Start the new year off on the right foot, or the left foot. Incorporating wellness into your everyday workplace routine can be as easy as putting on your socks! ALPS Risk Manager Mark Bassingthwaighte chats with VIM & VIGR founder Michelle Huie who creates stylish compression socks by pairing personal expression with wellness — a perfect match for business professionals.

Transcript:

MARK:

Hello. This is Mark Bassingthwaite, the Risk Manager with ALPS, and welcome to another podcast of ALPS in brief, the podcast that comes to you from the historic Florence building in beautiful downtown Missoula, Montana. And I am very excited about our guest today. I have with me Michelle Huie, and she is with a company here in Missoula known as VIM & VIGR and I’ll explain to all of you in a moment why I would like to chat, I’m looking forward to chatting here with Michelle. But before we jump into our discussion, Michelle, can we take a few moments just to have you share a little bit about yourself.

MICHELLE HUIE:

Yeah. Absolutely. I’m Michelle Huie. I’m the founder of VIM & VIGR, stylish compression leg wear. We make stylish compression socks, compression tights, and we’ve been in the market for about five years. We’re also based out of beautiful Missoula, Montana. Not quite in the Florence building, but beautiful Missoula, Montana.

MARK:

Yes.

MICHELLE:

And we have about 20 employees, all based here. I started the company five years ago, mainly as a personal need for myself.

MARK:

Yes.

MICHELLE:

I had a job where I was sitting for long periods of time. I’m sure we can relate to that.

MARK:

I can relate.

MICHELLE:

Yeah. And I just noticed that my legs were really tired and achy, which kind of was counterintuitive to me. I was like, “why am I tired? I’ve been sitting all day.”

MARK:

Right. Right.

MICHELLE:

I’ve expended zero energy. I shouldn’t be tired. And when I talked to a really good friend of mine who’s a physical therapist, he said, “Oh, you should be wearing compression socks. Actually, most people have a job where they sit or stand for long periods of time and they should be wearing compression socks.” So I did what most people would do, is I went online and I looked to see what options were out there for myself as a consumer. And the only thing I could find were really medical-looking or like weird—

MARK:

Yes. That’s my impression.

MICHELLE:

Yeah. Like I’m thinking about my 98-year-old grandmother—

MARK:

Exactly.

MICHELLE:

Wearing these nude … Like whose skin color looks like that? No one’s.

MARK:

I know. I know.

MICHELLE:

And so I thought to myself, that’s pretty much what I could find or athletic compression socks that were neon yellow or neon pink. And I said, you know, nothing really fit my professional lifestyle.

MARK:

Right.

MICHELLE:

And a light bulb went off and I said, “If I have a personal need for stylish, high-quality compression socks, I’m sure that there are a lot of people who could benefit as well. And so I really started the company mainly as kind of a workplace wellness product for myself.

MARK:

And that’s my interest in visiting with you today. For our listeners, I assume most of you are aware, there’s a real movement within the profession in the United States to focus on wellness. There’s some interesting studies that have come out, really looking at depression and burnout and stress. Lawyers work long hours.

MICHELLE:

Right.

MARK:

And they have very … Most people that are working with lawyers, are not involved in happy, uplifting times in their lives.

MICHELLE:

Right. Absolutely.

MARK:

This is a divorce, it’s a bankruptcy.

MICHELLE:

Yeah.

MARK:

Those kinds of things. And there just is a lot of stress. And I’d be interested in your comments about the importance of wellness in …

MICHELLE:

Yeah, I think that people, they don’t think about wellness in that context. They don’t think that somebody like a lawyer would have a physically demanding job. They may think like a nurse or a physical therapist or firefighter. They look at them as having physically demanding jobs. But in reality, a lot of people do, especially if you mix in high stress, poor eating.

MARK:

Yes.

MICHELLE:

Sedentary. They say sitting is a new smoking, right? That’s the expression of sitting.

MARK:

Right. Yes. I have heard that.

MICHELLE:

And that’s why a lot of times, I’m sure a lot of lawyers even listening now have those sit/stand desks, which is much better for you than sitting all day. And frankly, it is very, very stressful and there’s a huge movement of kind of to prevent burnout. You have, for example, Ariana Huffington started her company, Thrive Global, and she wrote this book called “The Sleep Revolution,” specifically to talk about preventing burnout in the workplace, because so much of it is … It’s obviously, there’s physical, there’s emotional, there’s mental components of being healthy in the workplace. And frankly, you spend a lot more time working than you do doing anything else.

MARK:

That’s true. Yeah.

MICHELLE:

And I think people kind of forget about how to stay healthy in the workplace and it’s a real problem. And I think it definitely leads to a lot of burnout.

MARK:

And you’ve gone in this direction of compression socks, which I just, I love this. And for those of you listening, again, the company’s VIM & VIGR. And I assume that the website is…

MICHELLE:

Yeah, VIM & VIGR. V-I-M V-I-G-R.com. Yeah.

MARK:

And I did have the opportunity to take a look at some of the product and it’s great stuff.

MICHELLE:

Yeah.

MARK:

Like you were saying, it is not these neon things and the things grandma in her 90s wore.

MICHELLE:

Right.

MARK:

But how do you see compression socks, just as an example, really impacting … Why is this important?

MICHELLE:

Yeah. I think that a lot of times, the perception of compression socks is for someone who is sick or elderly.

MARK:

Right. Yeah.

MICHELLE:

But there’s actually a lot of preventative components of compression socks. Compression socks is technically a medical device. It helps increase circulation. It prevents … It energizes legs. It prevents swelling. It does all these things that I call an occupational hazard of sitting or standing. Right?

MARK:

Yeah.

MICHELLE:

Sometimes you can’t help but have a job where you’re sitting or standing for long periods of time. And I call it the occupational hazard, right? And compression socks can really help with that. I look at launching VIM & VIGR as really beyond a compression sock, which it is, we provide that. It’s all medical-grade, it’s all listed by the FDA.

MARK:

Yes. Right.

MICHELLE:

But we’re really focused on education and transitioning to more of that workplace wellness. If you look at our number one customer, our customers range from nurses who work double 12-hour shifts, right?

MARK:

Yeah. Yeah. That’s a lot of time on their feet.

MICHELLE:

A lot of time on your feet.

MARK:

Yes. Yes.

MICHELLE:

Teachers who are on their feet for long periods of time. People who are sitting at a desk for long periods, as well. Traveling is huge.

MARK:

Yeah, airplanes. Right.

MICHELLE:

Airplane. They call them economy class syndrome, right?

MARK:

Oh, really?

MICHELLE:

Yeah, where you have DBTs, [crosstalk 00:06:23]

MARK:

Okay, sure.

MICHELLE:

It’s like blood clots can happen when you’re in confined spaces like that, like an airplane. And so these are real conditions that can happen that could really affect physically how you feel. And so what VIM & VIGR has really morphed into and become is, not just a compression sock company, but more of this everyday wellness company. And it’s so amazing that you can just put on a pair of compression socks and do a little something for your health. Obviously, we’re not saying to wear compression socks and replace exercising and eating healthy.

MARK:

It’s not the miracle cure.

MICHELLE:

It’s not a miracle cure, but it’s just one added tool.

MARK:

Yes. Yeah.

MICHELLE:

In your armamentarium to kind of be healthier in the workplace.

MARK:

Yeah. I love it. I love it. Well, thank you so much for taking a little time to visit with us. And again, folks, I encourage you … Oh boy, just … And I really respect and admire the commitment to wellness and working with businesses of all shapes and sizes on the importance of wellness. But I also just love where you’re starting with this product. It is a great … I took a look at the site as I shared. I showed my wife, she’s a physician. And her response was, “I need to show my patients these things.”

MICHELLE:

Right.

MARK:

Because, yeah, again, it meets a need that’s … It allows us to be healthy and work on wellness in a way we can feel good about in terms of—

MICHELLE:

Yeah. And not guilt-ridden, right?

MARK:

Yes.

MICHELLE:

Sometimes with … It’s all the things you’re not doing. Even the Fitbits, it’s like, “Oh, you’re not walking enough steps.”

MARK:

Yeah. I haven’t walked across the Serengeti yet.

MICHELLE:

Right. Right. Right. Yeah.

MARK:

Yeah.

MICHELLE:

And it’s not supposed to be that. It’s just supposed to be … I like to look at these little things that you’re going to do normal … You’re going to put on a pair of socks. Right?

MARK:

Yes.

MICHELLE:

Normally. Especially in Montana, for sure. But why not put on a pair of compression socks that can actually help you a little bit more?

MARK:

I agree. And I’m going to let that be the last word. Folks, I hope you found today’s discussion interesting and of value. And if, at some point, you have a topic of interest you’d like to hear us chat about or a business or individual you’d like us to contact and do a podcast with, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me here at ALPS. And me email address is mbass@alpsnet.com. Michelle, thank you again. It’s been a pleasure. Folks, thanks for listening. Good-bye.

MICHELLE HUIE has worked in the healthcare industry for over 14 years, dedicating her adult life to introducing innovative technology and products to people that need it the most. In 2013, after moving to Missoula, Montana from New York City, she found herself sitting for long periods of time at a new job. She had no idea that sitting or standing for long periods could have such negative effects on her body, especially on how her legs and body felt.

When Michelle mentioned her new sedentary situation to a physical therapist, he recommended compression socks. The only options available were athletic or medical use socks and nothing she found reflected her personal style. This inspired Michelle to start VIM & VIGR: a high-quality compression legwear line with stylish designs to be worn all day. Today, she leads the V&V team as they set out to bring the benefits of VIM & VIGR products to people everywhere.