Heather Potter discovered a love of heels in her 20s and ended up accumulating over 200 pairs of shoes. Believing that you don’t need to sacrifice comfort for style and a love of animals led to the creation of an animal-friendly shoe store. Leaders in Heels caught up with the shoe expert to learn more…
Don’t miss the fantastic pair of shoes Shoe Envy is offering one lucky reader – details on how to enter the competition below the post
1. How did you come up with the business idea?
When I was younger, I was a hardened tomboy and determined not to be a girl. I believed that nobody needed more than four pairs of shoes – a black pair, a brown pair, and two pairs of basketball shoes – one for training and one for competition!
Sometime in my 20s, I discovered the awesome power of a pair of killer heels and this set me on a slippery slope towards my future as a shoe mogul. My dad even started calling me Imelda Marcos after I ended up collecting over 200 pairs of shoes currently living in floor-to-ceiling bookshelves!
One day I was sitting on the couch with my boyfriend, listening to him lament that he wanted to start an e-commerce business but he didn’t know what to sell. I casually said, “If it was me, I’d sell shoes”. It was like a thunderbolt – we both realised immediately that we had the perfect partnership. I would manage the product development and branding and he could deliver the IT solutions. Six weeks later, I was meeting suppliers. Within six months, we launched Shoe Envy.
2. How do you create the designs for the shoes?
I like to design shoes that have a spirit of adventure about them; bold, statement looks that are a little bit cheeky. Fashion should be fun. For me, the design process isn’t work at all. If I can imagine it, I can get my factory to make it. The most fun I ever had was sending my factory the first design images and getting back actual shoes.I like to design shoes that have a spirit of adventure about them; bold, statement looks that are a little bit cheeky. Fashion should be fun
I’ve bought hundreds of pairs of shoes over the years and I’ve learned one important fact: if they’re not comfortable, I won’t wear them no matter how awesome they are. So comfort is really important to me. Many of the shoes in the Shoe Envy range have a platform, because a platform means I can wear a much higher heel without putting my foot into an awkward extreme arch.
I derive inspiration from nature. Animals are really beautiful – the colours, the textures, the prints. The best thing is we never have to harm any animals because the man-made materials available now are absolutely gorgeous.
3. Who can wear the shoes and why should they choose a pair of shoes from Shoe Envy?
Shoe Envy is for people who love fashion and want to make a really bold style statement. We’ve got some really dramatic styles – like our Dragon shoes – but we also have more subtle looks that are eye-catching in a more restrained way and are suitable for the office or even for glam mums doing school runs. Shoe Envy is also for animal lovers and all our materials are 100% animal friendly. We also donate a portion of every sale to charities working to help animals.
4. What are the biggest lessons you’ve learned so far in running your business?
Relationship is everything. Whether I’m dealing with suppliers or customers, I aim to build strong, positive relationships and always think the best of people. You can’t buy the kind of loyalty that you get from being genuine and honest and just plain nice to people. I want everyone who ever has contact with our business to go away thinking, “Shoe Envy is brilliant – I love those guys!”You can’t buy the kind of loyalty that you get from being genuine and honest and just plain nice to people
I was warned when I started Shoe Envy that scammers would be out to get me and I need to be on the alert but I think it’s unhelpful to view everyone with suspicion. Most people are decent and sincere and deserve to be treated well and the rare exceptions are pretty easy to spot and manage.
5. What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?
You need to LOVE what you’re doing, in capital letters. I think a lot of businesses fail because people just run out of puff. Starting a business takes all of your energy, time and money at the beginning and if you don’t love it, it will become a burden you can’t escape. We sometimes joke that starting Shoe Envy was like giving birth to quintuplets and putting them all straight into the most expensive private school! But that’s what it is – your business is your baby and in the early days, it’s like a hungry beast that never stops asking for more. It’s important not to get lost in the day-to-day slog and always keep your eye on the bigger mission of what you’re trying to build.
6. What are your future plans with Shoe Envy?
Our aim is to build a brand. We’d like to find new distribution channels – both wholesale and retail – and new partners to run collaborative campaigns with. We want to be known as the place to go for glamorous, animal-friendly designer shoes.
7. What do you love most about Shoe Envy?
I love that we can use our business to do something worthwhile. At present, we raise funds for animal charities – including WSPA, where I worked as a campaign manager for about 2 ½ years. This is what inspired our animal-friendly ethos – great fashion without harming living creatures.
In the future, I’d like to start a seed fund for women in developing countries to start their own businesses and build a livelihood. I grew up in developing countries and I am keenly aware of how fortunate and blessed I am to be living in Australia. There are very few places in the world where a woman could say, “I’m going to start a business” and actually be operational within six months. I want to make that dream a reality for women who would never otherwise have that chance.
8. How did you go about your marketing for the company? And what achievements can you mention?
Facebook has been absolutely pivotal in giving us a start. We’ve been able to build a really strong foundation of loyal Shoe Envy fans who have helped us shape our brand identity and delivered our first sales. One of the most important things about Facebook is it gives us access to a really targeted audience at low cost. I doubt we could have achieved so much, so quickly without it.
We work in quite a unique way with partners as well. For example, we’d been operating just a few months when we appeared in national radio advertising for a month – at no cost to us. We did a great collaboration with a partner where we offered their customers a discount at Shoe Envy in return for them promoting our brand.
I think there is a lot of potential in this kind of collaboration between businesses in the future and we’re always looking for new partners to develop innovative campaigns with. This is particularly beneficial for established businesses that are looking to differentiate themselves from their competitors. In that case, Shoe Envy can offer them great added value for their customers and in return, we get access to a whole new audience that we wouldn’t otherwise be able to reach.
Giveaway details – CLOSED
Shoe Envy is offering YOU the chance to win TWO pairs of glamorous, animal-friendly designer shoes valued at up to $500. Choose from a range of bold, statement heels or cute and comfy flats, delivered to your door anywhere in Australia.
To win, simply answer the question in the entry form below. The competition is open to residents of Australia who are 18+ and fans (or became a fan) of Leaders in Heels and Shoe Envy on Facebook. Simply fill out and follow the form below (point 1 and 2 will unlock the entry question).