How much does it cost to start a shoe brand?
You have an excellent idea for a shoe brand. You have some designs in mind, but you have no idea what kind of budget you need to launch your footwear label.
It’s time for you to discover the five expenses which will make the biggest difference to your shoe start-up budget:
1. Designing a new sole
If there is any way you can avoid creating a new sole for your launch product, do so. The world is full of existing moulded sole units and sheet sole materials which you can put your beautiful branding on.
When you design a new moulded sole, you have to pay for the tooling for multiple moulds – because you’re not just making one size! This can cost tens of thousands of pounds or US dollars. Simply not an expense you need to be making when you’re just testing the market.
2. Using untested materials
Do you want to use a material for your shoes which hasn’t previously been used for this purpose? In that case, you will want to test it.
Your manufacturer will need to attempt to make your shoe style using this material. If yours is quite different from their usual materials, this may take several attempts. At which point your manufacturer will let you know whether they are willing and able to make your product using your new wonder material. You may be charged more if using your material slows down your manufacturer’s standard processes.
You will also need to check that your material can legally be sold in all of your target selling localities.
Presuming your product can be made and sold, you will need to work out how durable this new material is in wear. Ideally this would involve wear trials – people wearing your product consistently for at least 6 weeks – and lab-based testing. It should be easy enough to persuade a few people to accept a free pair in exchange for wearing the heck out of them, and completing a report. The lab part is where it gets expensive. Most shoe testing labs aren’t used to working with start-ups, so their pricing is based on volume business, and unaffordable for most shoe brand founders.
Select a material that has already been used to make shoes, and you allow pioneer footwear companies to do the testing for you. Just be cautious if your product or construction differs greatly from your predecessors’.
3. PR agency retainer fees
PR is a necessary part of launching and growing your shoe brand. That said, it is easy to spend a lot of money on it. PR can become the biggest part of your budget if you let it. Large PR agencies need to charge high monthly retainers in order to cover their expenses. However that may not be the most cost-effective way for you to get noticed.
If you don’t feel confident doing your own PR, then there are individual PR professionals who can help you. Look them up on LinkedIn, or find them in local networking groups.
4. Developing new technology
Some shoe entrepreneurs believe that a new shoe brand must offer new technology. That the problem they are trying to solve with their products, can only be alleviated by expensive innovation.
Consider that the new widget you want to create may not be the solution you think it is. Tap into expertise from footwear experts, and you may find a far more cost-effective solution already exists.
5. Striving for perfection
“Perfect” sounds like a great term to apply to your new shoe brand. But how do you know when you have achieved perfection? You don’t. So you keep working, continue making more samples, and tweaking your website and Instagram aesthetic.
As a shoe brand founder, you need to make sure that your product, communications and e-commerce platform are good enough for your customers to buy from you. Be decisive. Push the “Launch” button when your product is just good enough.
There will always be room for improvement. One of the most exciting aspects of launching a shoe brand is collecting data. Sounds dull? Instead, see it as juicy knowledge. Every bit of positive or negative feedback – whether that’s from customer reviews, returns, or behaviour on your website – is valuable to you. Collate the trends in this data to improve your offer.
Masterclass – How much does it cost to start a shoe brand?
I recently ran a live online masterclass all about how much it costs to start a shoe brand.
My special guest Andrea Luis and I answered all of your questions on budgeting for your start-up shoe brand. We tackled costings, pricing and funding from concept to launch.
To access the recording of this masterclass and get exclusive invites to live masterclasses, apply to join The Shoe Community.