During that time she acquired a diverse skillset and now advises shoe brands globally; from start-ups to established businesses. Susannah is also the founder of The Shoe Community an online members platform where shoe start-up and small shoe brand founders have a space to network, help solve each others’ problems and learn from regular masterclasses, which always include an invited “expert” guest. And, for anyone planning to start their own shoe brand Susannah’s fully comprehensive, online course, How to Start A Shoe Brand is made up of 22 modules designed to take you through every stage of the process.
I have worked in the footwear industry since 1998. I was a teenager when I got my first job as a sales assistant in a shoe shop. I realised at that point that people have jobs creating beautiful footwear. A year later, it blew my mind when I discovered I could study footwear design at university. When I graduated, I worked in design and buying for a shoe retailer, then product management for a global brand.
I don’t think I was a great employee. Always questioning why I had been asked to do something, whether the overall brand strategy made sense, and getting frustrated by archaic ways of working. I knew I wanted to start my own business, but I wasn’t sure how I could use my skills to help people.
In 2011 I started a shoe advice blog under the pseudonym “The Shoe Consultant”. It didn’t generate much revenue, but I learnt a lot about managing a website, and the name gave me the confidence to believe I could be a consultant.
I resigned from my corporate shoe business day job and incorporated The Shoe Consultant in 2015. I have been helping people to start their own shoe brands ever since.
I love planning and dreaming of what the future may hold for my personal life, but my career has evolved more organically than I could plan for. I find that staying open to opportunities that come my way and evaluating them against my values and goals works well for my business. When I listen to my clients and base the evolution of my services on what they want rather than what I think should happen, the results are fruitful.
Of course! In the first few years of business, I didn’t charge my clients up front. This meant I would have to spend time and emotional energy chasing late payments. Not only is my business more financially stable at this point, but my client relationships have improved. Money conversations can be awkward, and I would prefer to spend that time helping clients to make their brands a success.
Launching my How to Start a Shoe Brand course has been one of the best business decisions I’ve made. It was a real labour of love, as I packed it full of the advice I had been giving my clients since I launched, and incorporated hours of video content. Previous to that, the only service I offered was a one-to-one consultancy package which limited the amount of shoe brand founders I could support.
I am also super proud of my membership group The Shoe Community. It feels great to provide this more financially accessible way for shoe brand founders to receive help. Until they find The Shoe Community, shoe brand founders are unlikely to know anyone else who is starting a shoe brand. Being part of the group gives them the connections, confidence and insights they need to continue building their brands.
My stubbornness for sure. It’s less useful when I’m in a stand-off with my 6 year old son over an element of his dinner, but essential as an entrepreneur. I’m flexible when it comes to responding to my client’s needs but stubborn when it comes to pursuing my mission. I help my clients to create brands and products that their clients love. Because I believe that women – and men and children – deserve better shoes than they currently have access to. Together we create customer-obsessed shoe brands. We are changing the world of shoes brand by brand.
I have never had an official mentor but I continue to learn from businesswomen in my network, and I have hired great coaches in the past.
I have loved supporting the interns I employ and helping them to work towards their career goals.
More affordable childcare as they have in Scandinavia would make a big difference to the career progression of mothers. It’s unacceptable that some women simply can’t afford to return to work after maternity leave due to high childcare costs.
Don’t take everything so personally. Whilst we must accept responsibility for our mistakes, sometimes issues arise because of the other person’s struggles or agenda.
In 2021, I launched a new blog: Be a Fashion Brand Consultant to share my journey and tips with aspiring consultants.
This year is all about giving extra love, attention, and promotion to my existing services. I’m resisting shiny penny syndrome, and focusing on what I know my clients need right now.