About this time last year, Kirk Arsenault found himself in a tough spot.
He was still recovering from a heart attack he had recently suffered – which resulted in quadruple heart bypass surgery – and had returned to work earlier than he was supposed to, only to lose his job a short time later.
But rather than mope or stress about what to do next, the South Surrey father – and former youth soccer coach and rugby player with the Semiahmoo Old Boys – used the time off to launch a company, selling a product he’d be tinkering with for years.
After partnering with a friend who had connections in the apparel world, Arsenault launched Str8laced, selling wraps for sports cleats that keep the laces from coming untied in the middle of a game or practice. The wraps are made of a poly-cotton blend – the same material used in soccer socks, but with more elasticity.
“It’s been an ongoing thing for a couple years, but we just finally got all our ducks in a row,” he said.
“This (new career path) isn’t something I maybe expected, but everything happens for a reason – that’s always been my outlook. It’s worked out quite well. People talk about making lemonades out of lemons and this was essentially exactly that. It freed up my time and here we are, going gung-ho.
“We’re just working to get the word out and then we’ll see where it goes.”
Arsenault said the idea for the lace covers came to him after years playing sports himself, as well as watching his daughter’s teams play.
“In rugby, we always tape our laces but once I started using these – I had a mock-up pair I’d made at home – we just realized that it worked great,” he explained. “And watching (younger kids) play soccer, it’s the middle of winter and they’re out there – sometimes it’s hard to bend down to tie my own laces, let alone a bunch of young girls running around out there with their laces undone.”
So far, Arsenault has donated 200 pairs of his product to South Surrey/White Rock’s Coastal FC soccer association – “To trial them and let me know what they think,” he said – while a friend who coaches a youth team in Port Coquitlam has also bought a set for his team.
Arsenault said they’ll soon be appearing in a few local stores – like Docksteader Source for Sports, he noted – and down the road he hopes to continue to expand the company’s reach.
He’ll also be looking to expand into Alberta, because he is set to move with his family to Medicine Hat at the end of the month. After losing his previous job, Arsenault said they’ve decided to sell their home and move somewhere with a lower cost of living.
The price of the wraps isn’t prohibitive – $3.99 individually in retail stores, or $1.99 if teams make direct bulk orders – and Arsenault said that’s by design.
“I didn’t want to be creating a big, expensive product for something that serves a purpose like this. Its one of those things that’s practical – there’s a need for it… and we supply (a solution) for a low cost.”
Even though he is gearing up to leave the community – his business partner will remain here and run the B.C. part of the operation, he noted – Arsenault said he hopes his product has a lasting effect.
“Hopefully people will see these things on the field and say ‘Hey, I think those are made by that grumpy old Kirk guy who used to coach me,’” he said.