Nurse Friends Launch "Uni" Shoes Made For Nurses

7 Min Read Published January 30, 2023
Nurse Friends Launch "Uni" Shoes Made For Nurses

Like many great business ideas, the spark for healthcare footwear company Üni started back in 2021 when friends Alex Pastorkovich, now 28, and Loftin Dortch, now 32, were chatting on the phone about a lack of footwear options for their work as nurses. “We both expressed our disappointment with the footwear options available to us, and then a lightbulb went off,” they tell 

“Footwear is the one aspect of our uniform that we have some freedom to choose our own individual style,” the LA-based nurses add. “We wanted a shoe that we, and all healthcare workers, could be excited to put on each day. We thought, ‘Why can’t we have a shoe that takes care of our feet for a 12-hour shift, while also looking super stylish?’ So we said, ‘Let’s make one!’ And that was the beginning of Üni. 

Loftin explains that they chose the name “Üni” as a play on the words “uniform” and “unique,” adding:  “We designed our shoes to be worn with a uniform, but wanted them to be so much more than that,” he says. “We started thinking about how healthcare workers are so much more than the uniform they put on each day. Each individual is unique and we wanted Üni to be an outlet for them to showcase their individual style at work.”

Üni aims to combine the aesthetics of a modern shoe for nurses while still providing all the functionality healthcare professionals actually need. Because as Alex and Loftin point out, what good is a stylish shoe if it just allows body fluids to leak through? These are the things nurses know—and it’s exactly why a footwear company founded by nurses makes perfect sense. 

Nurses Unite

Both Loftin and Alex were initially drawn to nursing while they were still in high school—Alex started working as an EMT in his small hometown of Massachusetts and loved working in the healthcare profession. “I’ve always had the inclination to help others, and felt nursing was the best way to do that,” he explains. “As nurses, we are the ones that are spending the most time with the patients and advocating for them. I loved that and knew I was making the right decision.”

Loftin, on the other hand, chose nursing because of its versatility as he searched for the right career path for him. “I loved the fact that there are so many different specialties and areas of expertise, it gives you the opportunity to travel and also provides opportunities for advancement and career growth,” he says. “So, I made the decision to pursue nursing and was so glad I did.”

After graduating nursing school, Alex spent his early nursing career in the ER at UCLA, where he experienced working through a pandemic, an experience he describes as “exhausting.” The pandemic also spurred his desire to focus more on prevention in health, so he worked for a functional medicine clinic and a private medical concierge for a couple of years before starting Üni. 

Loftin also spent some time in acute care settings, outpatient surgery, and even travel nursing for the NYC school system before meeting Alex at a concierge IV hydration studio in Beverly Hills. The two exchanged contact info and stayed connected over the years, chatting about their mutual areas of interest in business, nursing, health, and fitness. “We had both started our own business ventures separately, but after spending time talking and brainstorming, we knew it was time to partner up,” notes Loftin. 

Pivoting on Their Feet

While their time as floor nurses in busy acute care settings undoubtedly taught Alex and Loftin the importance of pivoting on the job, the pivot from nursing to entrepreneurship presented an entirely new challenge. For instance, while starting a business, the two have both been working full-time nursing jobs, juggling spending time with their partners, who also have busy careers as a psychologist and in marketing, and jumping through all of the hoops of establishing credibility as new business owners. 

“Nursing to entrepreneurship has been a huge learning experience,” the business owners explain. “Every day new challenges arise, forcing us to problem solve, adjust, and continue moving forward. But learning new skills and seeing something grow from an idea into an actual product we can physically touch has been one of the most rewarding experiences of our lives.”

They also add that entrepreneurship has many parallels to working in the hospital. “Some days you feel on top of the world, while others feel like you hit rock bottom,” they point out. “However, it's all a part of the journey and we wouldn’t trade it for anything.”

And in many ways, having a background as a nurse also helps them keep the inevitable stressors of entrepreneurship and business ownership in perspective. Because in business, no matter how bad things get, the two point out: “no one is dying.” 

“That is what we tell ourselves constantly when something stressful comes up,” they continue. “The things we have to face as medical professionals on a daily basis and consider “normal” is hard for those outside of healthcare to comprehend. We learn to cope with huge amounts of stress in the workplace and literally deal with life-and-death scenarios on a regular basis. Because this has been our reality for so long, whenever anything unsettling arises with our business, we are able to take a breath, reassure ourselves that no one's actual life is in danger, and maintain our poise as we handle the situation at hand.”

Üni, a Unique Shoe for Nurses

With other types of athletic footwear on the market designed specifically for healthcare professionals, Loftin and Alex explain that what makes Üni unique are the design and materials. For instance, not only are the shoes comfortable, slip-resistant, and stain-repellent, but Üni is the first healthcare shoe on the market to use SuperFabric®, which contains antimicrobial properties designed to kill viruses, bacteria, and microbes on its surface. The fabric’s guard plate technology is antimicrobial and creates a fluid-resistant layer without needing to be treated with sprays or chemicals like many other water-resistant fabrics on the market. 

“This unique feature allows our shoes to remain breathable, which prevents feet from getting overheated during those long 12+ hour shifts,” explains Loftin. “Our fabric also provides unmatched durability that can stand up to the harshest work conditions, significantly increasing the life of the shoes.”

Along with function, the aesthetics of Üni shoes were equally as important to its founders—and a gap they found lacking in the market. “Healthcare shoes on the market are functional, but lack all aesthetic appeal,” they noted. “Those who opt for a more stylish sneaker look great in their scrubs, but their feet pay the price. The lack of function from regular sneakers leaves feet tired and sore, while the shoes become stained and worn out due to constant wear. So, those of us in healthcare are left to choose between fashion and function.” 

They also point out that just as scrubs have come a long way in matching elevated performance and style, they hope Üni will become associated with the next generation of footwear for nurses looking to feel good and look at work. “Üni’s sleek modern design and neutral color tones make them one of the most versatile shoes on the market and will look just as good in scrubs as they do in street clothes or athletic wear,” notes Alex. “We are providing a shoe that looks just as good as it performs and one healthcare professional can be excited and proud to put on each day.”

Plus, Üni isn’t forgetting where they came from—Loftin and Alex even created an all-white shoe with nursing schools in mind since that is a requirement for their students. “We both wished we had a decent all-white footwear option back in nursing school, so we made sure students would have that available to them moving forward.” 

A Step Forward

While Üni is designed with unique features for healthcare workers, Alex and Loftin also explain that even those who aren’t in the healthcare world—basically anyone looking for a comfortable, great-looking, and functional shoe—can purchase their footwear. 

“The great thing about our shoes is that there are so many job markets out there that need the functionality our shoes provide,” they note. “Although we created Üni for healthcare, expect to see us being worn by anyone who wants an extremely comfortable, water-resistant, durable, and stylish shoe. The possibilities are truly endless.”

Üni shoes are currently available for preorder, with hundreds of orders already in manufacturing and expected to be completed in March of this year. Along with finding more balance now that the flurry of launch is underway—Alex has been able to move full-time into business managing Üni along with his superfood company, while Loftin has moved into a PRN nursing position—the Üni founders hope to see more growth of the company in 2023. 

“We want to see Ünis in hospitals, offices, and clinics all across the country,” they note. “We had our co-workers in mind through the entire shoe design process and we can’t wait for everyone to get a pair!”

Loftin and Alex have big business dreams, but just as you’d expect out of nurses, they are keenly aware of the teamwork and support that went into their company. “We just want to say thank you to the amazing group of healthcare professionals who have already ordered a pair of shoes, and to those of you that are planning to,” they express. “It has been an expensive ‘side hustle’ over the past year and a half, but it would have stayed at just that if it wasn’t for those who have believed in and supported us the entire way. So thank you to them, and thank you to for helping us tell our story, we are truly grateful.” 

Learn more about Üni and pre-order your own pair here

Chaunie Brusie
Chaunie Brusie Contributor

Chaunie Brusie, BSN, RN is a nurse-turned-writer with experience in critical care, long-term care, and labor and delivery. Her work has appeared everywhere from Glamor to The New York Times to The Washington Post. Chaunie lives with her husband and five kids in the middle of a hay field in Michigan and you can find more of her work here

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