Five years ago, Alison Hoff Miles ’06 began to feel “very old and out of shape,” and the feeling worsened as she struggled to recover from an injury. Struggling to stand, Miles began a search for answers.
Four months later, she was diagnosed with Pompe disease, a rare genetic disorder tied to progressive muscle weakness. It affects about 1 in every 40,000 people.
While waiting for a flight home from a conference on Pompe, Miles vented her frustration with the ugly “hospital socks” she had started wearing to prevent falls. Her husband Chad ‘06 responded with a simple question: “Why don’t we make our own?” Gripjoy, a company that now produces dozens of non-slip sock designs for all ages and needs, was born.
The name Gripjoy reflects Miles’ positive attitude. It’s “about gripping joy, regardless of your life circumstances,” she said. Gratefulness is at the heart of the brand.
Miles’ faith helped her to approach the diagnosis “from a place of hope.” Due to the timing of her diagnosis, Miles got a spot in a clinical trial; she chose to focus on thanking God for this. “We are called as Christians to find joy in the life that we are given,” Miles said. Since beginning treatment, Miles’ health has improved.
Once prototypes of the socks were in, Miles joyfully threw out all her old socks. “It was exciting and nerve-wracking.” There were 1,500 pairs of Gripjoy socks in their garage and they had no idea if they would sell.
Miles credits Calvin’s business and marketing courses with preparing her to run her own business. The socks did sell, to people facing Pompe disease and others facing mobility and balance issues. “Somebody who doesn’t have this type of need can maybe laugh around
the concept of socks being so meaningful to somebody,” Miles said, but she continues to receive email after email from customers for whom the socks made a real difference.
Gripjoy donates 10% back to organizations researching Pompe disease and helping those living with it. More information about Gripjoy can be found at gripjoy.com/pages/our-story.