Editor’s note: Have you ever struggled to find the perfect shoe for that dress, or had a mental image of what you want but just couldn’t find it? Jodie Fox, cofounder and director of fashion for new e-tailer, Shoes of Prey, answers all your footwear prayers with a unique service that lets you design your own perfect pair.
Jodie Fox is one amazing entrepreneurial lady and she doesn’t do anything by halves. She had a dilemma that every woman face: finding the perfect shoe. While travelling the world she came across someone who could custom design the perfect shoe for her and realised that women all over the world would absolutely love to have this custom service made available to them. Here sparked an idea and, adorned in her new shoes, she pounded the pavement to see how she could turn this idea into a reality. Many told her she would never get this idea off the ground, but this determined young woman took another creative step forward. After resigning from her successful advertising job in 2009, Jodie decided to apply her communication talents, sense of style and true passion to this wonderful, bespoke product offering, and so launched Shoes of Prey, outfitting women around the world in the most beautiful heels possible. This unique custom shoe design website will have every woman prancing around showing off her latest creation, whatever her shoe size.
Shoes, glorious shoes, every woman loves them! What was your inspiration for creating a business based on the design-your-own-shoe concept?
I was solving a problem of my own – I’d always liked shoes, but I never loved them because I couldn’t find exactly what I was looking for. Either it wasn’t quite the right colour, there was an embellishment I didn’t like, not quite the right heel height [and so on]. Anyway, when I was travelling (in the same way that you find someone who will make a custom suit for you), I found someone with whom I could commission shoe designs. My shoe collection became really exciting, and my girlfriends asked me where I was getting my footwear. When I explained, they asked me to create shoes for them too. Concurrently, my two business partners Mike and Michael were at Google and becoming really excited about the opportunities in online retail. They just needed an idea. We all came together and Shoes of Prey was born.
When you were shopping the idea around, did you have detractors and nay-sayers? How did you handle the negativity?
We sure did. People we were talking to about being potential suppliers told us that they were happy to take our money but felt we should save our time because we’d be out of business in three months. This was a great lesson in not letting expertise get in the way of a good idea and I try to keep that in mind every day.
Entering into the online retail space with a niche product, did you have any personal doubts on how people might receive your product offering?
No, none whatsoever. I connected with it really deeply, it was received so unanimously and overwhelmingly positively in all of our testing and I knew that it genuinely solved a problem that all women face.
What do you believe was the main thing that transformed your dream into a reality?
Just making a decision and then taking action to see what happens. Then making the next decision, taking action and seeing what happens. It’s simple but it does take courage and focus. Neither are constantly readily available. Yhat takes work!
What key challenges did you face in building Shoes of Prey and what important lessons have you learnt?
We still have a lot of building to do so I still have a lot of lessons to learn. To date, they would include: Do everything before you’re ready, especially in e-tailing. The pace is lightning fast. You cannot afford to miss a moment. And, focus. Strong, disciplined focus.
You received substantial financial backing from investors and venture capitalists, what’s the key to a successful VC campaign?
Good networking, having a clear vision and map for the business and knowing the key things that you want out of your investors.
How did you find the whole process?
Long, reflective and rewarding.
Recently, you also launched another niche online shopping site “Sneaking Duck”, we sense the birth of an online retail empire.
With the demands of everyday life and running two businesses, how do you seek balance, and how important is it to maintain this balance?
I seek balance through diet, exercise, friends and family. In terms of diet, I’m careful about eating from first principles rather than processed foods and recently became a vegetarian. I realised this maintained much better energy levels for me. While being vegetarian works for me, it’s different for everyone. The message I’d share is to tune in to what your body needs to function really well.
For exercise I do a lot of yoga. This is great for toning, stretching and meditation. My next step will be to work on my cardio fitness, something I really lack and have previously avoided. Funny how we tend to do this with things we don’t have a natural talent for!
In terms of friends and family, their love and support means everything to me. It’s what gives me strength to make really difficult decisions. It powers me on when I’m running on empty and conversely makes the highs even higher when I have gorgeous people who will celebrate with me. I cannot imagine a life without these incredible people. I’m a very lucky girl.
Who are the three people you have turned to for support and embraced as mentors along the way?
Just three? My parents, Michael and Mike [Jodie’s business partners]. They are such a diverse and perfect mix of support and mentors in my life. And, with them, I have always managed to make good decisions.
How have you found the experience working so closely with your husband, Michael?
Without any fault from the business, Michael and I separated late last year. He is still my best friend and I think so highly of him. He truly is an incredible human being. We still have a brilliant working relationship and friendship. For the time that we were married and in business together, the upside is being able see your partner doing what they do best. That is such a gift. On the tough side, because you’re both founders you can compromise the tenderness of your relationship to spend more energy on work and that requires careful attention.
What’s your advice to women with big ideas and no funding?
Ideas do not always need funding. Be scrappy. Get in and make a decision and see what happens, then make your next decision. Don’t kill the idea before you’ve even started. And, when you really do need cash to make it happen, put your business case together and go for it. There are plenty of women in business who have been through this process and are really generous in giving time to pull up the next generation of business women. Pick up the phone and ask them for a meeting, you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
To design your perfect shoe, visit shoesofprey.com.
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