Jenny: Hi, Everybody. I’m Jenny, founder of JHY Sourcing, and I’m here today with Mia Anoyp from Txxx Shoes. We’ll be talking about how to start a shoe brand, what things you need to know, and how to do it. So, thanks so much for joining us today, Mia.
Mia: Thank you so much for inviting me. It’s great to be talking to you.
Jenny: So, basically, we’re going to discuss how to start a shoe brand and all the different things you need to know, especially if you’re a first-time brand. So, could you tell us a little about your experience and how you got into the industry?
Mia: Yes. Footwear is all I’ve ever really done. From working in shoe shops as a teenager to realizing that this was where I wanted my career to go, I studied for a degree in footwear design. When I graduated, I joined a large retailer, a footwear multiple in France as a designer and trainee buyer, so I got to see both sides.
Jenny: That’s so exciting as you’re talking.
Mia: Yeah, exactly. It was insightful. I got to travel a lot. That was my background.I’ve been working in the footwear industry for over 20 years. I built my shoe brand three years ago, and now our company has an annual revenue of about 800,000 Euros.
Jenny: great. I hope you give some experience to some startups. And in a startup, the knowledge and advice you give them are valuable, and it’s such a small scale, so you can see the value you’re bringing them.
Mia: Yeah, there are so many mistakes that you can make in terms of being a startup. I’d love to help them.
What to prepare before starting a shoe brand?
Jenny: Fantastic. So, let’s start from the beginning. So, let’s say you’re a first-time buyeror someone looking to create a new brand, and they are right at the very beginning.What would you say is the process, and how would they go about it? What are the things that they need to be focused on?
Mia: So, the first thing always is looking at the consumer. Okay, so we could say that the consumer doesn’t necessarily know what they want until they see it.
Jenny: Yes. So true.
Mia: Then you would want to see who else is making footwear at that market level, high heels. What are they offering to their consumers? I always recommend looking at consumer reviews.
Jenny: Uh-hum, yeah. Even things online, for example?
Mia: Yeah. They can be insightful, I think. You can see a company’s products online. Still, you don’t know if they’re…if they’re suiting the customer if they’re selling any of them unless you look at reviews. I often read product reviews on Amazon, especially negative reviews from customers.
Another trick I always say is Google Trends. I always use Google Trends to compare the trends of different product keywords.
Jenny: Yeah. That’s so true.
Mia: The consumer, the competitor in the country or the areas that you are looking to operate in. You have to think first, “Is there an opportunity for this? Who’s going to buy it? Who else is making similar products? How much are they selling them for? What’s their distribution model? Are they online only? Are they wholesaling? Have they got their stores?” You have to understand who you’re up against.
Jenny: So, basically, it understands first your consumer and what they want, and then you basically, you tailor make the product around then your consumer as opposed to, “I have a great idea, let’s try and fit this into a customer and try and make it match for them.” So, start first with the customer.
Mia: Absolutely. You need to think about your ideal customer.” What Instagram accounts do they follow?” All of those sorts of things. “What’s their aesthetic, and how does that link with your brand, goals, thoughts, and taste around that?”
Jenny: When researching this, do you have a specific method?
Mia: I will put it all in a Word doc and a PDF. I do a lot of customer research, including, of course, competitor analysis.
Jenny: Once you’ve done the research, then you would go on to, I would guess, the branding and then designs. So, how would you– walk us through the design process. So, you would get a designer to do this. Where would you recommend someone going to find a shoe designer or someone to help with the technical drawings of creating the shoe?
Mia: Yeah. You could find some networks of shoe designers. They all have different areas of expertise.
Jenny: Need to learn some product knowledge? I guess as well as the terminology is perfect because I will go later on into the process of when we start working with suppliers. The more you know at the beginning, and that’s what we always say to our buyers and users, you need product research. How can you go and brief suppliers if you don’t know yourself? How are things made? Because then, when things go wrong, you can best advise on something. Suppose you have a better understanding of your product.
Mia: Absolutely, yes. Completely agree. When you start learning about a product, they’re pretty technical terms like regardless of what all product you’re dealing with, then it’s shoes, mainly because it’s quite a construction. There are lots of different elements in shoes.
Yeah, as much as a possible research product.
How much does it cost to start a shoe brand?
Jenny: Okay. So, after you’ve done that, you’ve got your design, researched your branding, and got your idea of the shoe and your customer profiling; you go into the design.Then, what is the next stage after you’ve got your shoe design? Where would you go next?
Mia: So, I think at this point, or potentially slightly earlier, you would want to be starting to think about investors if that’s something that you need. Okay, some people will have personal savings or already know people who want to invest in them. Still, many people will need some outside investment. So, this is an excellent time to talk to investors and get them on board. Then it’s the sourcing element. So, find a manufacturer you want to work with that fits your brand values and product type because many shoe manufacturers in different countries have other specialities.
Jenny: Is it too much investment? So, would you say, as a small to medium size brand, what would you say is the minimum amount of investment? I know it varies on different products. How many styles do you have, and how many quantities? You’re experienced. How much would you say is a good starting point?
Mia: as a bare minimum, we used to say 10 000 euros. That’ll get you somewhere, but think about it because you’ve got to have a website. I always recommend starting small in terms of stock. I believe this 10 000 to 15 000 euro should cover your first season stock, your website and your consultancy fees. And the other some incidental costs, some travel as well.
Jenny: If something comes up along the way, to have a sort of buffer just in case anything goes wrong.
Mia: Yeah, and a bit of training. You do have to spend it in the right way.
Jenny: In your experience, what are the countries or places you’ve worked with and the manufacturers you’ve worked with?
Mia: We look at Italy if it’s luxury, or Spain or Portugal if it’s premium. So, lots of people think, made in Italy automatically means it’s…
Mia: Yes. I would say that the best-quality shoes tend to come from Italy. But they’re also capable of making it less premium.
Jenny: so your shoe supplier is from Italy?
Mia: No. I chose the Chinese shoe manufacturers. You know, there are thousands of shoe factories in China. They have rich experience, their product quality and delivery time are better than those of factories in Vietnam and India, and their prices are much lower than those of European factories. Many Nike and Adidas products are produced in China. To start, you can find a Chinese shoe supplier with more than 30 years of experience.
How to find a shoe supplier?
Jenny: When you are working with their factories, would you recommend having one manufacturer for the whole brand or from a risk point of view, would you spread that across different factories, and how would you go about managing the factory element with the products?
Mia: It depends on the sorts of products that you’re making. If you’re making quite diverse product types, for example, if you’re making trainers and high heels, that’s all part of your business model. You’ll need two different factories because it’s rare to find an expert in trainers.
Jenny: Both fields.
Mia: But, if you’re just starting and it is a pretty small quantity…
Jenny: You don’t have the choice.
Mia: No. This is it.
Jenny: Two investments on the different molds, styles, the heel type, and it’s just duplicating costs, I guess, in the beginning.
Mia: Yeah. So, it depends on what you’re looking for, and I suppose, how extreme your designs are, how much innovation, where the innovation is.
Mia: Yes, using existing lasts and heels is much more cost-effective.
Jenny: And when it comes to the materials and sourcing, how far into the process would a buyer get or does the supplier source all of the materials for you or would you recommend you, yourself, the buyer do their research and sourcing the fabrics and materials? How does this process go from the construction of the shoe plus sourcing the materials?
Mia: So, some factories are more geared to that side of things than others. I would recommend that most people look into it themselves.
Jenny: The more information you provide to the factory, the more likely you will get what you want.
Mia: Yes. So, even if you’ve sent them a swatch of a leather and they’ve got something similar from a supplier they prefer to work with, they’ll send you a swatch of what they have, and you can say whether it’s right or not. It’s good to know what you want.
Jenny: I’ve been to a few trade shows. When you go, you see all the different products out there. It really helps the creative juices go as you get back to the drawing board and cut them into new products.
Mia: Exactly, yeah. Without a doubt.
Jenny: Are there any other trade shows you would recommend people go into here in the Europe or is there any else a bit further afield?
Mia: You can go to some Asian shoe fairs. Especially the Canton Fair in China. It is held twice a year. There you can see a lot of good shoe manufacturers. After the exhibition, you can also visit their factory.
Jenny: I think it’s essential for people to go because when I’ve had experience going to a trade show, you set up meetings beforehand. I do research ahead, see what suppliers, products, or brands will be there, and see if you can set up appointments because they’ve always got little areas. You can have little meetings and presentations work. You’re much more structured when you go to trade shows rather than just aimlessly walking around, and you can leave and feel in a bit whether you got enough out of that.
Mia: Yeah. You are right. Also, in the exhibition, you can participate in some meetings. You have to have this sort of meeting in the middle. You have to sort of understand where each other is coming from to have that kind of mutual respect that you need to start a working relationship. Jenny: I think as well it’s nice when you go and meet another business owner. So, I think relationships are so crucial when you’re starting a brand.
Jenny: I think to look at a supplier, it should be a business partnership. Suppliers are important to the whole process when dealing with a product. Suppose you have a supplier that is not right for you or isn’t great, or it can be bad quality or is late. In that case, there can be so many different things that can go wrong, and you need to know before you start working with them. Are they the right ones?
Mia: Exactly, yes. You will be working with these people and communicating with them frequently, so it’s very important that you see eye to eye. Like any relationship, it works when you have that mutual understanding.
Jenny: you know their pricing is about the same. Their products look nice. I don’t know how to choose. Who do you like? Which one’s the best?
Mia: Yeah. Because the person who is a little bit keener to work with you, then you’ll get better communication from them, and you won’t feel like you’re constantly chasing. Yeah, it makes such a difference.
Jenny: Yeah. I think from any point of view, especially from when you’re going to start a shoe company and shoe brand, you’re starting things, I should say, move fast. It would help if you had someone reactive. It would help if you had someone that’s responsive. It takes 48 or 72 hours before sending a reply to an email. You want someone that’s replies to you straightaway is very good at communication and wants your brand to be a success as much as you do.
Mia: Exactly. This is also one of the reasons why I choose Chinese shoe suppliers. Compared to factories in Vietnam and India, they are always responsive. In some factories in some countries, if there is a production problem, they will not notify you until a week later.
Jenny: how long would you usually— what is the usual time frame for when you’re starting working with the supplier, and you’ve got the designs to when you get the stock? What time frames are you giving brands, or what would you say is an average time?
Mia: Okay, so some of it depends on when you start working with them.At what point in the season you are if you are working to traditional seasons of spring/summer and autumn/winter? Sometimes you might need to rush things if you’ve started developing something a bit late. I mean, how long do you need? Six months could be pretty good.
Jenny: If you’re giving some time frame to working to the typical springs/summer, autumn/winter, what would you say, in your advice, would be the best time for someone to start this process, and when would they launch? Give themselves enough time because things always go wrong in development, and you need a buffer. So, what time of the year would you say it’s best to start?
Mia: Okay. So, if you were launching in January for a spring/summer season,and you were a brand new start-up, and you’ve got quite a lot of development to do. You don’t know quite what you want until you’ve seen a round of samples and can make some decisions. I would say start development before the factories close in August. So, in Europe, most factories will close for most of August. So, if you want to launch in spring, then you could start development in June. So I choose a Chinese shoe factory. They have a long holiday for Chinese New Year, usually more than 20 days, not very long.
Jenny: Keep in mind that the spring/summer, autumn/winter and August factory closes, something to always bear in mind. Different places around the world always have their cutoff point here in the far east. In China, they have Chinese New Year.
Mia: That’s right.
Jenny: How to find a good shoe supplier? Have you had experience doing that?
Mia: I think everyone wants to know how to find a good shoe supplier. I suggest you check out the blogs of Amy Anfot, Richard Abent and Jeff March . They wrote some great articles about it and gave some really helpful advice. I don’t remember the titles of these articles, but you can find them by Google their names.
Jenny: Perfect, thank you. What would be, on a final note, what would you say is the one bit of advice you would give anyone starting out, start a shoe brand? What would you say would be the best help you could give them?
Mia: Always start with the end customer in mind…
Mia: Understand them as deeply as you possibly can. What drives your ideal consumer? What is their disposable income? What problem are you solving for them?
Jenny: Yeah. When you say about— obviously when you understand the customer, and you profile them.Jenny: Absolutely. Well, thank you so much. You’ve given us so many great tips and advice. It’s really helpful for people to start from the beginning. Shoes can be quite a difficult product to get involved with at the beginning. Yeah, you’ve given some fantastic insight. Thanks so much.
Mia: Thank you for having me. It’s been lovely, Jenny. Mia Anoyp is always here to help you.