Ski shoe startup Pakems shuts down after CEO’s ouster and lawsuit

Pakems Julie Adams crop

Julie Adams holds two pairs of Pakems in this 2015 file photo. (BusinessDen file)

Six months ago, Julie Adams came to her college-bound son Bodie with a question.

Knowing how its story ends knowing “all the heartache that followed,” as she put it would he want her to go back in time and start Pakems, the company she founded?

“And he said, ‘I would,’” an emotional Adams, 58, recalled between sniffles last week.

In 2011, Adams left her well-paying but time-sucking job as a lawyer, sold her house, and spent the proceeds creating a foldable, water-resistant boot for skiers “kind of a cool-weather flip-flop,” as she told BusinessDen in 2015 that she came to call Pakems.

“I did it because my son had turned 5 and he was the last kid being picked up at day care every day and I wanted to spend more time with him, to be in a job where I could be more flexible and take him to soccer practice,” the entrepreneur recalled last week.

There were struggles, times when Adams wasn’t sure where rent would come from, but she and Bodie made it work. “He’d go with me to the GoPro Games and help me sell Pakems. I got a 2,000-pair order and he spent a fall break putting shoes into bags,” she said.


Pakems founder Julie Adams. (Submitted)

The harbinger of Pakems’ demise came dressed as a blessing: a Kickstarter campaign that raised $56,000 in 2017, partially funding an order of 10,000 pairs of Pakems. But the investor who was to fund the rest of that order went out of business, leaving the shoes sitting in China for nearly a year as Adams desperately sought capital. In late 2018, she found it.

“My initial impression was that he wanted to grow the company and potentially sell it to a bigger player I know he was excited about VF Corp. and that’s exactly what I wanted to do with it too,” Adams said of Harold Pine, founder of Chasefield Capital in Lakewood.

“I was extremely excited about where the company could go,” she said. 

Chasefield Capital bought Pakems for an undisclosed amount of money, leaving Adams with a minority stake of 33 percent and the title of CEO, according to a February 2024 court order.

But Pine and Adams did not get along. Adams said she was verbally abused and harassed; Pine denies that. When Adams went to a hospital in May 2019 with heart attack symptoms, she was told they were caused by stress. A few weeks later, she was fired, a termination she claims was in response to that health issue. Pine and Chasefield deny that too.

“I put every penny I made into the company to make it work and I lost thousands and thousands of hours. So, when they fired me, I had zero dollars in the bank,” Adams said.

Because she was fired without cause, she was entitled to more Pakems stock, giving her a stake in the company that was worth an estimated $450,000, according to Adams. Meanwhile, at age 54, she returned to law. “It was very difficult starting from zero,” she said.

In 2020, Adams sued Pine, Chasefield and 10 other defendants. Her 154-page lawsuit made 18 claims, divided into two categories: employment law violations, such as discrimination based on her gender and her health, and allegations that her computers were hacked and that she was spied on. Adams represented herself for much of the case. It didn’t go well.

In February, after four years of litigation, U.S. District Judge Daniel Domenico dismissed her lawsuit, finding the employment claims were better suited for a state court and the hacking claims lacked “evidence connecting any defendant to any act violating federal law.”

“There is nothing beyond her own assumptions and conclusory allegations that would allow a reasonable juror to agree that defendants have been ‘spying’ or ‘hacking’ or otherwise illegally accessing the data on her computers,” Domenico wrote in a Feb. 12 order.

So, Adams is trying again. On May 12, she sued eight defendants in Douglas County District Court, accusing them of discrimination, privacy violations and conspiring against her. In addition to Pine and others at Chasefield, she is suing Chasefield’s IT company for spying.

“We have no comment,” said Patrick Bernal, an attorney for the eight defendants.

Adams said that she has lost the $1 million she put into Pakems, the $450,000 that her stock was once worth, and any future gains. Because, in September, Pine told shareholders by email that Pakems would be closing its doors “due to ongoing litigation, aging inventory, no revenue, higher interest rates and expenses.” Adams’ shares are now worthless, she said.

A small detail in that email especially annoyed Adams: That all Pakems would “be disposed of as unsaleable.” Adams said she would like to have those boots, unsellable or not.

“I would have bought one pair for my son,” she said. “My son is a size 13, he’s all grown up, and I’m so mad that I can’t get a pair of Pakems for him. I can’t find any anywhere.”

Because in the end, just as it was in the beginning, Pakems is for Bodie. He’ll be off to college soon, playing soccer, making all those practices his mother attended well worth it.

“Would I do it over again?” Adams said through tears. “My answer is yes. Because of him.”

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