Side Gig: The Forgano Nursing Shoes Company

Side Gig: The Forgano Nursing Shoes Company

Nurses have tough jobs. One of the small things that have helped brighten their days is choosing to wear stylish nursing shoes and scrubs. Whether scrubs are in different colors, with cartoon characters, or feature hobby-related items like books or bikes, they can cheer up nurses and their patients.

But now, a nurse has gone one step further—she’s come up with a shoe line for nurses that will match their scrubs—at least in terms of colors.

Daily Nurse spoke with business owner and nurse Eunsook Choi, RN, BSN, a former travel nurse who is now working full-time at Mount Sinai Hospital in Miami Beach, about her online shoe company, Forgano . She provided great information about the product line and how she got into this business without prior experience.

How did you come up with the idea to start Forgano? What does the word mean?

I moved here from South Korea in 2017 to further my nursing career. Unfortunately, in 2020, the pandemic took a significant toll on nurses and other front-line workers. For many, it was their first year in the profession. At my hospital, I was moved from my usual unit to the COVID ICU due to a shortage of nurses, so I saw everything firsthand.

So once the dust settled a bit, I felt a purpose in my heart to bring a gift to these nurses–something they could get excited about after surviving this dark period. And so I brought them a new line of trendy nursing shoes that they could match with their scrubs, allowing them to express their personality. I came up with the name Forgano. “Gano” means “nursing or nurses” in Korean. So Forgano means “for nurses.”

Talk about how you started this company. Do you design the shoes? Do you have to handle all the steps involved with it? Please explain. 

Once I decided to create a new line of nursing shoes, I faced the issue of designing the shoes in a way that would appeal to nurses and the materials that would be suitable for the job. I didn’t even know what to call the various parts of a shoe, such as an outsole, eyelets, and tongue.

I identified my target audience before I began thinking about designs. I can’t sell a single design of shoes to everyone. That’s impossible. Some senior nurses have been wearing the same shoes for 20 years, and there are new grad nurses who begin their new life journey with new scrubs and new shoes. So I identify my target audiences by age, gender, preferences, and so on.

I also realized most nursing shoes are designed to be practical and dry, so I wanted to create a new design that was both luxurious and practical. I have been working as a nurse for 13 years, and when it comes to shoes, as a nurse, I prioritize comfort. This is also something that all of my coworkers agreed on. So, as a result, my main criteria for new shoes were comfort and design.

I only had a little time to learn about the materials and the design details. So, I sought the advice of professionals when it came to design and materials, and I also got a lot of help from my manufacturer to complete the finished product.

Did you have previous entrepreneurial experience? Or did you learn on the go? How long did it take to get to the point of actually selling the products? 

I had no prior experience as an entrepreneur. My mother has a small business in South Korea, selling men’s clothing in a small city. I remember seeing her selling and offering products when I was younger, but I don’t think I learned anything about this new business from her.

When I started my business last year, I met a business coach named James Munn from the United Kingdom. We had weekly Skype business mentorship meetings. I started with only one idea, “Nursing shoes,” and had no business experience. He was helpful to me during the formulation of the concepts stage, targeting audiences, finding manufacturers, developing names and websites, and finding 3PLs, among other things. I started at the bottom and worked my way up step by step. It took about nine months to get from organizing ideas to selling points.

I still do not know what I’ll do next month, but I know what I need to do regularly. I was terrified when I first started my business since I had never done anything like that before. However, I remembered that many people had done it before, and many of them had done well. So why can’t I? I work as a nurse and am very disciplined. Therefore, I believe I am capable of doing whatever others can do.

What makes your nursing shoes different? What did you want to offer to nurses that were different from other types of shoes?

They have a new design that is comfortable to wear all day. Forgano is a unique design when compared to other typical nursing shoe brands. Lately, new style scrubs have become very popular, but no suitable shoes support the latest trend. My shoes fit the new scrubs style for young nurses, giving a positive vibe and extra comfort for a long shift.

What did you enjoy most about your side gig?

I have more to offer the healthcare society than just my nursing job. This makes me feel like a valuable and productive person. I used to avoid listening to motivational speakers because I believed they were boring and everyone followed the same script. However, now I can appreciate what they are talking about.

It’s not only about the money. I think Forgano helped improve the quality of my life and allowed me to be a much happier nurse at work. My coworkers know I own a business, so I try my best at work. If I were lazy or frequently called in sick, they would believe I was neglecting my job due to my business–and I don’t want that.

I am a nurse, and I am proud of myself as a nurse. I also want to provide the best nursing care to my patients. Therefore, running a side gig gives my life meaning and improves my performance as a nurse.

What are some of the challenges?  

Since I am a full-time nurse, finding time to manage my business takes time and effort. Every nurse knows we don’t want to do anything when we are off. But, like most nurses, I would love to relax on the couch or watch YouTube.

Of course, there are times when I have little time and do not do much for my business, and I think, “Why did I start this?” However, it is just for a brief period, and I’ll get up and do what needs to be done. I’m running my business slowly because it’s not my full-time job. But I enjoy it when I have new sales or followers on my IG. I feel blessed that I provide a unique vibe and products to nurses.

What would you say to someone considering developing a product specifically for nurses?   

Listen carefully to what nurses are saying they need right now. And when you find a way to be of service, start now. It’s easy to think about creating and imagining it, but it can be intimidating to go forward when you lack experience. But I now know that if I can do this, anyone can. I am not special.

Only a few years ago, when I left South Korea and immigrated to the United States, I had no contacts or connections. I knew such little English that I could not even order a coffee at Starbucks. However, I overcame the odds, landed a position at a nation-leading hospital in Chicago, and started my own business.