LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) -- They're small enough to fit inside your pocket, but these colorful rubber contraptions can make a big difference for those hitting the slopes. If you look closely enough, you might be able to find them on the feet of those competing on the biggest stage at this year's Winter Olympics.
They're called Ski Skootys - rubber covers that go under ski boots, made entirely in Kentucky, with most of the work being done out of the Skootys international headquarters on Valley Vista Road in the Highlands, also known to the Lawlers as home.
"We got 3,000 feet of office space here," Robert Lawler, the creator of Skootys, said.
The idea first came to Robert about six years ago during a ski outing with his friends, looking for a solution to walking in ski boots, which can be a frustrating and potentially dangerous ordeal.
"There are two parts of the day that are the worst part of the day, and that is walking to the ski slopes and walking home from the ski slopes," Reid Lawler, Robert's son, said. "It's like walking with bricks on your feet," Reid said. It's very clunky."
There were other products on the market to help with the problem, but Robert felt they were too inconvenient and didn't get the job done.
"These guys had been wearing these things for like three years and I said, 'I think there's something there,'" he said.
"He just thought that this was going to be better, so that's what he did," his wife, Sally, said.
Robert began making prototypes, using whatever materials he could find for the earliest versions, held together by dog leashes and surgical tubing. Those early models eventually led to the bright and colorful rubber soles, a one-size-fits-all accessory that fits on the bottom of the ski boot, making it easier and more comfortable to walk around while protecting the boot from wear and tear.
"Things that we worked on for two or three years and couldn't get anybody to listen to us, all of a sudden, they started listening to us," Robert said.
With the product in hand, all they needed was a name. One of Robert and Sally's sons suggested "Ski Skooty," a name that's stuck ever since.
"Somehow he came up with it and it kind of stuck,'" Sally said. "We had two other names and he said, 'No, those will not fly.'"
Ski Skootys is a family run business. Robert is the inventor and engineer behind the product. Sally and Reid handle the administrative and sales portions. According to Sally, Skootys were first being manufactured in China, but the Lawlers decided to bring the entire operation back home to Kentucky. The Ski Skootys are now made at a Bullitt County factory, then stored in the Lawler's basement before being shipped around the world.
The Lawlers said they received a lot of help from the Kentucky World Trade Center and the Department of Commercial Services in securing an international market, with buyers coming from countries like Bulgaria, Japan, Russia, Sweden, the Czech Republic and even Australia.
Among their customers include Olympians, including members of the American, Italian and Swedish Olympic ski teams. While there are no native Kentuckians competing in this year's Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, these made-in-Kentucky products will be hitting the slopes.
More information about Ski Skootys can be found on their website.
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