Why starting a shoe brand isn’t just for millennials
Allow me to start with a confession. Having been born in the summer of 1982, I am what comedian Iliza Shlesinger calls an “elder millennial”. However, this generational categorisation belies my twenty-four years of shoe industry experience.
I have seen brands launch and thrive or fail. I have supported numerous entrepreneurs to start shoe businesses, and can spot those most likely to succeed.
You might think that you need many years of experience working with footwear, advanced social media skills, and friends with podcasts to stand a chance of starting a commercially successful shoe brand. Whilst those things are helpful, they are not essential.
In my experience, what you really need are the personality traits which we acquire over time:
By now you will have experienced many of life’s highs and lows. From personal tragedies to minor setbacks; from huge achievements to the little wins. Every time you get through one of your more difficult experiences, you learn how to cope more easily with the next one. Life teaches us resilience. The longer we live, the stronger we get.
Starting and running a business is often described using the roller coaster analogy. If you take every failure to heart, it can be hard to move on from it. Having the ability to ride the ups and downs with grace will help you move towards your shoe brand goals.
Some people are old souls, developing a highly tuned sense of action and consequence as young children. Others take time to hone their common sense, and be able to use it to predict outcomes in daily life. By the time we have been on this planet for several decades, most of us will have learnt to administer logic to large and small decisions. Knowing when to take a risk and when not to are essential for the founder of any company.
A wide network
The longer we live, the more friends and acquaintances we gather. From the school gate to the workplace, old friends and new. The power of word of mouth can allow you access to funding, freelancers who can assist you, and most importantly many potential customers.
Between the lack of confidence we experience as younger women, and the fear which can come with older age is a sweet spot. In middle age, we care less about what people think of us. This gives us the super power of being able to talk to anyone. As a younger woman you may have worried that if you approached someone, they wouldn’t give you the time of day. Now, you wouldn’t take it personally if that person didn’t give you their ear. You have nothing to lose, and aren’t easily embarrassed.
It’s true that if you don’t ask, you don’t get. Being brave enough to build a relationship with someone who can help you, can make the difference between a thriving shoe brand, and one that nobody knows about.
Ability to listen
Wisdom is acquired through education. In formal settings such as universities, through reading and short courses, or simply listening to advice from those we trust. Being open to input from people whose knowledge in a particular element of the shoe business is greater than yours, is essential.
Younger entrepreneurs may find that their ego gets in the way of their ability to listen. With your life experience, you know that advice from consultants such as myself, will ensure you are taking the most direct route to shoe brand success.
Listening to your customers will enable you to evolve your business and products in line with their needs. Brands that fail do so because they do not change quickly enough. They blindly persist with the way they have always worked, because they are terrified of embracing new business practices.
Having the humility to listen to others is something many of us develop over time.
If you think you have found an untapped niche in the world of shoes, now could be the time to do something about it. As you have read, you have the skills you need, and you can fill gaps in your knowledge with the help of freelancers, and by educating yourself.
Enrolling on my How to Start a Shoe Brand online course will enable you to follow a tried and tested method from concept to launch. In addition to tapping into my twenty-two years of shoe industry knowledge, you will receive guidance from thirteen other experts. These include five female shoe brand founders whose good decisions and mistakes you will learn from. Every assignment you complete during the course will take you closer to your shoe brand goals.
So many shoes available to buy at the moment are either uncomfortable or ugly. Please don’t leave it to millennials to rectify this. They don’t have your common sense, network, resilience, ability to listen or fearlessness.