I recently got the chance to connect with Brett Richards, the owner and creator of Barefoot Buttons, and asked him some questions to better get to know him, his company, and his product. If you’re not familiar with Barefoot Buttons, they make buttons that attach to your existing pedal switches that make it easier to access while playing and nicer on your feet if you play without shoes. Brett lives with his family in Minnesota where he runs part of the company while the other part is run back in Hawaii.
Daniel: What inspired you/got you started making buttons for guitar pedals?
Brett: I was a machinist in Hawaii and encouraged to practice making parts on the CNC machines I was learning on. I always used to play barefoot on stage and thought it would be cool to have something bigger to stomp on since it was painful and clumsy to stomp on the factory switches. I made some prototypes with no set screws and super glued them to some of my pedals to try out. I was playing in a band with Mike Love at the time who also plays barefoot. He loved them and wanted a set so I made him some for his board. We used the buttons at gigs and kept coming up with ideas to improve them. We added a set screw to lock down the button, then two, then way later found that the 3 set screw design was the way to go. We used the buttons for over 5 years changing and improving the design profile probably more than 10 times in different ways.
Mike went on to tour all around the world playing music. Every time he would come back from a tour he would tell me that a lot of people ask him where they could buy the buttons. He really thought I should start a company with this product. I had a good job and no time to start a business so this went on for a couple of years until I finally decided to try to get these out to more people. We both loved the buttons and really believed in the product. To us, the buttons just made the pedals work better.
I launched a project on Kickstarter to get the funds together to build enough inventory to start a web store. A month later the Kickstarter project ended with success and my wife and I launched our webstore another month after the project ended. I think it was over 8 years after I had machined the first button to when we launched our webstore.
Daniel: That’s a cool story. What year did you open up the web store and start making the buttons available to others?
Brett: We finished the Kickstarter campaign successfully in November 2015 and the website launched in December 2015.
Daniel: Oh wow, so you are still pretty fresh as a company! Is Barefoot Buttons a full-time gig for you?
Brett: In 2017 the dream became a reality and I was able to leave my job to run Barefoot Buttons full time. It’s been amazing to be able to spend quality time with my family every day. I couldn’t be more grateful to our loyal customers and friends.
Daniel: What is your best-selling product so far?
Brett: The players are really liking the V1 clear acrylic buttons. The switch that the V1 button was made for is the most common type of switch and I think most people like the clear acrylic so they can see their led lights through the button itself.
Daniel: And do you have a personal favorite color button?
Brett: I think my favorite color is the clear acrylics.
Daniel: Are you working on any new products? Anything you can tell us about?
Brett: We are always working on the next button variation. Our customers dictate which will be the next button coming out. We listen to the problems the players are having out there with a certain type of switch and when there are enough requests for a button to fit that certain switch, we design a prototype, R&D it and then do the work necessary to release it. We have a bunch of new designs and variations coming out in 2018 as well as some really cool new products. It’s top secret right now but we’re really excited about the new stuff.
Daniel: Does the worship guitar player scene play any roll in what products you offer and the success of your business?
Brett: I have made so many friends in the worship music scene. There’s a handful of guys that we hooked up with early in our company and we have really built some great friendships by helping each other out. We endorse them with the buttons they need and they do what they can to spread the word about out buttons to fellow musicians and friends.
Daniel: Is there anything else you think we should know about you or your products/business?
Brett: I’m a consumer on everything except for Barefoot Buttons. I’ve had terrible customer service and support with tons of products in the past. We launched the company with the utmost goal to provide the best products, support and service possible. Although there will always be problems, I think we have done an excellent job supporting all of our customers when troubles arrive. When it comes down to it, I don’t want to earn a penny from anyone who isn’t satisfied with our product or service.
Daniel: What’s in your personal rig? Do you have any of your own creations on your board? If so, what?
Brett: I still have the old home made buttons on my old board. They’ve been going for almost 8 years now
Check out Barefoot Buttons at https://barefootbuttons.com/ where you can see their entire product line and order yours!