When it comes to starting a shoe brand, you may find yourself in a place where you have to make some big decisions.
You may be asking yourself:
- What's the first step in establishing my business?
- How much will it cost to start my shoe brand?
- How do I price my shoe brand?
- How do I market my shoe brand?
- ... so much more!
We walk you through all of the steps; from idea → starting → launching → growing → running your business.
The purpose of this guide is to act as an outline for the steps you'll need to take to get your business running successfully!
💡 Introduction To Starting A Shoe Brand
Brick & Mortar vs eCommerce Business Model
When deciding whether or not to start a shoe brand, it's important to first decide what type of business model you want (brick and mortar, eCommerce, or both)!
Here are a few things to keep in mind when considering a Brick & Mortar store:
Brick & Mortar Model
If you do plan to open a physical store, it's important that you find a spot in a high-traffic area. This is a great way to gain exposure for your business and also get new customers.
It's also important to consider the higher costs associated with operating a physical store (ie - employees, rent, utilities, etc) and the long days/hours associated with running a store.
The main benefit, however, is that customers love being able to see products in person. It's important to recognize that although some people enjoy shopping online, there will always be the shopper persona that likes to touch, feel, and see the product they're buying.
One of the main benefits of operating online is that you are exposed to the entire world, versus just one local area. Rather than depending on foot traffic, you have all the tools at your disposal to create exposure for your store online.
Additionally, there are much lower costs to operate an online store - fewer employees, you can operate from your home, and you get to create your own schedules (yes, holidays included!)
Although you are operating online and have the ability to connect with people all over the world, it's important to consider that you will need to invest marketing money upfront in order to promote your store to the right audience.
So, which business model should you go with?
Each model has their benefits, however, the consumer trends for shoe brand are shifting towards e-commerce businesses.
- Nordstrom (991 Alexa Ranking)
- StockX (1.07K Alexa Ranking)
- Zulily (2.44K Alexa Ranking)
- JCPenney (3.12K Alexa Ranking)
- Neiman Marcus (4.46K Alexa Ranking)
- Xero Shoes - Revenue $1.5M/month
- Scarpetta Shoes - Revenue $350K/month
- KASA - Revenue $80K/month
- Atlantis Shoes - Revenue $25K/month
- Meraki Design House - Revenue $15K/month
- CODDI - Revenue $2K/month
Let's take a look at the search trends for shoes over the last year:
How To Name Your Shoe Brand
It's important to find a catchy name for your shoe brand so that you can stand out in your space.
Here are some general tips to consider when naming your shoe brand
- Avoid hard to spell names: you want something easy to remember and easy to spell for your customers
- Conduct a search to see if others in the space have the same name
- Try not to pick a name that limits growth opportunities for your business (ie. if you decide to expand into other product lines)
- As soon as you have an idea (or ideas) of a few names that you love, register the domain name(s) as soon as possible!
Why is naming your shoe brand so important?
The name of your business will forever play a role in:
- Your customers first impression
- Your businesses identity
- The power behind the type of customer your brand attracts
- If you're memorable or not
It's important to verify that the domain name is available for your shoe brand.
You can search domain availability here:
Find a domain starting at $0.88
powered by Namecheap
Although .com names are the most common and easiest to remember, there are other options if your .com domain name is not available. Depending on your audience, it may not matter as much as you think.
It's also important to thoroughly check if social media handles are available.
As soon as you resonate with a name (or names), secure the domain and SM handles as soon as possible to ensure they don't get taken.
Here's some inspiration for naming your shoe brand:
- Wanders check availability
- Bamboo & Ivy check availability
- Wild Birds check availability
- Sole check availability
- Glove check availability
- Starlight check availability
- LevelUp check availability
- Stablers check availability
- Solemates check availability
- Metro Kicks check availability
- Perfect Pair check availability
- Cloudveil check availability
🎬 How To Start A Shoe Brand
How Much Does It Cost To Start A Shoe Brand
If you are planning to start a shoe brand, the costs are relatively low. This, of course, depends on if you decide to start the business with lean expenses or bringing in a large team and spending more money.
We’ve outlined two common scenarios for “pre-opening” costs of starting a shoe brand and outline the costs you should expect for each:
- The estimated minimum starting cost = $3,167
- The estimated maximum starting cost = $57,856
|Startup Expenses: Average expenses incurred when starting a shoe brand.||Min Startup Costs: You plan to execute on your own. You’re able to work from home with minimal costs.||Max Startup Costs: You have started with 1+ other team members.|
|Office Space Expenses|
|Rent: This refers to the office space you rent out for your business. To minimize costs, you may want to consider starting your business from home or renting an office in a coworking space.||$0||$2,000|
|Utility Costs (office space): This refers to the first month's utility bill for your office space. If you are not responsible for this bill, this would not apply to starting your shoe brand.||$0||$150|
|WiFi: Whether you work from home or in an office space, WiFi is an expense that's tough to avoid. Although the cost is minimal in most cases, it should be appropriately budgeted for each month!||$10||$100|
|Total Office Space Expenses||$10 (min)||$2,250 (max)|
|Employee & Freelancer Expenses|
|Payroll: This number depends on if you decide to pay yourself a salary upfront and how many employees you have on payroll. At first, many founders take on all responsibilities until the business is up and running. You can always hire down the road when you understand where you need help. Keep in mind, if you do plan to pay yourself, the average salary founders make is $50K.||$0||$4,000|
|Other Employee Expenses: Aside from payroll and benefits, there are other costs associated with hiring employees. This includes the cost to advertise the job, the time it takes to interview candidates, and any potential turnover that may result from hiring the wrong candidate.||$0||$1,000|
|Employee Reward Ideas: It's important to recognize and reward employees - whether they hit their goals or are doing an exceptional job. This doesn't have to cost you a lot - simply taking them out to lunch, giving them a gift card or offering a pay-check bonus are all ways to recognize your employee! Here are 65 ways to reward your employees.||$0||$500|
|Total Employee & Freelancer Expenses||$0 (min)||$5,500 (max)|
|Equipment & Supply Expenses|
|Technology Office Equipment: This includes (but is not limited to) physical items such as: laptops, cameras, monitors, microphones, speakers, headsets. Technology needs grow as your company evolves, so to minimize costs, try and only purchase what is needed for you to run your business at the time.||$500||$5,000|
|Total Equipment & Supply Expenses||$500 (min)||$5,000 (max)|
|Website builder: The cost of your website will vary depending on which platform you choose. There are many website builders on the market, so it's important you choose the right one for your business and overall goals. To learn more about your options + how to build a great website, check out this article.||$15||$100|
|Web Design: Web design includes several different aspects, including webpage layout, content creation, and design elements.If you have the skills and knowledge to design your website on your own, then outsourcing this to an expert may not be necessary. There are plenty of other ways you can design a beautiful website using design tools and software.||$200||$6,000|
|A Domain Name: Your domain name is the URL and name of your website - this is how internet users find you and your website.Domain names are extremely important and should match your company name and brand. This makes it easier for customers to remember you and return to your website.||$12||$200|
|Email hosting: Email is a critical piece for running your business. Once you have your domain name, you will want to set up email accounts for each user on your team. The most common email hosts are GSuite (typically starting at $6+ per user, per month) or Microsoft Office (typically starting at $5+ per user, per month). The number of email accounts you set up will determine the monthly cost breakdown.||$5||$75|
|Server Hosting: To start your business, you will need to set up and manage a server. The cost for this is typically billed monthly and depends on the platform you choose (typically ranging anywhere from $0-$50/mo).||$0||$50|
|Website chat function: If customer service is a big piece of your business, you will want to consider implementing a chat bot on your website. Typically, there are different tiers of pricing and some businesses even offer freemium services. To find what chat software is best for your business, check out this guide.||$0||$75|
|Total Website Costs||$232 (min)||$6,500 (max)|
|Business Formation Fees|
|Small Business Insurance: Depending on which state you live in and the business you're operating, the costs and requirements for small business insurance vary. You can learn more here.||$500||$2,000|
|Permit and License Fees: Depending on your industry, there are certain licenses and permits you may need in order to comply with state, local, and federal regulations. Here is an article that goes over all the permits and licenses you may need for your shoe brand.||$50||$700|
|Lawyer Fees: Although you may want to avoid attorney fees, it's important that your business (and you) are covered at all costs. This comes into play when creating founder agreements, setting up your business legal structure, and of course, any unforeseen circumstances that may happen when dealing with customers or other businesses.||$0||$1,500|
|Set up business: LLC & Corporations: The first step in setting up your business is deciding whether your business is an LLC, S Corp or C Corp. The cost for this depends on which state you form your business and which structure you decide on. We put together an article that goes over the 10 Steps To Setting Up A Business.||$50||$500|
|Total Business Formation Fees||$600 (min)||$4,700 (max)|
|Retail Business Expenses|
|Shop Decor: If you plan to operate a physical store, you may want to consider decorating the place with wall decor, furniture, plants etc.||$0||$5,000|
|Utilities (storefront business): This refers to the cost of monthly utilities for your storefront location, which is typically based on a per-square-footage rate.||$0||$1,000|
|Building improvements and remodeling: If you plan to operate a physical location, you may find yourself dealing with building improvements and remodeling costs. Even if these costs are minimal, this is something to consider when renting/buying a physical location.||$0||$950|
|Storefront Property Rent: This refers to the storefront space you rent or buy for your business. The cost depends largely on the city and the size of the space. Keep in mind that other costs may be involved with your base rent and your lease will define additional expenses you are responsible for.||$1,250||$3,500|
|POS System: Gone are the days of cash registers! Many businesses now use point-of-sale systems for their checkout needs and to track sales and inventory. Here is a list of the best POS systems for small businesses!||$0||$1,200|
|Total Retail Business Expenses||$1,250 (min)||$11,650 (max)|
|Upfront Costs For Inventory: This includes all upfront inventory you will need in order to launch. Be sure to compare prices of wholesalers to ensure you're getting the best deal and margins remain high.||$300||$5,000|
|Inventory Storage: If you decide to have a physical space for your shoe brand, whether it be used for inventory or as a showroom, you may have monthly rent payment or a large down payment associated with renting/buying the space.||$0||$5,000|
|Package Design: Packaging refers to wrapping and protecting products during distribution, shipping, and sales.Your package design is your customer's first impression of your brand, so it's important you spend some time and energy to get this right from the start.Many businesses design their own packages using design software and tools. There is always the option to outsource this to a design expert, but that route tends to be much more expensive.||$50||$3,000|
|Shrinkage: Shrinkage refers to the loss of inventory at any point between the purchase from your supplier and the purchase by your customer. Although you will try to avoid this at all costs, this does happen sometimes (especially in the learning stages of your business), and it's important to plan ahead financially in case this happens. Fortune states that retail shrinkage costs U.S. retailers approximately 1.4 percent of their total sales.||$0||$1,000|
|Distribution costs: Depending on what distribution plan you choose, expenses such as renting vans, hiring delivery drivers and gas costs can add up. If you are looking to save money upfront, you may want to consider conducting distribution on your own.||$0||$750|
|Total Inventory Expenses||$350 (min)||$14,750 (max)|
|Advertising & Marketing Costs|
|Business Cards: A shoe brand involves quite a bit of customer interaction, whether that is attending tradeshows, sales calls or simply having face to face interaction with prospective clients. Business cards are a great way to stay front of mind with your clients.||$0||$50|
|Customer Research & Surveys: Many shoe brand's conduct industry and consumer research prior to starting their business. Often times, you need to pay for this data or hire a market research firm to help you in this process.||$0||$300|
|Business Signage: Business signs let people know they're in the right place and are one of the first impressions your customer will have of your business.The cost for signage depends on a variety of elements:- material- size- number of colors- durability- installation and laborThere are plenty of design tools and software to create your own signs, or you can hire a sign business to do this for you.||$75||$2,486|
|Direct Campaigns, Printing and Mailing: Although it may sound old-school, traditional marketing methods can be a cost-effective way to drive awareness for your brand. This includes flyers, postcards, sales letters, coupons, special offers, catalogs and brochures.||$0||$300|
|Affiliate Marketing Commission & Fees: If you want to increase revenue for your shoe brand, affiliate marketing is a great way to promote your product to a new audience. When determining affiliate commission rates you will offer, you will want to take into account the price and margin for your product to ensure affiliate marketing is worth it for your business. According to Monitor Backlinks, the average affiliate commission rate should be somewhere between 5% to 30%. To learn more about how to set commission rates, check out this article..||$0||$250|
|Influencer Marketing: Partnering with like-minded influencers is one of the most effective ways to grow your social media presence. Many small businesses simply gift a free item in exchange for an influencer post, or pay the influencer directly.||$0||$750|
|Google Ads: With Google Ads you have the ability to control how much you spend by simply setting a monthly budget cap. Additionally, with these ads you only pay for results, such as clicks to your website or phone calls! It's okay to start with a small budget at first and make changes accordingly if you see valuable returns.||$0||$300|
|Facebook & Instagram Ads: With Facebook and Instagram ads, you set your budget and pay for the actions you want (whether that be impressions, conversions, etc).You can learn more about pricing based on your impressions here.||$0||$350|
|Total Advertising & Marketing Costs||$75 (min)||$4,786 (max)|
|Email marketing tool: If you plan to grow your email list and email marketing efforts, you may want to consider investing in an email marketing platform (ie. Klaviyo, MailChimp). We put together a detailed guide on all of the email marketing tools out there + the pricing models for each one here||$0||$100|
|IT Support: IT support installs and configures hardware and software and solves any technical issues that may arise.IT support can be used internally or for your customers experiencing issues with your product/service.There are a variety of tools and software you can use to help with any technical issues you or your customers are experiencing. This is a great option for businesses that do not have the means to hire a team of professionals.||$150||$2,000|
|Accounting & Invoicing Software: It's important to have an accounting system and process in place to manage financials, reporting, planning and tax preparation. Here are the 30 best accounting tools for small businesses.||$0||$50|
|Internal Communication Tool: If you plan to have multiple members on your team, you may want to consider an instant message tool such as Slack or Telegram. The cost is usually billed per month (approx $5/user/month) or there are freemium versions available on many platforms.||$0||$20|
|Social Media Management Tools: If you plan to do social media marketing for your shoe brand, you should consider investing in a social media automation or publishing tool. This will save you time and allow you to track performance and engagement for your posts. Here is a list of 28 best social media tools for your small business.||$0||$50|
|Payroll Software: The main purpose of payroll software is to help you pay your team and track each of those payments (so that you don't have to do it manually). If you do not have any employees or have a very small team, payroll software may not be necessary at this stage. Here are the 11 best payroll tools for small businesses!||$0||$200|
|Total Software Expenses||$150 (min)||$2,420 (max)|
|Credit Card Processing Fees: If you process credit cards then you will need to deal with interchange fees - which is usually around 3% of total charges. These fees are often forgotten about and can hurt cash flow if not taken into account.||$0||$300|
|Total Other Expenses||$0 (min)||$300 (max)|
|Total Starting Costs||$3,167 (min)||$57,856 (max)|
Emily Casseday, founder of Blush Boutique Co describes how she was able to stay under $10K to get off the ground:
Because we were starting small, we didn’t have a lot of overhead. One of the biggest downfalls of starting a business is having too much to carry without a lot of income, which is why we decided to start in my basement instead of fully going brick and mortar.
We wanted to test the waters first to see if we had a viable business for our community. In order to finance the beginning of our shop, we used some savings and one credit card. Our goal was to never outspend what we made, so we started with a limit of $10,000 on the card and paid it off as we went. That first year, we didn’t take a paycheck so that we could completely get out of debt.
Since the startup costs to start shoe brand range between $3,167 - $57,856, there are ways you can raise money to cover these costs.
Here are a few ways you can secure additional funding:
- Launch your product on Kickstarter
- Raise capital by asking friends and family
- Apply for a loan
- Find an investor!
We've interviewed several different founders in the shoe brand and asked them how much $ they're making today.
- $180K/year in revenue
- Sells asian inspired handcrafted footwear
- Solo founder
- 0 employees
- $18M/year in revenue
- Sells addictively comfortable footwear
- 2 founders
- 44 employees
- $4.2M/year in revenue
- Sells designer women's shoes
- Solo founder
- 25 employees
- $300K/year in revenue
- Sells sustainable footwear
- 2 founders
- 2 employees
- $24K/year in revenue
- Sells boots
- Solo founder
- 1 employee
- $960K/year in revenue
- Sells luxury shoes
- Solo founder
- 0 employees
How To Find A Supplier For Your Shoe Brand
Here are the steps to consider when finding a supplier/manufacturer:
Know your design
One very critical step to finding the right supplier is having an initial idea of what your design/product will look like.
Sketching is one of the most simple ways to get started in the design phase.
What's great about sketching is that you can practically do this anytime, anywhere - even on the back of a napkin.
To get started, all you need to do is pick up a pen and paper and start drawing - or if you are working on a virtual/software product this can be a diagram that outlines the user interface or experience.
Decide your supplier type
You'll want to identify the type of supplier you are looking for.
Here are some questions you may want to ask yourself prior to searching for a supplier
- Are you looking for a manufacturer to produce your product idea?
- Do you want to find a supplier that can simply purchase existing products for you?
- Do you want a drop-shipper to supply and fulfill orders?
- Do you want a domestic supplier or an overseas supplier? Read more about the pros and cons of each here
Where to start your search
Once you have an understanding of what type of manufacturer/supplier will be best to bring your idea to life, there are several areas you can start your search:
Alibaba Tips From Founders
I did not have expensive prototyping design software, so my “designs” were free-hand drawings I created with colored pencils. It didn’t cost thousands of dollars and it was efficient.
The next process was to packaging my product. I knew I wanted elevated packaging because I thought of my product as an affordable, luxury product ($29.99 per pair). For this box, I went straight to the source: Alibaba.
If you’re not familiar, Alibaba is a site where you can access factories (mostly in China) and get almost anything made. It’s an inventor’s playground. I posted my box design specifications, and within 24 hours, I had selected a factory that could make my boxes for about $1.10 each.
When you look for a factory on Alibaba, make sure they are a “Gold Supplier” with “Trade Assurance”.
Alibaba validates and scores its factories though a badge/award system, so make sure you check these qualifications carefully. I have been lucky and had no issues so far.
Example: Choosing The Right Style From The Manufacturer
Our first step was to find manufacturers of white canvas shoes on Alibaba. Over the course of six months, I ordered almost eight sample pairs of shoes. Ultimately, we found one pair of shoes that we loved and chose to order.
This manufacturer stated we had to order a minimum amount of 1,000 pairs.
We were able to break down our order into two different styles: One style is a high top and the other being a low top style.
Knowing that we could do both styles, we chose to do 500 pairs of low tops and 500 pairs of high tops.
The manufacturer said that we could also do five sizes per style, so the decision was to order the five most popular women sizes in low tops and the five most popular men sizes in high tops.
Fortunately, when we order shirts we get them from a website known as S&S Activewear, which has a warehouse near our company.
Purchasing Inventory For Your Shoe Brand
When first starting out, it's important to start small with your overhead to get a gauge for what people want.
Just remember - if you order a line of items that don't sell, it's nearly impossible to recoup the money lost.
Buying the right inventory takes research and planning in order to get it right.
- Identify your target audience: Identify the age, gender, annual income that you will be selling to. This is a defining factor in ordering the right inventory that will sell.
- Research your competition: Conduct market research and identify the different types of styles, price points, and materials being used. This will help you see what's trending and ways that you can improve/stay ahead of the competition.
- Create an inventory wishlist: Identify what you need for the launch of your business and create a budget that you will stay within. Remember, it's okay to start small.
- Find a supplier Make sure to first compare prices and analyze different options.
- Delivery timing: Schedule the inventory delivery to match with seasonality and trending buying seasons
Pro-tip: It's easy to become biased based on your own fashion preferences on what types of shoes/apparel to purchase. This is where a lot of fashion businesses go wrong. It's important to base purchase decisions on current buyer behavior, trends in the market, and specific to your niche.
Write a Business Plan
Writing a business plan from the start is critical for the success of your shoe brand.
Because this allows you to roadmap exactly what you do, what your overall structure will look like, and where you want to be in the future.
For many entrepreneurs, writing out the business plan helps validate their idea and decide whether or not they should move forward with starting the business.
You may want to consider expanding upon these sections in your business plan:
- Executive Summary: Brief outline of your product, the market, and growth opportunities
- Overviews and Objectives: Overview of your business, target customers, and what you need to run your business
- Products and Services: Specifics on the products and services your business will provide
- Market Opportunities: Analysis of customer demographics, buyer habits and if your product is in demand
- Marketing: Outline of your marketing plan and how you plan to differentiate yourself from other customers
- Competitive analysis: Analysis of your competition and the strengths and weaknesses therein
- Operations: Hierarchal structure of the company and what it will take to run the business on the day-to-day
- Leadership Team: Detailing roles and responsibilities of each manager based on their specific skill-set
- Financial Analysis Understanding of all expenses, operating budgets, and projections for the future.
Learn more about how to write a business plan here
Setting Up Your Shoe Brand (Formation and Legal)
When it comes to setting up your business, you may find yourself in a place where you have to make some financial and legal decisions.
The first thing you'll want to decide on is whether you want to be an LLC, S-Corp, or C-Corp.
These three options are found to be the most common when starting a small business, and all serve to protect your personal assets and also provide you with certain tax benefits.
- LLC: All income and expenses from the business are reported on the LLC personal income tax return.
- S corp: Owners pay themselves salaries + receive dividends from profits.
- C Corp: C Corps are separately taxable entities that file a corporate tax return (Form 1120). No income tax is paid at the corporate level and any tax due is paid at the owners individual expense.
Depending on where you're conducting business, you'll also want to consider securing the proper permits, licenses and liability insurance.
Need to start an LLC? Create an LLC in minutes with ZenBusiness.
Determine Which Business Bank Account You Need
There are hundreds of banks out there, and it can be overwhelming to find one that's right for your business.
Here are some factors you may want to consider:
- Location - Is your bank close enough that you can easily make deposits or get cash?
- Low Fees - Make sure to understand any and all fees associated with setting up and maintaining your bank account. Ask for a list - banks usually try to keep this hidden and in the fine print.
- Online Banking Services - Make sure you can easily navigate through your online portal and you have easy access to everything you need.
- Line of Credit - What do your options look like (even if you don't need this now, you may need this down the road).
- Every bank has something that differentiates them from the rest, so make sure whatever that is applied to your needs and values.
Check out this list of the 13 Best Banks for Small Business in 2020 and what makes them so unique.
How To Price Your Shoes
One of the most challenging aspects to starting a shoe brand is determining how much to charge for your shoes.
When businesses under-price their product, this can be extremely detrimental to their bottom line and reputation.
Often times, businesses under-price their products to drive demand and volume, but that last thing you want is for customers to view your product/service as "cheap." Additionally, this can have a big impact on the type of customer you attract, which can be difficult to recover from.
On the other hand, when businesses over-price, this tends to be just as damaging to the business.
When customers buy, it's likely that they will explore the internet and look at other competitors to ensure they're getting the best value + deal. This is why it's so important that you research your competition and understand where you land in the marketplace.
Here are some factors to consider when pricing your product:
Understand your customer
It's important that out of the gates, you identify the type of customer you want to attract and how much they're willing to pay for your service. One great way to do this is by surveying your customers. Here are some important items you'll want to takeaway:
- Customer demographic: Age, gender, location, etc.
- Buying habits of your customer: What they buy + when they buy
- Level of price sensitivity with your customer
All of these segments will help you identify the type of customer you're attracting and how to price your product accordingly.
Understand your costs
When pricing your shoes, it's critical that you first identify all of your costs and consequently mark up your shoes so you can factor in a profit.
The actual cost of your shoes may include things like:
- The actual cost to make the product (ie. raw materials, supplies, manufacturer).
- Shipping + overhead fees
- Operating costs to run your business
You may want to consider creating a spreadsheet with every single expense involved in operating/owning your business. This will give you an idea as to what you need to generate in order to at the very least, break-even and will help you price your products to factor in a profit.
Create revenue goals
When determining the price of your shoes, you'll want to create goals for revenue + how much profit you want your shoe brand to make.
This process is simpler than you may think:
- Think about your breakeven cost (by completing the above step).
- Create a revenue goal based on your break-even cost
- Evaluate the # of items you plan to sell in a given period (make sure this is a realistic number)
- Divide your revenue goal by the number of items you plan to sell
This figure will help determine your estimated price per product in order to meet your revenue goals.
Evaluate your competition
The last piece in determining how to price your shoes is by simply looking at your competition.
The best way to do this is by finding like-minded businesses that offer product(s) with similar perceived value. Then, you can compare prices of the different businesses and determine where your shoes fits best in the marketplace.
All of these factors play an equal part in pricing your shoes, so it's important you evaluate each one individually to come up with an accurate price that will help optimize your business from the start.
Lauren Costanza, founder of Bluminary provides us with a detailed spreadsheet of all of her costs associated with running her business:
I knew this would be a self-funded adventure, and I set aside $3,000. During the first three months, I had a detailed spreadsheet where I tracked where the money was going and what was going toward products versus researching and developing new products.
The spreadsheets involved columns and rows of numbers to craft a budget and gain an understanding of how much would need to be invested at each stage of the process - from gathering supplies to building a website, and shipping materials.
🚀 How To Launch Your Shoe Brand
Make Sure You Get The Package Design Right
The way you package your shoe brand is often the first impression your customer has - so it's important to get it right.
You may want to ask yourself these questions:
If my product is on a shelf next to hundreds of other similar products:
- Will my shoe brand stand out?
- Will the branding/packaging create a connection with my customer, and hence, lead them to buy?
There are hundreds of tools you can use to help with packaging and design:
- Canva - Allows non-designers to create beautiful Instagram/Pinterest posts, flyers, business cards, etc.
- Stickermule - High quality custom stickers you can include on or in your packaging.
- Noissue - Custom tissue paper and compostable mailers
- Rollo Label Printer - A great tool to print all shipping labels at home
Build A Website
Building a website is imperative when launching your business, and with the right tools in place, this can be a simple task to check off the list (without having to hire someone).
- Pick a domain name that's easy to remember and easy to type
- Choose a Web Hosting Plan (ie. Shopify, Squarespace)
- Make sure you choose the right theme and design
- Implement the proper page structure (ie. about page, contact page, pricing etc)
To learn more about how to build a stellar website with little stress, we give you all the details on this step-by-step guide.
There are a ton of different websites platforms out there, and it's important to choose the right one that will set you up for success
Here's everything you need to know about these two platforms:
Shopify is one of the #1 leading platforms for e-commerce businesses.
Here are some of the main reasons most e-commerce businesses are using Shopify:
- Geared towards supporting store owners. Provides a simple way to launch and manage your online store
- Customer support is off the charts (live chat)
- Easy to use - You don't have to worry about the technical side
- The design is clean and mobile-friendly. There are also hundreds of templates you can use.
- Easy integrations and additional channels (ie. Amazon, email marketing integrations, Facebook, etc).
- Basic Shopify: $29/month
- Shopify: $79/month
- Advanced Shopify: $299/month
Squarespace is a great option for small businesses and is known as one of the easiest platforms to use.
You may find yourself in a decision on whether you should choose Squarespace or WordPress.
The main difference between the two platforms is that Squarespace is known to be more turn-key than WordPress, and does not involve as much management and upkeep.
Benefits of using Squarespace:
- Great for beginners who have little to no coding experience
- Flexible and stylish designs
- You can easily switch up templates (and not feel the need to completely start over)
- Over 55,000 plugins
- Personal Plan: $12/month
- Business Plan: $18/month
- Basic: $26/month
- Advanced: $40/month
Once you have chosen the domain, web hosting, and platform, it's time to get started with the design phase.
Themes are a great way to produce the fundamental style and identity of your website - this includes everything from your font design to your blog post styles.
One of the best ways to get started is to simply explore the various themes (free or paid depending on what you're looking for) and test them on your site.
If web-design really isn't in the cards for you, you may want to consider outsourcing a web designer to help bring your vision and brand to life.
Traditional Launch Strategies For Your Shoe Brand:
There are various different ways you can launch your shoe brand successfully.
Here are a few different strategies to get customers excited about your shoe brand:
- Set up a Facebook page for your business. This is a great way to establish an online presence
- Host an event in a fun location with drinks & food. This is a great way to get exposure in the local community.
- Get Press! Pitch your story to the media and you may just land in an amazing publication
- Live sales to get customers excited
- Send a hand-written letter in the mail with a discount on your services to the local community/neighborhoods.
🌱 How To Grow Your Shoe Brand
Social Media Advertising
Social Media Advertising is one of the leading ways to get the word out when it comes to shoe brand.
There are various different Social Media platforms available to you. Some may be more critical for your marketing efforts than others, however, it's important to have an understanding of what's out there and available to you.
Let's talk about a few of the main platforms and what makes them unique:
- Facebook Advertising - more than 2 billion monthly users. Facebook is the best for lead generation + capturing email addresses for e-commerce businesses.
- Instagram Advertising - approximately 500 million monthly users and has a higher audience engagement rate than any other platform. Instagram ads are best for linking to a product page or landing page and reaches the 18-29 age group most effectively.
- Twitter Advertising- Small businesses typically use twitter ads to drive brand awareness, but the platform is meant more for organic engagement (and is not as heavily used for paid advertising)
- Pinterest Advertising - 175 million monthly users and most effectively reaches the female audience. Pinterest is great for promoting products without "promoted". The promoted pins have a way of blending right in.
- LinkedIn Advertising - 227 million monthly users and is geared towards the B2B market and generates the highest quality leads. Great platform for recruiters, high-end products and services that will help businesses
It's important to first define your goal/objective so that you don't waste time and money into the wrong platform:
Here are some different questions to ask yourself as it relates to your goals:
- Do I want to simply drive brand awareness?
- Do I want to drive users to my website to gather information?
- Do I want to increase sales and get my customer to take action?
From there, choose the platform that targets your audience best and start experimenting!
Learn more about social media advertising ➜ here.
Gia Paddock discusses how live sales on Facebook was KEY to her launch success:
Our official launch happened the day after my birthday, July 26, 2017.
I decided to get the word out by going “live” on Facebook. When you have a personal profile, Facebook will allow you to record yourself in real time, and they allow any of your friends to click on the video and watch if they want. I told everyone our background story and that we would have our first live sale that next night, which was a Thursday. Little did we know Thursdays would be “our day”!
Live sales were something that I wanted to do, and it was different than other online boutiques I had seen. Basically, I would go “live” on our boutique’s Facebook page with our new inventory and show each item, give a little description on it, how it fits, price, sizing, etc. It really feels like I am everyone’s own personal shopper, which is amazing!
Our first live sale was pretty successful. Most of our first customers were my friends or acquaintances from school. We decided to start right away and do a giveaway if they shared the live sale video. We gave away a $100 gift card raffle as an incentive to anyone that shared the video.
This would prove to be by far our best strategy to grow the boutique without spending a dime on traditional advertising.
Grow Your Email List
The more engaged list of emails, the more engaged customers, which ultimately leads to more sales.
One of the best ways to start growing your list is by providing your customer with something free (or discounted) in return.
This could also be anything from:
- Fascinating case study
- Video series
- Free week of the product
- Discount on the product
Learn more about how to grow your email list and improve email marketing ➜ here.
Add an exit-intent popup to your online store
A great way to double, or even triple, your email opt-in rate and to grow your list is to add an exit-intent popup to your site, and offering a discount or content upgrade for subscribers.
Here's an example of what that might look like:
One thing that I spent years NOT doing, that I now kick myself about, is adding an "exit intent pop-up" to our site, which lets people enter a sweepstakes to win a Xero Shoes gift certificate.
That one idea has added over 100,000 subscribers to our email list, which is one of our most effective marketing channels.
Improve Your Email Marketing
Different types of emails
Here are the most common types of email campaigns you can send to your customers and their benefits:
- Welcome emails - the perfect way to provide information from the start with a clear CTA. Make sure to tell your customer everything they need to know about your product or service.
- Newsletters - a great way to give customers updates or send out your latest content
- Product launch emails - the quickest (and easiest) way to increase sales is by selling to current customers. Make sure they're the first on the list to know about your new product
- Promotional emails - promote discounts, deals coupons etc. Try and make this feel exclusive and for a limited time only
- Abandoned cart emails - give your customers a reason to complete their purchase!
Here's a great resource for finding curated email designs, for all types of email campaigns!
Klaviyo is the ultimate ecommerce marketing platform for online brands of all kinds and all sizes. With email automation, SMS marketing, list growth tools, and more, you’ll get everything you need to build strong relationships that keep your customers coming back.
Klaviyo makes it easy to store, access, analyze and use transactional and behavioral data to power highly-targeted customer and prospect communications. And unlike other marketing platforms, Klaviyo doesn’t force you to compromise between advanced functionality or ease of use—so businesses of all sizes are able to maximize their sales quickly. That’s why over 50,000 innovative brands like Living Proof, Custom Ink and Huckberry sell more with Klaviyo.
- Manage and send all your customer communications from a single platform—email, SMS, app and web push notifications
- Send impactful, on-brand promos and email newsletters
- Save time with email and form templates
- Have a one-on-one conversation with every customer
- Leverage pre-built ecommerce email automations or customize your own ideal customer experience
- Optimize for email revenue, not just clicks and opens
- Improve email deliverability with targeted segmentation that updates in real-time
- Enhance your website with a variety of form types: flyouts, pop-ups, and embedded forms
- Sync your Klaviyo segments to Facebook and Instagram advertising campaigns for better targeting, lower CAC, and higher ROAS
- Leverage predictive analytics, like predicted next purchase date, predicted gender, and smart send time
- And more!
- Up to 250 contacts: Free!
- Up to 1,000 subscribers: $30 per month
- Up to 2,500 subscribers: $60 per month
- Up to 5,000 subscribers: $100 per month
- Up to 10,000 subscribers: $150 per month
- Up to 20,000 subscribers: $375 per month
MailChimp is the gigantic elephant-in-the-room leader in the email space.
They are a great tool if you are just getting started with email marketing as they have a pretty generous freemium plan.
MailChimp has a couple really good things going for them:
- Very good reporting for a free tool
- One of the best drag and drop editors - makes it very easy to send newsletter.
MailChimp falls short in its pricing model because your costs will skyrocket as your list grows, and the automation features are limited.
This tool is best for: small businesses or just getting started.
The free plan, up to 2000 subscribers - what you get
- Send up to 12,000 emails per month
- Up to 2,000 subscribers
- Email support included for 30 days
"Essentials" plan Plans start at $10 per month
- Up to 5,000 subscribers $50 per month
- Up to 10,000 subscribers $75 per month
- Up to 25,000 subscribers $150 per month
Standard plan Plans start at $15 per month
- Up to 5,000 subscribers $75 per month
- Up to 10,000 subscribers $99 per month
- Up to 20,000 subscribers $189 per month
As a brand, you want to deliver an experience that authentic, honest and transparent.
Don't make the mistake of giving your audience less credit than they deserve.
If you go around chasing every trend and only focused on yourself and money, you’re going to lose very quickly.
There have been many times where we have been tempted to do this but stayed true.
Sure we sacrificed sales, but we kept our integrity, played the long game and people saw and appreciated that, and really began emotionally investing in the brand.
Host A Social Media Giveaway
People love free stuff and love competition. Giveaways and contests are a great way to create awareness for your brand, grow your email list, and eventually convert leads into customers.
If your goal is to gather email addresses, make sure the entry criteria is to "enter your email." You can do this by leading customers to your landing page where they can then enter their email to be in the giveaway.
One of the most important aspects of promoting a successful giveaway is having an amazing prize. The better the prize, the more engagement you'll get.
This doesn't necessarily mean choosing an iPad or an expensive/trendy watch, but instead a prize that is actually relevant to your brand/target audience.
🏃🏼♀️ How To Run Your Shoe Brand
Word of Mouth
The most tried and true way to grow a shoe brand is through word of mouth - some entrepreneurs would say it's more important than all social media.
Why you should focus on word of mouth:
- Consumers trust word of mouth above all other forms of marketing
- 92% of consumers believe recommendations from friends and family over all forms of advertising
- 64% of marketing executives indicated that they believe it is the most effective form of marketing
Learn more about word of mouth in our guide: 30 Ways Founders Grow Their Business ➜
We really only have 2 tools to attract and retain customers. The first is word of mouth. TANYA HEATH Paris has never spent a cent in press or in marketing so we rely on happy customers talking about us. They find us by walking past one of out boutiques or they have been following the brand after hearing about us via some kind of press.
Our best retention tool is customer service. Some of my best customers started off as customer services disasters. But by taking their concerns seriously, and by problem solving and by working with them we are able to reassure them and solve their problems. In fact if you look at the comments on our Facebook pages clients often talk about our customer services. This makes me very proud!
I am in the Paris boutique all the time and I’m always interacting with clients so I know what they like and what they think we could be doing better. This insight goes into each new collection that I design. I also know that I don’t know everything, so if I’m in doubt about something, I ask my clients.
Build a Referral Program
Word of mouth is one of the best ways to get the word out about your business and acquire new customers. Especially when you are starting out, it’s important to build a solid referral program to encourage existing customers to help you find new ones.
A great way to do that is by offering a reward (ie. credit on your service or cash) to customers that refer you to their friends and family.
A fantastic referral program will help with clout, credibility, and establishing yourself in the space.
How To Retain Customers For Your Shoe Brand
Retaining customers is one of the most effective ways to grow your shoe brand.
Oftentimes, it's easy to find yourself focusing on generating new customers, vs retaining your current ones.
Look at it this way - you are 60-70% more likely to sell a new product to an existing customer than you are a new customer.
That's not to say that finding new customers and revenue streams is not important, however, the easiest (and most inexpensive) source of new revenue is right there in front of you.
Here are some ways you can retain customers for your shoe brand:
- Responding to comments on social media
- Send discounts (or freebies) to loyal customers
- Provide valuable content, for free
- Write a hand written thank you note
- Provide awesome customer service and build relationships with customers
To find out more tips and tricks on retaining customers, check out this article ➜ here
Customer service is huge for us. Like I talked about, building a community has been one of the best bi-products in the shop.
We want everyone to feel loved, cared for, and appreciated.
If we have a customer that comes in quite a bit, we will begin to notice what they buy and reach out to them if something new comes in if we think they will like it. We also try to call people by name and greet them as if they were entering my home, not just the shop.
Another great way we retain customers is through a loyalty point system. When a customer gains enough points through their purchases, they are rewarded with a discount. It’s our way of saying “thank you” for having them be a great customer.
Diversify Your Product Line
Adding new products to your business is a great way to expand into new markets and grow your business.
It's important to note that adding new products and diversifying may not be in the cards for you right this moment, and that's okay. You can always consider it down the road.
Here are some reasons you may want to considering adding/diversifying your product
- Meeting the needs of your customers
- Establish yourself as a top provider in your industry and stay ahead of the game with competition
- Resistance to downturns/trends fading
- Create new revenue streams
We put together the best resources on the internet to help you start your shoe brand.
- Platform tools such as Shopify, WooCommerce, Amazon, eBay or Google Shopping
- Email tools such as MailChimp, Klaviyo, Gmail, G Suite or WeChat
- Social media tools such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Hootsuite, Reddit or Medium
- Advertising tools such as Facebook Ads, Instagram Ads, Google Adwords, Google AdSense, Twitter Ads, Amazon Ads, Google ads or Pinterest Ads
- Shipping tools such as ShipStation, Stamps.com, USPS, FedEx, DHL or UPS
- Analytics tools such as Google Analytics or Google Tag Manager
- Productivity tools such as Google Suite, Dropbox or Monday.com
- Payments tools such as Paypal, Shopify Payments, Stripe, Square, Apple Pay or Venmo
- Blog tools such as WordPress
- Accounting tools such as Quickbooks or Google Sheets
- Design tools such as Adobe Suite
- Freelance tools such as Fiverr, Upwork or freelance.com
- Affiliate tools such as Refersion or Rakuten
- Crowdfunding tools such as Kickstarter
- Stock images tools such as Shutterstock
- Customer service tools such as Tidio
- Podcast tools such as Spotify
- Crm tools such as Odoo
- How to Start Your Own Shoe Company: A start-up guide to designing, manufacturing, and marketing shoes. (How shoes are Made)
- How to Start Your Own Shoe Brand | Bizfluent
- How to Start Your Own Shoe Brand | Small Business - Chron.com
- How to Start Your Own Sneaker Brand, Plus the History of Nike & adidas | From the Ground Up
- 'No.One' Creator Shares How To Start Your Own Sneaker Brand
- How I Started A $15K/Month Asian Inspired Handcrafted Footwear Ecommerce
- Xero Shoes: Growing A Shoe Brand to $460K/month
- How I Started A $3.6MM/Year Business Selling Designer Women's Shoes
- How I Started A Business Selling Vegan Sneakers
Want to start your own business?
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