If you ask any entrepreneur, starting a business comes with its fair share of challenges.
Starting a shoe brand requires a great deal of effort, dedication and most importantly passion.
If you're willing to put in the effort to build your own business, you're going to want to follow the critical steps to creating a successful brand.
We've created a guide that covers each step of the process - from making key financial decisions, to launching and marketing your business the right way, and tips/strategies on how to grow your business effectively.
💡 Introduction To Starting A Shoe Brand
Is Starting A Shoe Brand Right For You?
There are many factors to consider when starting a shoe brand.
We put together the main pros and cons for you here:
Pros of starting a shoe brand
You can put as much time into the business as you'd like. If you like the work and have some initial experience, you can start small and manage all aspects of the business on your own.
With businesses and processes changing daily, there will always be demand for new features, products and services for your business. Additionally, there are several different business models and pricing tiers you can implement that will allow you to reach all types of customers.
• Meaningful business connections
You never know who you will meet as a shoe brand. This could be the start of an incredible business opportunity!
• High customer retention rates
Once a customer invests in your product, they've invested their time and energy to utilize your product/service which is highly valuable to them. Typically, your product or service becomes indispensable to your customer.
• Easy to encourage "impulse buy"
In the shoe brand, you have a much higher chance of encouraging your customers to buy on impulse - you can easily alter the price, placement, packaging, and promotional value to influence the decision of your buyer.
• Control of workload
With starting a shoe brand, you have the unique ability to choose how little or how much you want to work. You also have the freedom to decide which projects you want to work on, and can turn down the ones that do not interest you.
• Unlimited income potential
With starting a shoe brand there is no cap as to how much income you can make. The stronger your business skills and the more energy/time you put into your career, the more you'll make.
• Amazing perks and discounts
Working in the shoe brand comes with its perks! As a seller for these products/services, you typically also get to enjoy industry perks and discounts.
• Predictable income stream
Your businesses income stream tends to be predictable based on the number of customers you have signed up. This makes financial planning and outlooks much more seamless!
• Higher likelihood of getting referrals
This business is all about referrals, which can be a a very impactful way to attract and retain customers. It's critical that you have a great referral program in place that incentivizes your customers to tell their friends about your product.
• Simple business model
A shoe brand has the advantage of a simple business model, which makes launching and building the business more seamless.
• Control your own destiny
Starting A Shoe Brand allows you to control every aspect of your life and make your own dreams come true every day.
• Greater Income Potential
With this business, the sky is the limit in regards to your income potential.
• You can promote and sell your product on Amazon
Although there are some disadvantages to consider when selling your product on Amazon, there are also a host of benefits. Mainly, Amazon is the world's largest online retailer, so you're bound to tap into new business and reach an entirely new audience.
• Can build solid foundation of clients
It's unlikely you will have one-off customers as a shoe brand. Typically, you have a solid foundation of clients that use your product and services regularly.
• Low maintenance customers
In this industry, customers are known to be very appreciative and low maintenance. This can help with your stress levels and allow you to focus on growing your business.
• Results and revenue happen quickly!
Unlike other businesses, it can be relatively quick to start seeing results and revenue. As long as you follow all the steps to validate your idea before launch, you are likely to see quick results and ROI.
Cons of starting a shoe brand
• Motivation of employees
If you plan to have a sales/content team on board, finding creative ways to motivate them can be a challenge. It's important that you're able to offer great incentives and a good work environment for your employees.
• Longer Sales Process
A shoe brand can be a big time and money investment for your customer, so it's important you plan and predict a longer conversion funnel and stay in communication with potential customers.
• Low margins
The gross margins for your shoe brand are typically around 46%, which can make it more challenging to incur new expenses and maintain profitability.
As a shoe brand, you typically pay self-employment taxes which can be quite high. It's important to understand what you will be paying in taxes each year so you can determine if the work you're taking on is worth it.
• Niche Market
A niche business is not necessarily a bad thing, in fact, it can be the key to your success. However, it can be more challenging and time consuming to find the perfect niche market and target audience.
• High overhead expenses
With starting a shoe brand, there are overhead expenses that come with selling a physical product. You will want to make sure you strategically budget for these overhead costs. We discuss this more in the startup costs section below.
• You may need to charge sales tax
If you are selling your products in various states, you may be required to charge sales tax. Although this may not impact your financials specifically, it can be a headache to create a process and procedure for this. To learn more about sales tax, check out this article
In this business, customers can cancel their membership or subscription for your services - which can make revenue forecasting challenging and unpredictable. It's important to focus on your churn rates and trends so that you can prevent this as much as possible.
• Time commitment
With starting a shoe brand, all responsibilities and decisions are in your hands. Although this is not necessarily a negative thing, work life can take over at times. This can place a strain on friends and family and add to the pressure of launching a new business.
• Difficult to build trust with your customer
With starting a shoe brand, there can be minimal face-to-face interaction, which means it can be a lot more difficult to establish trust with your customers. You'll need to go the extra mile with your customer to grab their attention and business.
• Impatient customers
You may offer an engaging user experience for your customer, but customers expect a lot and may be impatient if they aren't pleased with your product or service.
• Be prepared to get out of your comfort zone!
Although this is exciting for some entrepreneurs, it can be a big challenge for others! You may find yourself in uncomfortable social and business situations, jumping into tasks and responsibilities you aren't familiar with, and pushing yourself as far as you can go!
• Learning Curve
When you start your own business, you no longer have upper management to provide you with a playbook for your roles and responsibilities. You should know the ins and outs of every aspect of your business, as every decision will come down to you.
• Equipment Breakdowns
Over the years, your equipment can get damaged, break down, and may need repairs which can be expensive. It's important you prepare for these expenses and try to avoid damages/wear & tear as much as possible.
• More challenging to earn passive income
It can be more of a challenge to make passive income in this business. Often times, the amount of revenue you bring in is limited by the amount of time you have in the day.
- Nike (389 Alexa Ranking)
- Nordstrom (991 Alexa Ranking)
- StockX (1.07K Alexa Ranking)
- Zulily (2.44K Alexa Ranking)
- JCPenney (3.12K Alexa Ranking)
- Xero Shoes - Revenue $4M/month
- zapato FEROZ - Revenue $500K/month
- Stonz - Revenue $250K/month
- KASA - Revenue $80K/month
- B Street Shoes - Revenue $60K/month
- Boomerangz Footwear - Revenue $40K/month
- Atlantis Shoes - Revenue $25K/month
- the DIFFERENCE - Revenue $12.5K/month
- TANYA HEATH Paris - Revenue $10K/month
- CODDI - Revenue $2K/month
- Creative Souls - Revenue $1K/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
Gia Paddock, founder of Boutique Rye explains how they came up with the name of their business:
What took the longest was deciding on a name and our logo; I wanted it to be meaningful, and I cared so much about what people thought.
Looking back, my advice would be to quit thinking about other people. This is my business, and all that matters is if I am happy the name and logo.
A popular national brick & mortar women’s boutique that many may have heard of is called Francesca’s… How original, right? So we came up with Boutique Rye named after our son, Riley. We put "boutique" in front to be a little different.
Now came the logo… Oh man, was this a task. We hired a graphic designer that we went to high school with, and went back and forth with him for about a month and a half. I wanted something that really described my style which is kind of “boho chic” and decided on a dreamcatcher. The dreamcatcher is also what our son’s nursery was decorated in, so it truly felt like a family business.
How To Create A Slogan For Your Shoe Brand:
Slogans are a critical piece of your marketing and advertising strategy.
The role of your slogan is to help your customer understand the benefits of your product/service - so it's important to find a catchy and effective slogan name.
Often times, your slogan can even be more important than the name of your brand.
Here are 6 tips for creating a catchy slogan for your shoe brand:
1. Keep it short, simple and avoid difficult words
A great rule of thumb is that your slogan should be under 10 words. This will make it easy for your customer to understand and remember.
2. Tell what you do and focus on what makes you different
There are a few different ways you can incorporate what makes your business special in your slogan:
- Explain the target customer you are catering your services towards
- What problem do you solve?
- How do you make other people, clients, or your employer look good?
- Do you make people more successful? How?
3. Be consistent
Chances are, if you're coming up with a slogan, you may already have your business name, logo, mission, branding etc.
It's important to create a slogan that is consistent with all of the above.
4. Ensure the longevity of your slogan
Times are changing quickly, and so are businesses.
When coming up with your slogan, you may want to consider creating something that is timeless and won't just fade with new trends.
5. Consider your audience
When finding a catchy slogan name, you'll want to make sure that this resonates across your entire audience.
It's possible that your slogan could make complete sense to your audience in Europe, but may not resonate with your US audience.
6. Get feedback!
This is one of the easiest ways to know if your slogan will be perceived well, and a step that a lot of brands drop the ball on.
Ask friends, family, strangers, and most importantly, those that are considered to be in your target market.
Here's some inspiration for coming up with a slogan for your shoe brand:
- Build your own path
- Walk the line
- Take a walk on the wild side
- Keep the heat
- High quality, low prices
- Walk sustainabily, in style.
- Faster, forever.
- Make history
- Every shoe has a story
- Create your own destiny
- Chase your dreams in style
- Walk free
- Live better, run faster.
- Make a difference
- Be yourself
- Take an adventure
- This is it
- Take the reins.
- Street To Beach
- Walking Free Since [Date Established]
- Explore Forever.
- The adventure never stops
- Love the way you look, cherish the way you feel
- The limit does not exist
- Explore More
- Have it all
- Open Your Universe
- The world is yours
- Let's roll
- For every generation
- Move more
- Awake your true "sole"
- For a better day
- Be extraordinary
- Walk like a queen
- Go anywhere
- It's the shiny things that count
- Better style, smaller footprint
- Better. Faster. Stronger
- Made with the earth in mind.
- Let's be fearless together.
- Comfort is beauty
- Express yourself
- Stroll on
- Keep on rollin'
- Kick your feet up.
- Back it up.
- Every Day. Every Night.
- Go Your Own Way
- For the glory days
- Brighter days ahead
- Underfoot Is What We Do
- From Blacken To Achromatic
- Red Hot Step.
- From Incorrect To Precise
- Building The Future
- Get Busy With The Shoe.
- Clog Is What We Do
- What Can Shoe Do For You?
- Anyone Can Handle Shoe.
- Shoe - The Revolution.
- Step Is My Sport.
- Be Consistent
- There's Only One True Step!
- And On The Eighth Day, God Created Foot.
- Don't Live A Little, Live A Foot.
- The Ultimate Foot Machine.
- Step Know-How.
- Hoof It Is What We Do
- Steps With Decision
- Free Shoe For All.
- Mild Green Step Liquid.
- Mild Green Step Liquid.
- Linear Metrical Foots Are What We Do
The eCommerce Business Model
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.
Gia Paddock, founder of Boutique Rye explains the 3 reasons why she decided to build an online store:
I wanted to find something I loved but also allowed me to stay home at the same time. While I was working at this local boutique, I realized that there was a lot of sitting around during the day when other people were out working. Therefore, an online business seemed like the best route for a few reasons:
- We didn’t have the extra funds sitting around to pay sign a year or two-year lease at a brick & mortar location.
- I realized the opportunity to reach a wider audience online compared to the audience of this small local boutique. For us, it seemed like hitting two birds with one stone.
- And finally (maybe the most important of all), running it as an online-only business would allow me to stay at home with Riley!
Learn more about starting a shoe brand:
Where to start?
-> Other shoe brand success stories
-> Examples of established shoe brand
-> Marketing ideas for a shoe brand
-> Shoe brand slogans
-> Shoe brand names
-> Shoe brand Instagram bios
-> Shoe brand Instagram captions
🎬 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 = $62
- The estimated maximum starting cost = $52,873
|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 use for your business and give money to the landlord. To minimize costs, you may want to consider starting your business from home or renting an office in a coworking space.||$0||$5,750|
|Utility Costs For Office Space: Utility costs are the expense for all the services you use in your office, including electricity, gas, fuels, telephone, water, sewerage, etc.||$0||$1,150|
|WiFi & Internet: Whether you work from home or in an office space, WiFi is essential. Although the cost is minimal in most cases, it should be appropriately budgeted for each month!||$0||$100|
|Total Office Space Expenses||$0 (min)||$7,000 (max)|
|Employee & Freelancer Expenses|
|Payroll Costs & Fees: Payroll cost means the expense of paying your employees, which includes salaries, wages, and other benefits. 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.||$150||$250|
|Employee Hiring Expenses: Apart from payroll and benefits, there are other hiring employees costs. This includes the cost to advertise the job, the time it takes to interview candidates, and any other turnover that may result from hiring the wrong candidate.||$1||$2|
|Employee Rewards: It's vital to acknowledge and reward workers, whether they hit their goals or do a great job. This does not have to be costly. In fact, simply taking workers out to a meal or giving a gift or bonus is among the many ways to show how the worker is valued!||$0||$100|
|Total Employee & Freelancer Expenses||$151 (min)||$352 (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.||$10||$500|
|Web Designer: 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|
|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|
|Business Email Hosting Service: An email hosting runs a dedicated email server. Once you have your domain name, you can set up email accounts for each user on your team. The most common email hosts are G Suite and Microsoft 365 Suite. The number of email accounts you set up will determine the monthly cost breakdown.||$1||$15|
|Website Hosting Costs: Server hosting is an IT service typically offered by a cloud service provider that hosts the website information and allows remote access through the internet. A hosted server can help you scale up and increase your business’s efficacy, relieving you from the hassles of on-premise operations.||$0||$300|
|Website & Live Chat Tool: If your business values high-end customer service, you must consider utilizing a website chatbot. Website chatbots play a pivotal role in converting site visitors into long-term customers. Typically, there are different tiers of pricing and features offered by Live Chat service providers.||$0||$200|
|Total Website Costs||$223 (min)||$7,215 (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)|
|Total Starting Costs||$62 (min)||$52,873 (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.
Raising Money For Your Shoe Brand
Here are the most common ways to raise money for your shoe brand:
You may not need funding for your shoe brand.
In fact, many entrepreneurs take this approach when starting their own business, whether they have a little amount of cash or a substantial amount to get started.
So what exactly does the term "bootstrapping" mean?
This method essentially refers to self-funding your businesswithout external help or capital and reinvesting your earnings back into the business**
Bootstrapping means building your company from the ground up with your own, or your loved ones, personal savings and reinvesting all earnings back into the business
Here are some tips to consider when bootstrapping your business:
- Use your savings as your capital - one of the best ways to bootstrap your business is to collect your savings and use them as startup capital. This will also help you avoid using your personal or business credit cards when getting started.
- Determine exactly how much capital you need and how much capital you have to get your business off the ground. Generally, when bootstrapping your business, you may want to consider starting a business that involves less startup capital.
- Consider starting a business that will generate immediate returns so you can put money back into the business
- Be as lean as possible - this refers to cutting down expenses as much as possible, such as payroll, fancy software tools, unnecessary travel, renting an office, etc
- Consider outsourcing instead of hiring - in the beginning, you may not need to hire someone permanently to help run your business. It tends to be much less expensive to outsource work to a freelancer and hire someone permanently down the road!
Want to learn more about bootstrapping your business? Check out this article
VC funding is a traditional and long process, but an effective way to raise money for your business.
The term "VC funding" refers to venture capital firms investing in businesses in exchange for equity.
The VC's (venture capitalists) are an individual or small group investing in your business and typically require substantial ownership of the business, with the hope of seeing a return on their investment.
VC's are typically the best approach for businesses with high startup costs - where it would be very difficult to raise the money on your own or through a loan.
When deciding whether to take this approach, it's important that you have a few things in place first, and know what you're getting yourself into:
Determine if your business is ready
Having an idea is not enough to get VC funding.
Typically, VC's will check to make sure you have these things in place prior to closing any deal:
- An MVP (Minimal Viable Product)
- A founding team with all proper documents in place (articles of organization, business formation)
- A validated idea with actual customers buying your product/service
Get everything in place and build a pitch deck
A VC individual or firm will be expecting a fine-tuned presentation that gives an overview of your business.
Here's what you should consider including in your pitch deck:
- Management team, their previous experience + current roles in the business
- Market challenge and solution
- Company financials - including a P&L statement, cash flow statement, and projections
- Company progress
- Investment amount - how much do you need and why?
Research the right VC to fund your business
Research the types of VC investors out there and what niche they focus on.
Then, put together a list of target VC's you want to approach and your strategy around setting up meetings.
Be sure you have everything in place (as discussed above) before setting up any meeting!
Make sure the terms and expectations are right for your business
Committing to VC funding is a big deal and a decision that should not be made lightly.
Although the money and experience from VC's can help your business quickly grow, you are also giving away a stake in the company, and the money comes with strings attached.
Be sure you do your due diligence in finding the right investor - one that truly believes in the growth and success of your business.
What Skills Do I Need To Succeed In Starting A Shoe Brand?
As a shoe brand, there are several essential skills and characteristics that are important to identify prior to starting your business.
Let’s look at these skills in more detail so you can identify what you need to succeed in your day-to-day business operations:
Self Motivation Skills
Self motivation and discipline skills are critical in order to become successful in this field.
It's likely that you will find yourself starting and running your shoe brand from home, which could mean there are more distractions for you.
Here are the basic skills needed for self motivation & discipline:
- Becoming a self starter: It's important that you are capable of independently completing a task without the help or direction of anyone else
- Listening and following directions: When you are given direction by others, it's critical that you are able to follow directions and ask the right questions in order to get your job done
- Taking the initiative in problem solving: Instead of taking the easy route, you'll need to learn to troubleshoot issues on your own as much as possible.
Customer Service Skills
Friendly communication with customers and the ability to address service issues is a critical part of the job.
Here are some customer service skills you may want to consider prior to starting a shoe brand:
- Professionalism: The way you act, present yourself, and respond to situations all leave an impression on your customer. It's important to stay professional at all times when handling customer requests or issues.
- Problem-solving: When issues arise, it's important that you are able to think quick on your feet and address the situation with a calm and clear solution
- Friendly-manner: This is an obvious one, but customers truly appreciate someone that can respond in a quick, efficient, and friendly manner.
- Proficient in writing: These skills include the ability to write well-crafted emails, service tickets, and any other programs used by the business (ie. chat functions, SMS texting)
Business Savvy Skills
When starting a shoe brand, there are a few fundamental business skills you will want to learn in order to be successful:
- Leadership and training skills: A great team starts with YOU. Make sure you have all company policies and training procedures in place prior to hiring your team
- Decisive and self-confident: Over the course of your career, you will need decisions that could impact your business significantly. It's important you are able to think clearly and rationally about these decisions.
- Ability to understand the financials: You don't need to be an accountant, but it is important that you are able to clearly understand and define metrics such as expenses, revenue, profit, margins, COGS, etc.
- Strategic Thinking: Setting clear goals and benchmarks, identifying opportunities, risks. Ability to effectively communicate these insights to your team.
These are a few of many business savvy skills you should have (or work on) when starting a shoe brand.
For a full list, check out this article here.
Advice For Starting A Shoe Brand
We've interviewed thousands of successful founders at Starter Story and asked what advice they would give to entrepreneurs who are just getting started.
Here's the best advice we discovered for starting a shoe brand:
Kartik Gurmule, founder of KASA ($80K/month):
One should never fear failures.
Read the full interview ➜
Steven Sashen, founder of Xero Shoes ($4M/month):
If you’re a true entrepreneur, there’s no way I can convince you not to start your own business (no matter how bad your idea may be)
Read the full interview ➜
Steven Sashen, founder of Xero Shoes ($4M/month):
Be on the lookout for evidence that what you believe is WRONG and be ready to change directions, or pull the plug on something, rather than sticking to your hope that things will work out the way you want them to.
Read the full interview ➜
Steven Sashen, founder of Xero Shoes ($4M/month):
Know your numbers inside out and backward so you can make informed decisions about what and when you can spend money to support your business.
Read the full interview ➜
Bret Rasmussen, founder of KURU Footwear ($/month):
We upped our cadence from 3 sends per week to 5 sends per week to our engaged audience and doubled our revenue via that move.
Read the full interview ➜
Matthew Walters, founder of CODDI ($2K/month):
My life changed my senior year of college when we did our senior thesis. Instead of designing one product like everyone else, I decided to try and stand out by designing an entire company. I instantly fell in love with building something massive from the ground up.
Read the full interview ➜
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
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.
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.
How Do I Pay Myself As A Small Business Owner?
Most entrepreneurs start a business to do something they love- but at the end of the day, you still have bills to pay (maybe now more than ever).
But it's important to strike the right balance - if you pay yourself too much, you could be putting your business at risk.
There are two common ways to pay yourself as a business owner:
1. Owner's Draw
Many entrepreneurs pay themselves through an owner's draw. This means that you are technically sean as "self-employed" through the eyes of the IRS and are not paid through regular wages.
At the point that you collect money from the draw, taxes typically are not taken out - so make sure you are prepared to pay these taxes once you file your individual return.
As an owner who takes a draw, you can legally take out as much as you want from your equity.
This type of compensation is suited for Sole props, LLCs, and partnerships. If you’re an S corp, you can pay yourself through both a salary and draw if you choose.
If you decide to pay yourself a salary, you will receive a set and recurring amount. This will be taxed by the federal government and the state you reside in.
The reality is that it can be really complicated to set your own salary, so we have some tips for you to consider:
- Take out a reasonable amount that allows you to live comfortably but also sets your business up for success
- Consider the number of hours you are working weekly + the type of duties you are performing.
- Set your salary based on your industry-standard, location, and profits (or projected profits)
- Look at your P&L statement: Deduct your own pay from that amount. This is important so you can first tackle important business expenses, and then pay yourself from the amount leftover.
- Pick a payroll schedule (and stick to it)! In the US, it's most common to pay yourself and employees twice a month.
To learn more about how to pay yourself and what is a reasonable amount, check out this article.
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.
Understanding Your Costs
Example from Ishan, founder of Ugly Duckling
First objective: profitability
Our profitability is OK at this point but definitely not where it should be yet. To this day I have not paid myself a regular salary yet...and it’s been 4 years!
The problem is not the cost of goods which are well under 20% of sales, which is good by any standard. The problem is fulfillment costs. In 2018 we transitioned from our first fulfillment company to a much bigger company. We did this because we wanted to provide faster shipment speeds and a better quality of packaging. In hindsight, we chose a company which would have been more suitable for a larger company with bigger volumes. We ended up being tied in with some pretty large minimum monthly payments. So currently fulfillment costs are currently around 45% of sales...way too high.
We are now looking to transit to another fulfillment center. Our target is to get our fulfillment costs down to around 30% of sales which I believe from what I have researched, is possible.
Just to be clear, when I say fulfillment that includes transportation costs also - FedEx, USPS, etc. Not just storage, picking, and packing. I am pretty sure that it is possible to get fulfillment costs down even lower, and I suspect that some large pro sellers on amazon.com work with around 20-25% of sales.
So our target P+L for 2020 looks something like this:
- Cost of goods, including inbound freight and clearance - around 22% of sales.
- Fulfillment - around 30% of sales.
- Digital Advertising & Promotion - around 15% of sales.
- Other marketing and office costs, including salary costs - around 10% of sales.
- That would leave us around 23% of sales - enough to pay me a liveable salary and for the company to make a profit and finance future growth.
That's the first objective for 2020: to right-size the P+L so that we are profitable at our current sales level
Gross Margin Calculator: How to Calculate The Gross Margin For Your Shoes
Our calculator is designed to be simple and easy to use.
The goal is to help you set realistic expectations and understand what is considered a healthy gross margin for your shoe brand.
What Type Of Customers Will Buy Your Shoes
It's important to first establish who you will be selling to, whether it's to businesses or consumers.
Typically, in this industry, products are sold to B2C markets (business-to-consumer).
Let's take a look at what this means for your shoe brand:
B2C (or business to consumer) is a transaction where businesses sell their products or services to the consumer directly.
In this market, consumer behavior is the primary driver for your business decisions - so it's important that you truly identify who your customer is, and what their buyer habits are when building your product/service.
B2C is that you are able to cast a very wide net when targeting your customers. Your product may interest a large number of consumers or a specific niche.
B2C is that consumers hold all the power - so if your website is not the most user friendly, or does not rank in the top search results on Google, chances are, your customer is going to shop elsewhere.
When building your shoe brand, it's critical that you hone in on who your target audience is, and why they need your product over your competition.
Here are some items to consider when identifying your buyer persona:
Design A Prototype
Turning your idea into a reality can feel like a daunting task - but it's critical that you have an idea of what your product will look like (even if it's just a sketch) prior to finding a manufacturer.
Here are some common ways you can design your prototype:
- Draw Your Initial Design on Paper
- Form pieces of fabric together
- Consider Taking A Generic Product And Putting Your Own Brand On It
- Try Making the Product Yourself
- Consider Building A Prototype With A 3D Printer
To learn more about how to design and prototype a product, check out our latest guide here.
Drew McNamara, founder of Creative Souls dives deep into the process of designing and prototyping their product:
When Creative Souls was in its idea phase, we had artists hand paint on shoes that we purchased from Amazon. As soon as we were able to purchase our direct to garment printer, we started the search process to find shoes that were high quality and look awesome. 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.
Our first order of 1,000 pairs of shoes was made in December 2018 and we received it in the middle of May 2019. Although I was nervous because you never truly know what you will receive, I was extremely happy with our first batch of shoes. Occasionally while I am pulling shoes to print, I will find a shoe that has threads missing or dents on the soles, which I am unable to use. Another concern I had was if the shoes would be true to size. The shoes fit true to size and I’ve had very few customers exchange them.
The thousand pairs of shoes in my garage!
All orders are completed in house by myself (Drew) using our direct to garment printer. The printer we use is called the Brother GTX-4. A new GTX-4 costs more than $25,000. Color ink cartridges (CMYK) and white ink cartridges can cost more than a few hundred dollars in total. Now that I own the printer, ink is definitely the most costly aspect of the business. An important part of the process is using a heat press as well. A high-quality heat press can cost close to $1,000 or higher. And lastly, we recently purchased a pretreatment machine which was a few thousand dollars. Pretreatment is a solution that is used to help white ink adhere to shirts that we print on. It is an essential part of when we print on shirts that are not the color white.
Over the course of a year, I went from knowing a bare minimum about the printing process to having extensive knowledge in this area. However, I find that I learn something new each and every day. In order for Creative Souls to get started, it cost about $45K. One option we had was to have another company print our shirts, but the goal of Creative Souls is to hire people with disabilities in all areas of the business. We want to provide opportunities for these individuals to complete the printing process. As of now, I complete the printing process, packaging, shipping, etc. but I am hopeful I will have help soon! Also, most printing companies do not do shoes, which is our main product. Therefore, we went with going the route of purchasing the printer and everything else necessary along with it. If you want to go through a printing company, you can start a shirt company for less than $5K.
The designs printed onto our shoes and apparel all come from our artists with disabilities. They create all their art on their own at home, a studio, or wherever they would like. Their designs can be created on a piece of paper, digitally, or any canvas. After the artists have completed their design, we ask them to send a high-quality photo or file in a PNG or JPEG format. As soon as we receive it, we determine if any part of the image needs to be transparent. If we feel that it does, we send it over to a designer on Fiverr which takes a day or two to get back to us. In order to print, we have to line up the shoes or shirts on a structure called a platen within the printer. The designs are uploaded onto a software application on my laptop where I align the design exactly where we want to print it. As soon as we press print, it takes approximately 1-2 minutes depending on how much ink is used for the print. We started with eight artists and about twenty different designs. Recently, we added more artists from agencies that work with people with disabilities and hope to add many more artists with amazing abilities!
Don’t let others tell you that you can’t do something. You have to believe in yourself and really be willing to put in the work.
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:
Manufacturing Your Product In House
It's also very common to manufacture your shoes on your own - either from your home or in a commercial space.
In order to get the product right, you may want to consider experimenting with different designs and recipes until you find the perfect one.
Some founders choose to manufacture their product in-house so that they can control quality, manage costs, and easily handle production/logistics.
Down the road, you can always choose to outsource your shoes.
Leslie Eisen, founder of AlmondClear discusses how to manufacture products in house
If you want to start a line of unique products, then you have two basic options: you can make them yourself, or you can find a manufacturer to work with that creates custom formulations for their clients.
I knew that I was trying to build a larger-scale business and that the home-made model wasn’t right for me, so I had to find the right manufacturing partner. It took a lot of research, phone calls, and emails before I found the laboratory that met my needs.
I wanted to create unique products (as opposed to private label), so I worked with the manufacturer’s chemist who specializes in skin care formulations. This process takes some time!
First, you have to tell the chemist what kind of product you’re looking for, the ingredients that you want to include or leave out, and what you want the final product to look like/feel like/smell like, etc.
Then, the manufacturer sends you the first sample, you try it out or give it to others to try, and then provide feedback for revisions. In my case, the first two products came together fairly easily because I only needed to make small changes to stock formulations.
There are many, many rules and regulations around cosmetics and skin care products. If you want to sell products that contain FDA regulated ingredients then you have to register and get a permit.
My products aren’t FDA regulated, so I didn’t have to go through this step, but I did have to be aware of the many guidelines and standards around labeling and safety warnings. Some people hire a lawyer to help them through this process, but my manufacturer was able to guide me through the regulatory process.
The entire process, from researching labs to work with to having the first finished products shipped out to me, took around six months.
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.
Erin Hooley, founder of Bailey's Blossoms tells us how poor inventory projections led her to lose over $2M
When we first launched Peyton Bre we did so in a social or direct sales model.
Through poor inventory projections we were forced to change models but only after losing $2 million dollars.
It was a devastating time for us and one we were not sure we could survive.
I have since become very intentional about the way that we project our inventory needs and we continue to refine that quarterly and even monthly. We have created a KPI for the cost of goods sold to help us hold ourselves accountable.
Ultimately, the better we manage our inventory the less we have need to discount and the healthier our profit margin becomes.
This is, of course, a very high-level overview of the importance of inventory control.
To see the full breakdown on how to manage inventory, check out my guide over on my blog..
🚀 How To Launch Your Shoe Brand
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.
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.
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.
- Build hype with a landing page: you can effectively do this through waiting lists, discounts, countdown timer etc
- Create a teaser video: even just a 30 second video is a great way to exposure for your shoe brand, and possibly even go viral
- Reach out to influencers: The right influencer for your product has the ability to reach your audience with just one post, and because of their loyal following, this could lead to a big return for you.
- Get Press: Whether you plan a PR stunt or get exposure through a popular news outlet, this is a great way to attract initial customers
- Launch on popular sites: A great way to get buzz about your shoe brand is to submit your launch to popular startup sites.
Here are a few popular sites to launch on:
Learn more about how to launch your business successfully ➜ here
Lisa Will, founder of Stonz dives deep into the process of launching the business:
It was now 2004, and I saw a need in the market for stay-on footwear for kids with chubby feet, who loved being on the go, like me! After searching the market in Whistler and my hometown Vancouver, I didn't find any footwear that would stay-on, go on quickly and easily, and be warm enough to be out for hours at a time. I met up with a friend who had taken a slipper and shrunken it down and I could see it would stay on. I knew I wanted to pursue this idea and I knew I’d be solving a problem. I felt I could run with this. I asked if she wanted to start a business with me. She lived in a different city and she hadn’t had any intention of starting a business. She said she’d think about it and get back to me. A few weeks went by and I was ready to jump into this with both feet. She eventually got back to me and said yes, she wanted to join me.
We incorporated, choosing the name Stonz for a shortened and more Google-friendly version of stay-on. And a name that didn’t sound like a feminine product with wings! I wanted a strong, grounded name that would enable our boots to become an eponym, like Kleenex, Bandaid, or Xerox. A “pair of Stonz” I thought sounded perfect!
Stonz’s initial product launched late in 2004. It was our stay-on bootie that would go over whatever the child was wearing on his/her feet. This could be onesies, knit booties, slip-on baby shoes. Any footwear. And with a fleece lining it could also be worn as main footwear as well as footwear to go over something.
Our first tradeshow was in September 2004 in Vancouver; the Vancouver Gift Show and the Stonz Bootie was introduced. I had returned to work by then but pursued Stonz business in all my spare time and weekends. I was excited to have gained 10 retail accounts with only prototypes from the tradeshow. I knew Stonz was going to have legs to it. The feedback and questions showed me where we need to tweak, do some more work, and keep going.
In 2005 and 2006 I put my sales hat on and hit the road on weekends and after work. My dream was now in action. I wanted to get us into as many retailers as possible and attend as many tradeshows as I could manage. It was mostly me doing the trade shows as my business partner didn’t live in Vancouver and hadn’t chosen to get care for her 3 kids. I was working out of my basement and my garage, creating sewing kits from pieces I had cut for us locally by laser and dies then put together in kits of 50 pairs. I hand-delivered these kits to sewers around Vancouver. I would pick up the almost-finished product from sewers after work, often from somewhat undesirable locations within the city sadly, and finish the product off in my den and living room with trims and packaging. I was so sleep deprived that during a bootie kit drop-off at one of the most drug trafficked corners in Vancouver, I closed the doors to my VW Van and locked my sleeping infant in the van. Panicked, I called BCAA to come to my rescue and free Mikayla. As I stood there looking distraught, a kind-hearted, ex B&E specialist as it turned out, jimmied and unlocked my door, freeing her within minutes! I don’t think she even woke up. It showed me that everyone has a good heart within and I was never as nervous again dropping booties at this sewer’s postal code.
Once I picked the booties back up, they needed to be checked, toggles placed on the boots in some cases, labeled and packaged. They needed to be safe. I knew QC was crucial especially with Children’s products. I began selling locally in Vancouver, Canada for the first year. We added our website in 2006 which attracted some attention. We had a business I was fulfilling from other countries that had found the booties on the web. We were fulfilling retail orders as well as consumer orders nightly from the basement.
Stonz grew into needing more than me driving around to and from sewers; it needed centralization. We need a space with sewers in it, directed daily on what to make. I had had a second child in August of 2005; a daughter named Mikayla. With a year of maternity leave I worked hard to expand the business both on the retail and wholesale side. I returned to work part-time in 2006, worked on both businesses until July of 2007. I decided to give notice to my employer as I could no longer manage both employment and business and spend enough time with my kids. After all - what I had been striving for was freedom to be with my kids!
Stonz needed more space. In 2008 we moved into a large industrial space off Commercial Drive in Vancouver where we would produce and ship all the booties. I was needed there every day.
At the same time the partnership was no longer working; physical distance between us meant she was rarely in Vancouver, the imbalance of work on me and my long term vision for the brand was very different from hers. This was taking its toll on us both. Either one of us could have purchased the business per our agreement and she declined. I purchased it in September of 2008. I was keen to move ahead with other products like Mitts and Bootie Liners as soon as I could. I had a clear vision for Stonz and I needed it put into place quickly.
We launched kid and parent-friendly stay-on mitts in 2009 along with liners for the booties. Norway had been asking for some time for us to make a liner to go inside our versatile shell. We later added natural rubber rain boots to our collection and also the lightest weight kids winter boots on the market in 2012.
I wanted Stonz to be the largest kid-centric brand for children’s outwear. My motto soon became Stonz’s motto; get outside no matter the weather! It’s similar now but a hashtag; #makingoutsideeasy. This way parents and kids would be their happiest, share time together that you never get back and build a relationship and bond for the future.
In 2012, I saw the need to move overseas if we were going to continue expanding. This was bumpy but I did it. We moved to a new location where we housed our product and did our sales, marketing, and fulfillment from there. We expanded our team which was a very keen group of young people doing their best at building something we all had never built before. For them I will forever be thankful. To this day I stay in touch with them.
In 2015 I knew running a logistics warehouse was in itself its own business. We were outgrowing our space and having to expand our equipment to be efficient. I made the decision we would grow our sales and marketing departments and let go of fulfillment.
We moved our goods in 2015 into a third-party logistics warehouse and moved into a funky office space downtown Vancouver where we began a new path of becoming sales and marketing focused. This was the right decision but as the learning continued and in sometimes costly ways, I knew we needed to rebuild our team with both experience and systems. We took sales in-house and hired a marketer. We were on the right track but continued learning what was working and what was not. We still needed to focus operationally before expanding so quickly in sales and marketing.
With the brand now 15 years old it also needed more than me as its idea generator and designer. Stonz has been through the start-up phase in my basement, then the growth of the brand and figuring out where it fits. I called this phase 2. For this next level, 3.0, I sought an external firm to help me revamp the business and launch it again. We have been working for one year with them and the changes have been phenomenal … bringing laughter, excitement, and optimism into our team and business.
It has been challenging. I won’t tell you I’ve been through anything harder. When we succeed in our vision of being a top recognized brand for offering the best solutions when heading outside for both kids and their parents, that is when I will know we have made it.
The team and I are filled with excitement and optimism right now. We are grateful for our trials and tribulations that showed us how, and how not to, move forward. I am thankful for the structure and framework built over the years, allowing us to more easily move Stonz to a bigger dream. Here we come...Stonz 3.0!
Lastly and in reflection, I am eternally grateful to the team members past and present who over the years helped build Stonz to what it is today, helping bring my vision to life. Adding thoughtful new products to our line, expanding our market footprint, expanding our amazing team through careful selection, and selling internationally in over 16 countries. With gratitude.
My mission became to make well-made goods that could be passed on to other children. My mission was to both fill a gap now as well as keep our product out of the landfill.
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
Sheets & Giggles explains the motive behind their "Premium Unboxing Experience"
I had a particular vision for our packaging centered around one goal: because we were a DTC company and wouldn’t do physical retail in year 1, we needed to focus entirely on an incredible unboxing experience that made the product feel as premium as possible.
Outside: a white box, nice wax coating, logo front and center with no other copy, easy to open, nice and sturdy.
Inside: make people smile from the get-go, have a social call-to-action, include free extra surprises (a knapsack that wraps the sheets and an eye mask), put funny copy all over the place, and add a donation bag that people could use to donate their now-defunct cotton sheets (sheets & blankets are the #2-most-requested item at shelters behind socks).
Get Press Coverage For Your Shoe Brand
The more buzz around your brand - the more the phones ring, the more traffic to your website, and the more customers as a result.
Here are a few ways you can get press for your business:
Press releases are a great way to share big announcements or news, but in order to get any traction, you'll need to find a way to make your press release stand out amongst others.
Try to convey a story that really matters, not just to you, but to the reporter and to their audience.
Here are some things to consider when submitting a press release:
- Craft a catchy subject (keep it short and sweet).
- Acknowledge the journalist's past work and interests - this is key!
- Include the main point of the story in the first paragraph, heck, even the first sentence. Reporters want to hear the juice first and foremost.
- Focus on the facts and try to limit the amount of jargon used.
- Pitch yourself! Help them put a face to the story.
- Make sure your topic is newsworthy. If it's not, find a way to!
- Try not to include any attachments of your release!
Email is one of the most effective and preferred way to send your press release, so as long as you keep your pitch brief, interesting and personalized (no cold emails), you should stand a chance!
Get Press Using HARO
HARO, otherwise known as "Help a Reporter Out" is an outlet for journalists to source upcoming stories and opportunities for media coverage.
The best part is, HARO is free to use! There are, of course, premium versions you can purchase, but the free version is still an accessible way to get press.
Once you set up an account, HARO essentially will email you based on stories (that are relevant to you) that need to be covered where you will then have a chance to essentially "bid on the story."
Here are some tips when crafting your pitch:
- Discuss your experience and expertise in the space. Make sure it's obvious why you're relevant to this story.
- Answer the question in 3-4 sentences. Try and be as direct as possible
- Offer to provide the reporter with more information and make sure to give them your contact info
Plan a Publicity Stunt
Planning a publicity stunt is an effective and quick way to raise awareness for your brand and gain some traction from the press.
If you're looking to plan a stunt, the objective should be to be bold and create something memorable
However, being bold has a fine line - it's important that you consider the timing of your stunt to ensure you don't come off insensitive or unethical. For example, timing may not be in your favor if you plan something during the general election, or in most recent cases, a global pandemic.
In order to measure the success of your stunt, it's important that you first determine your end goal, for example:
- Is the stunt aimed to raise money for your business or a particular organization?
- Is the stunt aimed to drive more traffic to your website?
- Is the stunt aimed to get more followers and engagement on Instagram?
Here are a few tips for creating a great publicity stunt:
- Research to ensure that there haven't been similar stunts done in the past by other businesses - this could easily turn off journalists and your audience.
- Make sure you can explain the stunt in one headline - this will help grab the media's attention. In other words, simplify!
- The stunt should be related to the product you are promoting. Even if the stunt is a success in terms of viewers, but it doesn't tie back to your original goal, then it's not useful.
- Keep the stunt visual with videos/images.
- Leverage the internet and social media platforms for your stunt by sharing your message across a variety of audiences. This will help with word of mouth and the overall success of your event.
To learn other strategies on how to get press, check out our full guide here.
🌱 How To Grow Your Shoe Brand
Consider Selling On Amazon
In addition to selling your products directly on your site, you may want to consider selling on Amazon to reach a wider audience and attract new customers.
Here are some pros and cons of selling on amazon:
- Easy and seamless process to get your product listed on Amazon
- There are roughly 100 million thoroughly committed prime customers, so you're bound to tap into new business
- Can help grow your business exponentially and reach new audiences
- You may encounter some "copycats" and counterfeit products
- Amazon owns the relationship with the customer (you lose control over product reviews + customer service)
- If you already have a low-markup, amazon may not wrth your while and you could end up losing money
- Commissions and listing fees are high - it's easy to lose control of your offering
Follow these instructions to get your product listed on Amazon or check out the video below on how to get started:
Cory Stout, founder of Woodies ($250K/mo) provides us with specifics on how to rank better on amazon:
Our main product is walnut wood sunglasses that I sell for $25 on Amazon and Woodies.com.
I dedicated myself to becoming an Amazon expert. I listened to all the podcasts and read all the blog posts I could find. Shoutout EcomCrew I took the basic fundamentals that are out there and I added a couple of my own twists.
Amazon brings me, 100 brand new customers, every day for very little acquisition cost. If I tried that on my own, it would take a TON of work and it wouldn’t be nearly as effective as Amazon, so I took the easy road on this one.
Here's an article I wrote on how to rank better on amazon (30+ Tips):
- Beautiful images (minimum 5 images) especially lifestyle images I use UpgradedImages.com for product photography (hey Ken!)
- Keywords in your title (but it still needs to sound human)
- Competitive price (contributes to high conversion rate)
- NOT having 1-star reviews
- DON'T STOCKOUT: it's such a killer and if you DO stockout, definitely DON'T raise your price right before you do, if anything LOWER your price for the last 10-20 units before you stockout, each ASIN has a 'memory' for when you do get back in stock so that will help you regain ranking quickly
- DON'T VIOLATE AMAZON TOS: just don't
- Perform QC on your stock before you send it in (I sent in a wrong box once and I had to 'remove' over 3,000 pieces so I could sift through them and remove the 150 contaminated pieces 0/7 would not recommend
4/5: Pretty Friggin Important
- Minimum 10 5-star reviews (do this before you do anything below this)
- Well optimized PPC campaigns (could do a whole post on this, keep ACOS under 40%) here's a screenshot of some of my campaigns I use a combination of manual campaigns with exact phrases and high bids...and auto campaigns with a broad range of products and very low bids
- Turning on FeedbackGenius for auto review requests (it's not as good as it used to be, but it's still worth it)
- Get a trademark and get Brand Registry, this protects you from hijackers and other unscrupulous sellers
- Quick response to customer messages (under 12 hours) here are my stats my mom does all my customer service "Employee of the Year" status
- Drive outside traffic (amazon loves outside traffic because they don't have to spend so much to acquire customers) Facebook, Instagram, and Google Adwords are the usual suspects
- Use ocean shipping to save mucho $$$ on unit costs (use flexport)
Read more about amazon tips here.
Consider Working With Instagram Influencers
Partnering with like-minded influencers (within your industry) is one of the most effective ways to grow your social media organically.
Industry influencers already have an established and loyal following. With one post, your product immediately establishes a connection with a brand new audience. It's that powerful.
When finding influencers to promote your product, do your research and make sure that their following will actually be interested in your product.
It's easy to be blinded by any influencer with a huge following, but if those followers don't resonate with your product, there may not be any value there... so make sure you do your research!
Evan Marshall, founder of Plain Jane discusses how "micro-influencers" have impacted his business:
Influencer marketing has been huge for us. Our approach is pretty simple. We give out samples of our products and ask people to post about us on social media aka a micro-influencer strategy.
We really like this approach because we get authentic stories and content. We cannot really control the messaging so the product has to speak for itself. We don’t really take product photos at all. Our customers take the photos and we ask to reuse them.
With any influencer strategy, you have to be very sure you’re targeting the right people and engaging with them. You can make sure you’re targeting the right influencers by looking through their posts and then looking through the profiles of their engaged followers.
It takes more time per influencer but the payoff is certainly worth it. Make sure their followers look like your existing customers.
It takes a ton of time and work to grow a social media following this way but it’s worth it. Other accounts have tried to grow themselves through botting or other manipulations. As a CBD company, we didn’t want to give Instagram any reason to shutdown our account so we’ve done everything through content and real engagement. It’s not magic to make this happen. You just have to post consistently and then reply or like every single comment you get. It takes months but it works
Experiment With Pay Per Click Ads (PPC)
Pay-per-click (PPC) is a performance-based marketing method that allows you to show specific ads for services or products oriented to a very defined target, with the goal that the user visits your website or landing page.
Here are some tips to consider:
- Consider connecting the ad to your corresponding landing page so that the audience receives the necessary information after clicking on the ad.
- Conversion Tracking: When running PPC campaigns, be sure to run the ads with conversion tracking.
- Focus on quality keywords, even if there are few as this will save you time and money. When assessing the performance of a keyword, it's important to track the expense, conversion, and cost per conversion, as well as the ROI.
PPC advertising can be a very important lead generator as long as it's done properly. Your PPC campaign is intended to drive traffic to your website and help the business scale.
Additionally, if the campaign is not having the desired results, you can make the necessary changes immediately to improve them.
Ryan Schortmann, founder of Display Pros talks about their investment in PPC Ads:
My name is Ryan Schortmann and I’m the founder of Display Pros. We are a custom trade show display booth company offering easy to use portable display “kits” for small and medium businesses wanting to get into the trade show game.
It did not take long to come to the realization that to compete at any reasonable level, we were going to need to take the plunge and invest in Pay Per Click ads and display.
From experience, I know that it is important to give Google’s hivemind some time to settle in before each campaign starts seeing consistent results (this is largely dependent on budget).
A certain amount of PPC budget must be viewed as a “marketing research” expense and then you can look at the analytics data and make informed decisions on where to refine, tweak or plain scrap an idea.
Google Shopping was an entirely new concept for me. You can’t assign keywords to products so at first, I was asking myself “How the hell do you refine these?”. Then I found some good reading material and courses and learned of some advanced methods that the pros are using. It turns out you can utilize negative keyword lists combined with the priority setting on each shopping campaign to “shape” the keywords that are coming in and how much you are spending on them.
To learn more about PPC Ads and Google Shopping, check out this video to learn everything you need to know!
Improve your SEO
SEO is not just about driving traffic to your site, it's about driving the RIGHT traffic to your site, and ultimately, converting leads into customers.
One of the most important aspects of SEO is understanding what your customers are searching for, otherwise known as "keyword research."
Here are some tools that can help you choose the right keywords for your shoe brand.
- Google Ads Keyword Planner invaluable for discovering search trends.
- Google Search Console is very helpful once your website is up as it shows you what words/phrases are generating traffic.
- Ahrefs and SEMRush are paid tools that allow you to look at results of your competitor's website.
Publish Great Content
Finding keywords is an important piece of the puzzle, but Google also ranks your site based on the actual content you produce, as this is what your customers are reading and engaging with.
There are various different "forms" of content that you may want to consider diversifying on your sites, such as blog posts, articles, studies, and videos.
So let's discuss what google considers "good content:"
- Length - This will vary depending on the page, however, generally having a sufficient amount of content helps search engines recognize that your site is a good source for a specific topic
- Engagement - The longer people stay on your website to read your content, the higher Google will rank your website. It's important to have informative and "thick" content that keeps people reading
- Avoid Duplicating Content - Google will recognize this and may consider your content to have low value
- Ensure pages load quickly - This will also help with engagement and time spent on your website
- Shareability - Create content that people want to share, and is easy for them to share, especially to their social media accounts (ie. "click to tweet" is a great example of this).
Another element of creating good content is creating consistent content.
If (and hopefully you are) publishing content frequently, it's important to stick to a schedule - this helps build brand trust and easy user experience with your customers.
Planning out your content with a content calendar is key to staying consistent.
Here are a few great content calendar tools that can help you:
Backlinks are an important piece to SEO, as they allow for other websites to link to your content.
Search engines recognize that other sites are essentially "verifying" your content and essentially rank you higher because of this.
Of course, some links are more valuable than others and can affect your site in different ways.
For example, if a highly valuable and credible site like the New York Times links to a page on your website, this could be remarkable from an SEO perspective.
Aside from organically getting mentioned from other sites, there are other ways that you can increase and earn backlinks:
- Create infographics with relevant data that people want to share
- Promote your content on different sites/look into "guest blogging"
- Contact influencers/journalists/bloggers and ask them to mention you!
- Write testimonials for other sites in exchange for a backlink
- Leverage existing business relationships
Build A Blog
One of the most effective ways to build brand awareness and grow your business is through consistently blogging.
We've outlined some useful tips for you to consider when creating content:
Consistency and Quantity
Quality is important, but it should be the standard for any content you publish.
What’s more important is consistency and quantity.
Consistency is as simple as committing to publishing and sharing a certain number of posts per week. For me, that’s three per week right now.
This kind of commitment is key, because one day, a random post will blow up, and you will have never expected it.
The easiest mind trap is to think "I’m posting too much", and “I need to give my readers/audience/this platform a break”.
This is nonsense.
There is no such thing as oversaturation. Well, there is, but it is just someone else’s opinion.
For every person that tells you you are posting too much, there is another person that wants even more of your content.
You should ignore people’s opinions on how much you post.
Patience & Persistence
Keep posting, keep trying, and keep putting out good content on the regular. Your time will come, and when it does, it will change everything.
The only thing you have control over is your content.
You can’t control how people will react to it. You can’t control pageviews, likes, or shares.
So the only metric you should focus on is how much content you can put out in a week, month, etc.
Where to share your blog content
I know it sounds obvious, but the best places to share your content is on your mailing list. It is guaranteed traffic and it is a great way to get rapid feedback from your most loyal readers.
Send newsletters often. I have done once a week since starting, and I’m moving to twice a week soon.
Work on increasing your mailing list as well. Look into ways to increase your conversion rate to your mailing list. I added a flyout popup thing to my site and now I’m collecting ~30 emails per day.
An email newsletter is one of the most powerful assets you can have and it is worth its weight in gold.
Reddit is one of my favorite places to promote content.
It is a very scary place because you will often get banned or heckled, but it can really pay off.
Create social media accounts for your blog, the main ones I use:
Twitter Facebook Instagram LinkedIn
Set up Buffer and share all of your blog posts to all of your accounts. All of these little shares really do add up.
Automate this as much as possible. I automated all of my social media for Starter Story.
When I started out, I put together a spreadsheet of relevant Facebook groups for my niche, and I would post to these groups whenever I had a big story I wanted to share.
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.
Dylan Jacob, founder of Brumate states their email collection tactic that is proven to work:
We use Spin-a-Sale for this (you spin a wheel for a discount code in exchange for subscribing to our email list). This has been the best email-collecting tool we have found because the customer truly feels like they won a prize rather than just a coupon code.
Even if a customer doesn’t convert right away, if we have their email we have a 19% chance of converting them into a future customer whether that is through future promotions, new releases, or simply just sending an email at the right time for a purchase to finally make sense for them.
We also have a return customer rate of over 14%, so one out of every 6 people we convert will end up buying from us again with an average order value of over $60.00.
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!
Abandonded Cart Flow
The abandoned cart workflow is one of the most effective strategies for turning your lead into a customer, and a powerful tool to have if you're an e-commerce business.
Think about all the times that you went on a shopping frenzy only to add items to your cart and then either forget or realize nows not the right time to pull the trigger.
Then, minutes later you receive an email saying "Hurry up! Your cart is waiting - and we want to provide you with 20% off your order."
Maybe that's the special touch (and discount) you needed to pull that trigger.
Implementing this workflow can automatically trigger this for your business every time a customer abandons their cart.
Here's a great example of an abandoned cart email from Brooklinen:
Things they do well:
- Showcase 5-star reviews from other customers
- Offer a small discount + free shipping
- Great design + clear call to actions!
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.
Emily Cassedy, founder of Blush Boutique Co explains how their Facebook strategy is the #1 way of attracting new customers:
Our biggest tool for attracting customers and then keeping repeat customers has been social media and word of mouth. We made sure our social media platforms were attractive, inviting, and not too in your face.
We set up an editorial type calendar for our Facebook posts that we still use to this day.
For example, every Tuesday we have a vote post where our followers can vote on an item that we will bring into the shop. Our customers and followers love this and chime when that piece that is voted on comes in, we already have a set amount of people that will come purchase it because they were able to be a deciding factor.
We also make sure to do a live Facebook video when we get new arrivals to show what came in that week. The supply and demand of a piece then draw in more customers, even if one of the new arrivals sells out, they are still coming in to see what else we have in the shop.
Founder Andy Hayes talks about mastering FB ads and the pixel:
The biggest bang for your buck will likely be mastering Facebook and it’s platform - which we all know is pay for play, so you’ll have to come up with a small amount of budget to start for marketing.
We’ve spent countless hours (and paid numerous coaches) before we cracked the code that works for us on Facebook, but it is working really well for us now.
Some of the most important things to know when it comes to FB Ads:
- Start with retargeting (that’s showing ads to people who already know you but did not purchase). Master this - and start building information on your Facebook Pixel - before you do anything else
- Once you have that down, try working with the 1% “Lookalike” audience to prospect for new customers. This may take awhile because your pixel audience is small, so try layering on interests - 1% Lookalike and your largest competitor, for example. Don’t use interest-only targeting until you master this.
- Great photography and videography is key, as is smart copy. Research what’s out there in your industry and constantly test - what works for one company may not work for other people.
- Make sure you have good offers. For example, we have a $5 trial for our subscription, which converts affordably - if we promoted our subscription with the standard $30 front charge, it wouldn’t be as cost-effective.
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.
Giveaway Example and Tips
Example from TJ Mapes, founder of RIPT Apparel
Our most recent successful giveaway was when we gave away a PS4 + the new Spiderman game. I hosted the giveaway on our site and then let our audience know about it via email/social channels.
Entrants earned different amounts of entries for entering in different ways (tongue twister!), for instance; enter via email, get 10 entries. Follow us on Facebook, get 5 entries. Subscribe on Messenger and get 25 entries.
I also built out a drip sequence in Klaviyo that contained four emails to encourage entrants to take more action, like referring friends and liking us on social.
Email #1: Thanks for entering!
Email #2: Explained how to earn bonus entries:
Email #3: About us
Email #4: Coupon for entering
This last email in the sequence just thanked them again for entering and also included a coupon to a specific (related) collection of designs with an expiration date on it to incentivize purchases.
PS4 Giveaway Results:
We ran it for 2 weeks and recorded results in a meticulous spreadsheet to analyze the data. Here are some of the highlights:
- Giveaway page pageviews - 67,355
- Total entrants - 26,137
- Conversion rate - 38.80%
- Total entrants in Klaviyo (not suppressed) - 24,515
- New emails acquired - 16,363
- Emails we already had - 7,521
- % of new emails - 66.75%
- Cost of item - $350
- Instagram visits - 10,618
- Instagram followers gained - 3,496 ( total followers lifted by 6.9% )
- Twitter followers gained - 4,194
🏃🏼♀️ How To Run Your Shoe Brand
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
Olguy Songolo, founder of the DIFFERENCE dives deep into the process of attracting and retaining customers:
We have learned so much it’s almost hard to know where to begin! One huge lesson has been the impact of disruption and getting attention to generating sales. Once, on a trip to California, I tried to sell the shoes I had with me on the boardwalk but met with no success, so I got creative. Walking into town, I rented a brand new Corvette, parked it right on the boardwalk, and started talking to every person who walked by.
Within a few hours, I had sold out the dozens of pairs I had with me. I bootstrapped throughout the city of Boston regularly, talking to runners by the Charles River and inviting them to try heelless technology. Another successful driver of sales has been trading shows, where potential customers are everywhere and looking to buy the next big thing.
With the pandemic, however, these in-person sales channels were no longer an option. So early in 2020, we made some big changes. First, we contracted with a programmer overseas to revamp our website. He updated the look and flow of the website, dramatically improving its appearance and useability. I also solicited the help of a few different digital marketing companies, since this is not my area of personal expertise. There were a couple of expensive failures, but about two months after almost giving up on social media marketing entirely, I found a new company called Trajex Digital Marketing that worked well with me and that I could afford, and the impact has been huge.
Since contracting with that company in July 2020 and another skilled partner a couple of months after that, we have tried all kinds of new online and offline channels. We put up new posts on Facebook and Instagram at least daily. These are a mix of content, mostly some variation of inspirational material, and pictures of the shoes either by themselves or worn by a model. Most often, we organize our posts into social media campaigns.
About once a month since September we’ve offered a promotion or sale of some kind, which typically last for a few weeks. Three campaigns have been run so far, each with a different theme.
September: Black Panther
This campaign evoked the tragic death of Chadwick Boseman and the ascension of the Black Lives Matter movement to push a message about Black excellence, which was the theme found throughout September’s posts. We offered a limited edition black shoe and promised to donate a portion of proceeds toward the Colon Cancer Foundation (colon cancer being what took Mr. Boseman’s life)
October: Black Friday
October’s campaign was all about Black Friday and our 40% off sale. This month’s campaign also involved email marketing, sending an email to all of our previous customers informing them personally about the sale and allowing them to access it before anyone else.
December: Christmas Sale
In December we focused on gift-giving, encouraging customers to buy the shoe for friends and family at our 20% discount and providing a countdown every day (“only 6 days left!!”, etc)
During each of these campaigns, we used a multi-prong strategy to generate sales:
- 3 posts per day on Instagram and Facebook (the usual content mix interspersed with posts about our specific promotion).
- 1 paid boost on Instagram about $150-300, spread across the length of the promotion. These boosts are targeted at our specific audience both geographically and in my interests.
- Paid ads on Facebook, $500-1,000.
- Paid shares on larger, well-engaged platforms on Instagram. We work with a number of them and negotiate with them to rates generally below $100 each depending on their reach.
With this combination, we’ve found our marketing cost to be between about 13-30% of revenue generated during these campaigns.
Some other great opportunities have presented themselves as well. A friend of mine who is an up-and-coming rapper produced a video heavily featuring our shoe in exchange for the DIFFERENCE promoting him.
Black Entertainment Television allowed us to appear in their holiday gift guide.
We also partnered with Afterpay, which allows customers to pay overtime for our shoes interest-free. This has been a huge driver of traffic, bringing in hundreds of more visitors to our website than any other link outside social media. In light of this, we advertise Afterpay in some way in nearly every post.
We’ve found that our biggest revenue driver is consistently Instagram, even when the level of investment is lower on that platform. The majority of sales directly from social media always come from Instagram, with a smaller portion arriving from Facebook, although the gap is closing. In all, between 25-50% of our sales each month come from social media sources, and the rest originate from direct links to the website and not specifically from a social media click.
It’s hard to gauge exactly how many of these are related to our social media advertising, but since we advertise exclusively on those platforms, it’s fair to say that nearly all of our sales are connected in some way to our Facebook and Instagram marketing.
An important question is “why do customers buy?” One big reason we are seeing is to support the Black business. Much of our targeting is directed towards individuals on platforms with a deep interest in supporting black-owned businesses, and those pages tend to generate sales. Others appear to buy the shoes because of the unique, flashy look.
Another segment, often those who reach out to us or are directly referred by a brand representative, purchase because of the potential health benefits for their running or exercise routines. These are the customers we have the greatest interest in, but they are also the hardest to capture, as most runners are pretty well stuck in their ways when it comes to what they choose to wear, especially something as utilitarian as running shoes. Educating the consumer is a huge part of our goals for the future.
While these strategies are working well to add new customers until very recently we had no clear path to retargeting previous ones. To take on this challenge, we created a text message campaign reaching out to most of our previous customers, which cost about $90 and generated a return close to $2000 even with a steep discount. The campaign was a flash sale, lasting only 25 minutes after being sent out. It was also advertised simultaneously on Instagram using a Big 9: 1 image split into 9 sections to take up 9 squares on our Instagram page. We followed the first sale with another late at night as a “last chance”.
No matter what we’re doing for a campaign, we try to do 3 things: Keep all content focused on the theme, use snappy captioning and catchphrases that stick in the reader’s brain, and choose bold images that take advantage of our colorful, unique product’s ability to stand out.
One strategy that did not work as well, was reaching out to local retailers to see if they’d consider making a wholesale purchase. With the product being so new, the times being uncertain, and not knowing whether a market existed, most retailers were uninterested. Another unfortunate attempt for us has been Pinterest, which generated only a single direct sale despite our recent large investment in the platform.
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
Diversifying Product Example: Joah Love
The future for JOAH LOVE is bright! Customers have been telling us that they’ve been coveting their kids’ wardrobes for years, and this season, we’re going to make a collection just for them with the launch of a new line for adults.
It will include Mommy + Me and Daddy + Me collections, complementary clothing for parents and their kids.
We’re also in the early stages of exploring clothing options for children with special needs. There’s growing demand for sensory-sensitive apparel to help outfit these children and support their parents, and we’re excited to reenvision how our incredibly soft materials can help these families.
Provide Great Customer Service
Providing exceptional care and creating relationships with clients is a great way to build your reputation and retain customers.
Whether you are an online business or a physical business, it's highly important to communicate with customers and make them feel like they are the priority.
Just remember: customer service represents your brand, values, vision and YOU as a person.
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.
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.
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 put together the best resources on the internet to help you start your shoe brand.
- Platform tools such as Shopify, WooCommerce, Amazon, Etsy, eBay or Google Shopping
- Email tools such as MailChimp, Klaviyo, ActiveCampaign, G Suite, Whatsapp or WeChat
- Social media tools such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Snapchat, Reddit, Medium, Tiktok, Vimeo or Later.com
- Advertising tools such as Facebook Ads, Instagram Ads, Google Adwords, Google AdSense, Twitter Ads, Amazon Ads or Google ads
- Design tools such as Canva, Adobe Suite or Affinity Designer
- Shipping tools such as ShipStation, Stamps.com, USPS, FedEx, Royal Mail, Amazon FBA, UPS, Canada Post or 2ship
- Analytics tools such as Google Analytics
- Productivity tools such as Google Suite, Dropbox, Slack, Asana, Microsoft Office 365, Notion, Doodle, NetSuite, WorkFlowy, Stickermule or Box
- Payments tools such as Paypal, Shopify Payments, Stripe, Amazon Payments, Square, Apple Pay or Venmo
- Customer service tools such as Zendesk, HelpScout or Tidio
- Blog tools such as WordPress
- Accounting tools such as Quickbooks
- Freelance tools such as Fiverr, Upwork or freelance.com
- Affiliate tools such as Refersion
- Crowdfunding tools such as Kickstarter
- App tools such as Gravity Forms
- Reviews tools such as Google My Business
- Web hosting tools such as GoDaddy
- Stock images tools such as Pexels
- Podcast tools such as Spotify
- Payroll tools such as Payworks
- Wholesale tools such as repzio or shopzio
- How to Start Your Own Shoe Company: A start-up guide to designing, manufacturing, and marketing shoes. (How shoes are Made): Wade Motawi
- 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
- Xero Shoes: Growing A Shoe Brand to $460K/month
- How Tanya Heath Invented Stilettos With Removable Heels
- How I Started A Business Selling Vegan Sneakers
- How I Built A $300K/Year Online Flip Flop Shop
- How I Started A Boot Brand And Raised $61K With No Paid Advertising
- How I Started A $80K/Month Luxury Shoes And Accessories Brand
- On Starting A Shoe And Apparel Brand With Designs From People With Disabilities
- How I Started A $185K/Month Baby And Children Vegan Footwear Brand
- How We Created A $65K/Month Healthy Children's Footwear Brand That Sells Almost Everything On Launch Day
- How I Created A $12.5K/Month Patented Heelless Running Shoe
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Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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