If you have creative shoe ideas, why not use that talent to create your own line? It can be daunting to get involved in a project as big as this one, but you can make everything more organized and fulfill your dream by breaking the process down into smaller parts. Achieve your entrepreneurship goals in the footwear industry by creating your own business, hiring the right team and creating your brand.
Part 1 of 4: Refining Design Ideas
Step 1. Create an inspirational idea album
Differentiate your footwear line by looking for unique inspirations in the world around you. Cut out phrases or images that catch your attention. You can be inspired by art, nature, advertisements or even your own imagination.
- Pay attention to interesting shapes and patterns that you can incorporate into your designs.
- For example, the bark of a tree can inspire a fabric for shoe design.
Step 2. Take shoe design lessons
Find a technical course at a local fashion school or college to learn more about the shoe industry. Learn about the business and artistic side of shoe design. These classes teach about classic designs as well as shoemaking and business management.
- Some courses offer intensive classes that can only last one year.
- If the course is only open to students at the specific college, contact the Admissions and Enrollment department to see if there is a possibility to take the class without receiving academic credit.
- If you're still choosing a career, choose areas that apply to shoe design but also involve other disciplines, such as marketing or business administration.
Step 3. Meet with colleagues to discuss ideas
Show your album to trusted friends and colleagues to get feedback on your designs. They can provide important opinions that will help refine your project or create new ideas.
- Not every friend will know how to give professional advice. Ask successful friends or co-workers who tend to give honest feedback.
- If you're new to the field and still don't have friends or classmates, talk to a teacher or classmate. You can also make friends by trying to do an internship in the shoe industry.
Part 2 of 4: Developing a Business Strategy
Step 1. Save money for an initial investment
Assess your finances to see how much you can devote to your dream. You will need an initial amount of money to create an inventory, produce the shoes and pay a small team. There is no pre-set minimum value – research how much professionals recommend.
- Some successful shoe designers, like CeCe Chin, started with around $35,000.
- The money will also cover expenses that are not directly related to shoe design, such as transportation and travel costs to meet with collaborators.
- The best option is to already have the money available, but you can also take out a loan to secure the amount needed for the initial investment.
Step 2. Define your target audience
After learning more about the shoe industry, set the focus for your future shoe line. Decide who your customers will be and how much you will spend on the shoes. Think about what need is not being satisfied by the current market that your line will be able to satisfy.
- If you are feeling overwhelmed by so much information and to-do, ask a few friends what they are looking for in a shoe and how much they would be willing to pay for a pair. You can use this feedback to determine who you think your target audience will be.
- Use the value your target market prefers to start thinking about the most suitable materials for your shoes.
Step 3. Draw up a business plan.
Define your business both artistically and financially on paper. Professionally draft a plan so that you can use it as a guide to talking to potential partners and employees (once hired) about the company. Update the plan as needed to use the document as a reference.
Step 4. Meet with a successful entrepreneur in your field
Contact a shoe designer during the course. If you don't know any, ask a teacher and see if they can help you and connect you with someone who is already successful in the industry. Make a very short appointment (15 minutes) to respect the person's time and ask for advice on how to start a new company.
To request a date, say “Mr. Sousa, I am a student of Professor Paulo Henrique at the Stylo Fashion and Design School. I admire your work on platforms and how you use direct selling to grow your business. I am planning to create my own shoe line and would like to ask for your help and discuss how you built your business. Can we meet for 15 minutes for coffee and talk when you can?”
Step 5. Go to the meeting well prepared
Bring a specific list of questions and dress professionally. Research the person you will meet and show interest in their work. Bring your business plan and any outline you have in case the person asks, but don't make that plan the focus of the meeting.
- This is not a collaboration session. It's just an opportunity to learn from someone who's already accomplished their goal.
- To find out more about how she developed the business, ask "How did you decide you wanted to focus your line on platforms?"
- You can show admiration for her work by saying, “I really admire how most of your shoes can be worn both in the professional setting and at black tie events. How did you manage to achieve this balance?”.
Part 3 of 4: Hiring the right team
Step 1. Find a shoe designer
Find an experienced professional who can turn the idea of paper into reality. Look for someone you can get along with and who has experience in the fashion industry. The right person will also meet other professionals in the field who may be part of your team.
- If you're designing the shoes yourself, you already have this person! If you are going to hire someone, have a complete idea of what your line looks like so you can communicate it clearly.
- Professional freelance websites, such as Upwork.com, have designer profiles available with digital portfolios for you to review.
Step 2. Hire a graphic designer
Look for a professional who has experience in developing patterns for shoes. It will help you develop an online presence and create templates for your manufacturer.
You can also find them online at freelancer websites
Step 3. Find a manufacturer that works with new companies
Search online supplier directories to read profiles of different manufacturers that meet your business needs. Some work only with large or established clients, while others specialize in helping newcomers.
- Search internet directories based in Brazil.
- US and non-US based directories include: ThomasNet, Makers Row, MFG, Kompass, Oberlo, Alibaba, AliExpress, IndiaMART and Bambify.
Step 4. Find a marketing guru
Hire a professional who can connect you with your target audience and promote your business. Choose someone who has experience in the fashion and shoe industry, who knows good professionals in the field, and who has a lot of knowledge about the relevant social media.
Look for a marketer on job sites
Step 5. Connect with people you know who are already in the area
Keep in touch with classmates and mentors during the hiring process. They can meet professionals in the industry who are looking for new opportunities and can help you connect with talented people who are ideas for your business.
Step 6. Attend fashion and shoe events to meet people in the area
Keep up-to-date with industry trends and new names by attending shoe shows and events. Look for these events at a department store or fashion school. You might meet like-minded people who have good referrals for your team or who can collaborate with your company.
- Such events also help you form good connections in the commercial industry if you plan to sell your designs in physical department stores.
- Some of these events are by invitation only. The more connections you have, the more likely you are to be invited.
Part 4 of 4: Creating your brand
Step 1. Create a name for your business.
Think of a name for your brand by making diagrams or lists of possible options. Maybe you've already set the list to one or two options. Ask friends for feedback to help refine your decision.
- Review your list of names to see if what you choose reflects the customers you hope to attract.
- If you ask others for their opinion, try not to reveal your preference, if you have one. That way, they are likely to have a more honest opinion.
- If you're stuck, show a friend your business plan and describe your vision. Sometimes having one more person to suggest ideas helps make better decisions.
Step 2. Create a website.
Ask your graphic designer to create a website for your store. Test the demo version of the site by clicking on all the links and filling out all the forms to see if they work. See if the site looks intuitive and easy to use, and write down any changes or feedback to help the employee tweak it.
- Keep refining the site until you feel your brand is well represented.
- Try using any function involving merchandise, such as making a purchase, to see if it works correctly.
Step 3. Create materials with your brand.
Work with your graphic designer to develop your company logo, packaging, business cards and any signage for your store. If your business looks organized and professional, people will take your shoe line more seriously.
Step 4. Develop a marketing strategy
Work with your marketing professional to promote the new shoe line. You can do a trunk show, print advertisements or offer promotions to get people to start talking about your store.
Make an official announcement and send it to local publishers so they can publicize the brand's inauguration
Step 5. Develop your presence on social media.
Create pages for your store on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for customers to connect with you online. You can inform them through social media about promotions or styles, expand your customer base and improve your business image.
Asking questions is a great way to connect with your customers on the internet. You can ask the color preference for a new style or just get involved with the new stuff in a fun way
Step 6. Record anything associated with your business
Register your logo, products and images at the National Institute of Industrial Property (INPI) by visiting http://www.inpi.gov.br/. Check that the name and logo are not yet in use.
- You can register without the help of a lawyer. It is also important to research the fees required for this.
- Contact INPI or read the information on the website if you have any questions.