Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
Hello, my name is Lau García and I am the shoemaker, co-founder, and CEO of Zapato FEROZ, a children's footwear company that respects children's feet. I and my partner Héctor, are at the forefront of this brand that seeks to offer the best footwear for babies and children so that their feet are protected, healthy and at the same time enjoying the sensation of going barefoot.
Our main products are the baby footwear line (1-2 years), Feroces, and the children's footwear line (2-5 years), Rockers. Our main customers are parents who care about the health and natural development of their children, and who offer them a shoe that adapts to their feet... and not the other way around.
The growth of Zapato FEROZ has been amazing for a couple of years, crazy. We have been doubling production for the last four seasons, as the demand for our shoes grows and grows without stopping. In the last 12 months, we have billed around $60k/month, something unthinkable for us when we started this project when we got around $900-1000/month.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
Although I am a Canarian by birth, I am a Valencian by adoption, many years ago I left my beloved islands with the intention of training in Industrial Design in Valencia.
I began combining classes with work in a design studio, where I had contact with various fields: product design, graphic design, corporate identity ... although the turns of destiny made me fully enter the world of footwear before finishing the race.
From that moment, more than 10 years ago, the world of leathers, soles, linings, and laces, has been very present in my working life, working for various brands, both national and outside our borders.
I love being able to work and control the life cycle of a shoe, since it appears in my head, I put it on paper or my computer screen, I transmit the idea to the pattern makers that help us to develop the very first prototype, this one It is mass-produced and I can finally see it on the shelves of shoe stores.
And this is the Starter Story tale for Zapato FEROZ:
Once upon a time, there was a talkative shoemaker, Lau, who had spent many years creating fantastic shoes for various brands, within and outside the borders of her kingdom.
The year came when the shoemaker had a beautiful baby, Roc, who was growing up healthy and happy in his beautiful country house. Sometime before the baby began to crawl and discover the world, his mother wanted to find the ideal footwear for her delicate and plump feet.
Comfortable, natural shoes adapted to the needs of an early age.
She began to search all corners of the kingdom, in different villages and shops ... and could never find anything that seemed suitable for her offspring, so she decided to create them herself. They would be Zapato FEROZ (fierce shoes) with which her baby could start to eat the world with her first steps.
This is our story, a real need for giving the best baby shoes for my little son Roc.
One of our greatest successes is to do things with true love and to transmit it in the most transparent way possible to our clients.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
When I start designing, I like to think as a mother, what I would like for my son, a shoe that is easy to put on, combinable, that lasts for him and, most importantly, that is healthy for his feet and his overall development.
Those are the general concepts that I consider when I start the design process, oddly enough, I put fashions aside.
We are in direct contact with our clients, so we take their opinions, suggestions, experiences, problems ... in such a way that they are an important part of the design process.
Every season we send a fairly extensive survey to all our clients so that they can evaluate more than 30 points of our company, in all aspects, including the product, design, colors, sizes, technical aspects, and comfort.
With all this information I prepare the concept drawings, to be able to prepare the prototypes and see them in three dimensions. First modifications will be made on them to finally obtain the prototypes to test on the children's feet.
We have an army of moms willing to test our shoes, so we can choose those that have children with different types of feet.
Once they have tested the shoes well and have returned the test questionnaire to us, we proceed to prepare the actual production, based on the orders from our stores, B2B, and the sales estimate for the season.
We love to share the entire shoe creation process transparently on our social networks and we believe that this is something necessary for any brand. Making a client feel involved in creating a shoe that their baby will wear in a few months is something magical that makes them feel part of our brand, our best ambassador.
I highly recommend investing in the registration of intellectual property, trademark, designs, utility models. Until very recently, we only had our brand registered in Spain and Europe and very recently a large company has copied some of our shoes.
We are in the hands of lawyers specializing in this type of litigation in the world of footwear, but all this stuff is spending energy on issues that wear you out of your business core... and it is very hard, to see how they take the work of one and directly use it for their benefit.
Describe the process of launching the business.
The truth is that our launch was nothing high-profile or very special. We started our production in a fairly traditional way and without a community that knew us.
In the beginning, it was more of a hobby than a business, for that reason we gave it time to lay deep roots, to be able to grow very quickly after two years of life.
During those first two years, we earned the same money that we now earn in a month, what a difference.
Although we did not do large marketing campaigns, a friend helped us with the topic of social networks, the search, contact and managing with moms influencers, and the generation of some press releases in interesting publications related to fashion and children.
In only some days, we started with the first sales, and these moments of getting a “NEW ORDER” email was really exciting.
Sometime later, when the season premieres were already highly anticipated, receiving hundreds of "NEW ORDER" emails that day, knowing that we were the ones who had to prepare them, became quite stressful ... how to turn the tables.
Fortunately, we had money saved to start the project, with less than €10,000 everything was up and running. This economic freedom gave us a lot of peace of mind when it came to managing the start of the brand. There was no need to get sales quickly or have to repay some type of loan to a bank.
In the first seasons, as we had a salary from our previous companies, we invested almost all of the profits in improving the product and the user experience when looking for, buying, and wearing our shoes.
Some years after our start, we thought about creating a new line of children's footwear, 2 to 5 years old since many moms asked us for it, and what better way to be sure that the idea was aligned with their expectations, than to create a crowdfunding campaign in Verkami a Spanish crowdfunding platform.
We reached the €15,000 goal in less than 24 hours and from there we began to work hard to ensure that our little ones would continue wearing our brand's footwear for a few more years.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
The truth is that our growth has been based on respect, truth, and love in the products we make and in the treatment we like to give our customers.
Baby footwear is a product more related to health than clothing or fashion, so having a happy and happy customer almost immediately transforms them into a great brand ambassador.
We began to see how our moms bought shoes over and over again until they had no more sizes, they recommended our brand to other mothers, friends, at work, at school.
We would love to have a marketing strategy to show you, some tricks to teach you, but we have not been able to put any really serious ones in place, since we run out of shoes whenever we put them on sale, so we can't seriously invest in marketing, until that we have more accurate forecasts of sales and production.
What we do like to do is offer training and information, beyond our products, from the hand of the best professionals. We think that informing parents about the feet and first steps of babies, when to wear shoes and when not, and the main characteristics to take into account have led us to have many clients in love, both personally and professionally and it is something we love.
Respect, truth, and love, give without expecting anything in return, this is how you get valuable relationships with customers who end up buying, without going after them to look for them, they will look for you when they see that you are an expert in the field, that you have given them a lot of valuable information without asking for anything in return, at most an email, and that all the pieces of the puzzle seem to fit in their mind.
This kind of massive impressions and interaction (for a 20K IG account), is very exciting for us.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
Although at first, this project was a hobby and we did not look at the numbers so much, since the last two years, the business has been profitable and we are controlling the expenses that we initially had a little dispersed and uncontrolled.
Currently, 80% of our sales are made directly through our website, so profit margins are higher. We carry out the remaining 20% through third-party physical points of sale, mainly childcare stores, and in that case, margins decrease considerably.
We try to create shoes with the highest quality materials, which increases production costs considerably and reduces our margins ... but we think that it is the best for babies' feet, and for that reason, we prefer to earn less money but offer more quality.
For a season we have outsourced the logistics, warehousing, and order preparation service... and these have saved our lives.
We also have a virtual assistant that helps us with aspects related to accounting, billing, and also helps us with certain more repetitive procedures that come out of the core of the business.
Next season we will likely have to hire someone, at least part-time, to join the company and help us with the customer service and B2B deals.
Luckily, we have very loyal customers and their little ones wear our shoe size after size, season after season, for this reason, the lifetime value increases day after day.
The traffic to our website is quite variable, depending on the time of the season, we are around 1,000 users every day and we reach 6,000 or 7,000 visits at the opening moments of the season. These visits are mainly customers looking to buy, so the average session time is high, between 3 and 5 minutes, the bounce rate low, around 25%, and the conversion rate, when we have shoes, is around 6-9%.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
At first, we were selling very small baby shoes ... at a time when babies should not wear shoes. Finally, we decided not to do it, to be faithful to our philosophy, and to sell shoes only for when they are necessary when the baby starts walking.
We also tried to sell illustrations and personalized products to go with the shoes, and it didn't work, it was a disaster... We still have fairytale covers to give and give away on our shelves.
We love the type of collaborations we do with micro-influencers, who are real moms who have already bought our Feroces, and from that moment, if we see that they are happy with the product, we get in touch with them to collaborate test prototypes and that they can spread it among your followers.
I do not know whether to call it luck, but word of mouth and happy customers have been our best commercial network, we have grown very quickly "without wanting to" and without spending hardly any money on advertising or marketing.
It is also true that because we usually run out of stock of shoes within days of putting them on sale, we have not been able to invest a lot of money in advertising them, carrying out marketing campaigns or paid advertising ... but everything will come, we are sure.
I have worked for many years designing shoes, controlling production, and related to suppliers and manufacturers. This knowledge of the market and the main players has helped us to grow as a brand on the right path, always being faithful to our philosophy.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
From the beginning of our project, we started working with Woocommerce, since Héctor was comfortable working with WordPress.
We work with quite a few plugins for WordPress, some standard and others customized for our website, so we have greatly expanded the functionality of the website. Although we made the first version of the website ourselves, since last season we have renewed it with the help of a design and coding studio to improve it and automate some processes such as returns management, shipping logistics, customer reviews compilation,...
At the level of social networks, we use Instagram a lot, especially stories and live shows, moms love it and participate a lot in everything we propose: surveys, contests, reviews... We also make a lot of use for a private group from Facebook called: My little one starts to walk, where parents comment on concerns related to the first steps and parenting, we love that closeness and generate a family atmosphere.
Héctor, my partner, is the technological side of the company. He tries to explain to me all the useful tools for the day today, and I would like to better adapt to this constantly evolving technology maelstrom.
We collect customer opinions from various sources: Facebook and Google Reviews and also on the Customer Reviews platform.
Although it is not a tool as such, crowdfunding is a very powerful service to validate a business idea or a new line of business, as was our case.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
There is no doubt that one of our great references in the world of entrepreneurship has been Joan Boluda, through her daily podcast Marketing OnLine.
Thanks to him, we took the step of leaving our old jobs behind to dedicate ourselves 100% to our project ... and we never stop thanking him whenever we can.
I need to point also the entrepreneur's community SinOficina.com, thanks to this fantastic online co-working, Héctor is in touch with other e-commerce specialists, marketing and digital makers...is great to share experiences with more people like us.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting?
Although it seems a cliché, start the project as soon as possible, without waiting for the perfection of the product. Create, test, ask, improve, and recreate, a process of continuous improvement always taking into account the real and honest opinion of your customers, although sometimes it can hurt.
One of our greatest successes is to do things with true love and to transmit it in the most transparent way possible to our clients.
When people know who is behind the project, you tell them moments of your day-to-day, the difficulties in running the company and how you face them, the mistakes you make... that humanizes your company and we are sure that it generates a lot of empathy by the customer.
We have a real and close community, created with hard work, day by day, minute by minute, without haste, and with love. Our moms are eager to buy our Feroces every season premiere, already comparing us to tickets to Rolling Stones concerts. They don’t want their little ones wearing other shoes on their delicate feet.
The truth is that we do not have time to focus much on others, but lately, we find that there are brands like ours that do not seek originality, take advantage of the work of others, and even make copies of both the content that is generated, as of the product itself.
Let's not copy, let's be original... the end customer will know, sooner or later.
Another very important aspect is knowing how to delegate, as soon as possible, trying to dedicate oneself to the things in which one is valuable and good, and leaving the rest of the tasks in the hands of other people, either within the company or outsourcing services, as has been our case.
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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