Monday, 23 May 2016

The divorced couple who built a global shoe company

The Australian couple had set up their company, Shoes of Prey, in Sydney in 2009, three years after they had married in their early 20s.
Together with co-founder and old college friend Mike Knapp, they launched their e-commerce website that allows women to design their own shoes. The company then makes them at its factory in China, before mailing them out to anywhere in the world.
While the business is continuing to grow strongly, and so far more than six million shoes have been designed on its website, the Foxes' marriage broke down under the strain of working together, and they divorced in 2012.
Yet despite the end of their marriage, neither of them walked away from Shoes of Prey.
Instead both continue to lead the business, which last year moved its headquarters to Los Angeles, as they aim to crack the giant US retail market. Jodie is the chief creative officer, while Michael is the chief executive.
Jodie, 34, says: "Working with my husband was amazing because so few people are lucky enough to be able to see their partner in action, doing well in meetings, seeing how they work with others.
"But it was also difficult because switching off is near impossible."
She adds: "At the end of a work day... it was hard to simply give unconditional support for blowing off steam, rather than get into a conversation about what each of us saw in that event."
When the couple eventually split, Jodie says it was "very amicable", which made it easier for them to switch to being just business partners and friends. She says they also worked hard to put emotion to one side.
"We've worked on communicating very clearly and frequently to ensure that tensions are resolved quickly," she says.
"And we operate with utmost respect and assumption of best intentions as first port of call for any emotionally triggered responses."
Shoe-making hobby
Jodie, Michael and Mike met while studying law in Brisbane.
Jodie, then 25, and working in marketing in Sydney, had taken to designing her own shoes, a form of creative expression that had attracted the attention of her female friends.
"I liked shoes," she says. "But I could never really find exactly what I wanted.
"My girlfriends saw my [self-designed] shoes and asked where they came from. So I started to make shoes for them too."
While hitting around business ideas on a beach on Queensland's Gold Coast in 2009, the three co-founders decided to expand on Jodie's hobby and develop a business that would let women design their own shoes via a website.
Customers can choose from 12 shoe shapes, and more than 170 fabrics and colours.
They chose the name Shoes of Prey because Jodie likens shopping to the thrill of the hunt.
Within two months the company broke even, and within two years it was enjoying multi-million dollar revenues, with prices starting from about US$129 (£89) per pair of shoes.
Moving its headquarters from Australia to the US last year, it has now secured more than US$24m of private investment funding.
Self-help videos
In addition to the end of her marriage, Jodie says she has suffered from depression and "imposter syndrome" - a fear she didn't deserve to lead a successful company, and would be found out.
"Both of these things are incredibly normal in the entrepreneurship landscape," she says. "Those feelings of not being capable or deserving, or smart enough, are extremely common."
Jodie, who now lives and works in the Los Angeles suburb of Santa Monica, says that as a result of the difficulties she has faced she is passionate about communicating the often difficult realities of entrepreneurship to others.
"Failing is a pretty frequent experience in the life of an entrepreneur," she says. "I fail a lot every day. There are far more failures that I can talk about than successes, for sure."
http://www.bbc.com/news/business-36321205

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