This week on my Parents in Business series I’m delighted to be featuring Susannah who founded The Shoe Consultant, a business to help people grow or start their own shoe businesses and brands, which sounds amazing! It’s something that I never imagined existed until I read Susannah’s business story.
Intrigued? Have a read of Susannah’s story about how she has taken her love of shoes into setting up her own consultancy. There is so much inspiration here especially Susannah’s top tips that can be applied to any business.
Tell me a little bit about you, your background, and your business?
I have worked in the shoe industry since the age of sixteen. Shoe shops were where I caught the bug. Carrying shoes out from the stock room for customers to try on got me thinking about who designs them. As soon as I realised that universities offered shoe design courses, I shifted my ambitions from fashion designer to shoe designer.
I studied for a degree in Footwear Design, and became a shoe buyer and designer when I graduated. Working for footwear companies for eleven years, I would travel to research and present shoes around the world. I absorbed information as I went; formulating my own ideas about the elements which make footwear comfortable without aesthetics being compromised.
In April 2015, I launched The Shoe Consultant. My mission is to help women find beautiful shoes. My work revolves around speaking, writing and consulting. Event organisers and editors approach me because they love my relatable shoe stories, and my ethos that shoes should be both comfortable and beautiful.
As a consultant, I help people to start or grow shoe companies. This year, I’ll be launching my online course all about How to Start a Shoe Brand.
What were your motivations for setting up your business?
I had the desire to work for myself for a long time before I took the leap. I have always been independently-minded and knew that I would be happier being my own boss.
The idea to use my shoe knowledge to help women took a while to formulate into a business plan. I saved up like crazy in the year before I left my job as global women’s product manager for an iconic shoe brand. I would get the bus or walk rather than taking the tube, and my lunches were planned for health and economy too.
After trying (and failing) to get pregnant for what felt like a very long time, I pitched the idea of starting a business sooner than I had planned, to my husband. I showed him that the money I had saved would last for a year. I thought that erasing the long, stressful commute to the other side of London would help me to relax enough to conceive.
Starting a business is hard when you’re in the early stages of pregnancy. Yes, it worked! Very soon after the end of my notice period, I got pregnant.
How do you balance the business around your family and childcare?
I am as strict as possible about boundaries, which is especially challenging as I work from home. When I’m with my son or my husband, I’m not at work and emails can wait. When I’m working, I focus on that.
Instagram is the only thing which spills over into family time. I know how much the algorithm loves prompt replies to comments, so I may take a minute or two here and there to respond.
My husband and I have almost equal childcare responsibilities as we each have a day off in the week. I love seeing how close my son is to both of us. I often get called “Daddy”, and my husband is sometimes “Mummy”. I often joke that we’re interchangeable.
Since setting up your business what’s been your biggest success to date?
One of my proudest moments has been watching the success of my start-up shoe brand client Sante + Wade. They make beautiful, stylish shoes for women with wider or larger feet.
After working with me for some time, Sante + Wade launched in April 2019 and have done amazing things since then.
What are your top tips for anyone who is thinking about setting up their own business?
Make a plan. First, work out the financial aspects. Make a budget. Work out how much you will need to invest in your business, how much you need to live on, and how long you can afford to live off the money you have before you need to pay yourself a salary. If the finances stack up, then go for it. If like me you don’t have a business partner; a support network is essential. Visit local networking groups, find a business coach, and also track down a consultant who has experience in the product or service area you’re looking to enter.
Thank you so much Susannah for taking part in my series it has been a pleasure to feature you.
If you like what you’re reading and would love to be part of my Parents in Business series just drop me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Or have a nose at some of the other businesses I have featured in the series: Baba+Boo, Tidy Choice, and Zoe Hiljemark.