder) designed and created lightweight, super comfortable and eco-friendly trainers for anyone who needs to stay on their feet all day.

The brand creation was inspired by Simon’s own personal heart breaking journey when his daughter, Mia was diagnosed with infantile acute lymphoblastic leukaemia at just seven months old in July 2017 and given a 50:50 survival rate of reaching the age of five. The experience was life-changing. Simon and his partner Anjna Mahey, left their day jobs to become around-the-clock carers for Mia, living at Birmingham Children Hospital. They watched their daughter endure a gruelling treatment plan which included, lumber punches, bone marrow operations, blood transfusions, x-rays and chemotherapy drugs.

Mia was discharged after nine months, but she still had almost two years of continued chemo treatment at home. With Simons work being predominately based within Far East and Anjna’s work 15 minutes away, they made a decision as family that Simon would become a stay at home dad and look after Mia and Anjna would return to work.

“This was a very difficult time for me, stepping away from a career I had worked so hard for, that I loved, I never imagined becoming a stay at home dad, I love my daughter so much and yes this was the right logical step as a family, but I struggled with this adjustment. The loss of my independence, loss of control, the trauma, isolation, I felt myself losing my purpose, my mental health spiralled downwards quickly, I needed to find a focus.” says Simon.

Simon’s first step was to seek help for his own mental health, he got help identifying the PTSD he was suffering from. He has since become a passionate advocate of men’s mental health, sharing his one step journey with various organisations. Speaking candidly and open about his own personal struggles and the importance of seeking help. He has become an ambassador for the official charity of Wolverhampton Wanderers, Wolves Foundation, for over 2 years and their Head4Health cohort groups. He was even invited by the football team to talk about mental health, at a premiership football match highlighting the power of talking in 2019.

Designing the trainers was an incredible chapter. Simon channelled all his pain and experiences into the brand. Whilst Mia was in hospital, we were occupants at the Ronald McDonald House Birmingham. This is a charity that offer rooms to parents/families caring for a critically ill child in hospital. The house was a life line for us, a home away from home. Every morning I would get ready and sit at the edge of the bed, put my trainers on and stare at my feet, not knowing what the day will hold, I would take a deep breath and then take that One Step towards the door to take on my day. I spent so much time my feet all day in hospital, I noticed, my feet would become quite sweaty and swollen, my legs would often become tired and achy by the end of the day. I recall the need for something comfortable, lightweight and breathable on my feet as it would be a very long day in hospital.

When I started to do my market research, I identified that many regular trainers could be quite heavy and the insole flat design would cause aching on the base of feet when worn for prolonged periods of time. So when I designed Ones, my brief became very clear to me, I wanted to create lightweight, breathable, super comfortable and eco-friendly trainers for anyone who needs to stay on their feet all day.

Simon drew on all his contacts from the far east and built a partnership with professional shoe designer Katie Ridges who helped bring his vision to life. “In this launch collection we have 3 styles available in black and white colours. The styles offer customers either a slip on (with no laces), a smooth and soft or mesh style finish.” The three styles are named the Broughton, Cantlow and Cooksley, which are poignantly named and dedicated to the three rooms they occupied at the Ronald McDonald House Birmingham. Since they have spoken at a number of their charity fundraising events and Anjna has become a Board of Governors for Birmingham House.

From the beginning, Simon was committed to Ones Trainers being eco-friendly and sustainable so partnered with Bloom Materials, who launched the world’s first algae-blended EVA to the footwear industry. Bloom Materials have worked with numerous well known brands in order to help them design eco-conscious products that have a positive impact on the environment. “Sustainability is high on Ones agenda, so working with Bloom Materials is incredibly important. We want to increase the percentage of Bloom rise in the EVA outsole, improving the litres of water cleaned and restored to the environment and the M³ air cleaned of carbon dioxide.” Says Simon. Ones has even committed towards three of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

The Ones brand is about each individual’s #myonestepjourney. They have become a family ambassador for Blood Cancer UK, continuously raising awareness and being involved in fundraising events. They have committed 10% of all profits to Blood Cancer UK, for continued research in kinder, effective treatments and improving survival rates. The family raised an incredible £11,928 from their fundraising efforts in 2017/18. This was awarded to a research project at the University of Edinburgh, where Professor Katrin Ottersbach and her team are looking at genetic changes which occur before birth which can lead to the development of the disease and are also trying to understand why some leukaemia’s escape treatment, causing some babies cancers to return. Improving our understanding of these changes and the driving factors will help lay the groundwork for better and kinder treatments in the future.

They were also involved in Blood Cancer UK 2021 Christmas Appeal which raised an incredible £90,000. This year they are hosted Walk of Light Event in March 2022. Mia took her first steps nn hospital, so this walk was incredibly poignant.

Simon is incredibly humbled by the immense support offered by the Birmingham City University’s STEAMhouse Incubator, a unique centre dedicated to providing a space for collaboration, innovation and the development of new ideas, start-ups, and ventures. The pandemic like for many businesses also sent Ones development back, having lost their original manufacturer, Richard Scutt – the Incubator manager and Julian Beer, Deputy Vice Chancellor of Birmingham City University – provided sound advice and support to get back on track.

Ones has gone onto winning ‘Rising Star of the Year 2022 Award’ at StartUp Awards National Series.

Simon said “Life has taught me the importance of taking One Step at a time. Whether you are on an uphill battle or striving towards something beautiful, we all have our own One Step Journey. Ones Trainers are designed for anyone that needs something comfortable, no nonsense and breathable so they can stay on their feet all day.”

Ones is well and truly a brand with a Soul.