Jodie Fox, Co-founder, Shoes of Prey
More Problems, More Money
If you’re the founder of a young business, it can be difficult to know whether all your hard work is actually going to pay off.
But here are a few signs you’re on the right path:
Twenty-two of your 24 team members willingly uproot their lives to move from your original headquarters in Sydney, Australia to its new headquarters in Santa Monica, CA.
You raise just shy of $25 million in a Series B funding round.
You’re creating a paradigm shift that is disrupting one of the longest-standing industries on the planet.
Jodie Fox has done all three, and she’s just getting started.
Fox is the co-founder, along with Michael Fox and Mike Knapp, of Shoes of Prey, a global retail brand that enables women to design their own custom-made shoes at non-luxury prices. Since its founding in 2009, Shoes of Prey has enabled shoppers to create more than 6 million shoes, expanded from a three-person team to more than 200 employees spread across global offices, and grown into a multimillion-dollar business. In the process, it’s earned accolades around the world, including Retail Innovator of the Year 2016, International Conqueror 2015, and Online Retailer of the Year 2014.
Now the Chief Creative Officer at Shoes of Prey, her work involves product development, public relations, and global brand building. Just like those of her company, her achievements are recognized across the globe. She’s won Elle Style Awards Fashion Innovator for 2015, and was included in 2015’s Top 8 Entrepreneurs to Watch, 2016’s Top 50 People in E-Commerce, among other accolades.
What’s the secret to her successes? In part, Fox says they stem from a cheerful willingness to embrace challenges and morph them into opportunities. Here’s how Fox capitalized on her approach to problem solving to build a brand unlike anything the retail world has seen.
Like so many business ideas, Shoes of Prey was born out of identifying a consumer pain point and crafting an effective solution. But in order to become the solution consumers sought, the business first had to strategize around a series of its own pain points.
Problem #1: Finding Good Shoes
A decade ago, Fox was growing frustrated. No matter where she went in the world—even to the famously fashion-forward streets of Italy—she couldn’t find shoes that she really loved. As she grew close to giving up, someone referred her to a cobbler in Hong Kong. She scheduled a long stopover the next time she was planning to fly to Europe, and there she experienced the thrill of customizing her own shoes. “Within 1.5 hours, I designed 14 pairs of shoes,” she says. “I had the time of my life.”
Fox had the shoes delivered back to her office in Australia, where her coworkers oohed and aahed over her creations.
“Out of the woodwork came all these women who [also] couldn’t find what they wanted,” Fox says. She began to consider the idea of a custom-design shoe business for everyday women.
The concept gained traction when Fox connected with (husband-to-be) Michael Fox and Mike Knapp, who then both worked at Google. They were looking to break into the ecommerce world, but didn’t have a viable product idea.
When Fox’s notion collided with Fox’s and Knapp’s ecommerce aspirations in 2008, the trio immediately set to work exploring the women’s shoes market.
Problem #2: Learning How to Make Shoes
The only trouble with the team’s grand plan was that none of them had any background in shoes.
They didn’t even have a clue how shoes were made.
So the team spent time in factories, peppered suppliers with questions, and read everything they could find about the industry in order to determine how their idea might actually work.
“It took a lot of time on the ground to figure out,” Fox says. But their efforts paid off: By the end of this investigatory period, the team had figured out a plan for bringing their idea to fruition and earned general buy-in from multiple suppliers.
Problem #3: Gaining Traction
Both the success and the challenge inherent in creating an ecommerce custom shoe business was that nobody had ever done it before. Having discovered their idea was possible, the next step for Fox and her team was to determine whether it could be profitable.
“Friends are always good guinea pigs,” says Fox, so she and the team started there.
They built a basic website on which users could create a picture of their shoe design in Flash. Once the idea proved popular among friends, the team shared it with an increasingly larger social circle. Eventually they distributed a discount offer via email and Facebook; it reached 10,000 people. The word spread, and approximately five months after launching the site had racked up 200,000 unique visitors.
An early partnership with a YouTube influencer led to another half a million hits, although this didn’t have as dramatic an effect on sales as Fox had hoped. The issue, she realized, was that the hits weren’t coming from the right audience.
The team decided to share these insights with other businesses by writing a case study; somewhat randomly, the study was picked up by the Wall Street Journal—and the traffic driven by this coverage permanently tripled the business. “It reached our target audience,” explains Fox. “It was a lesson in looking for funnels that don’t have a big media buy attached to them.”
Problem #4: Moving to a New Continent
“We were founded in Australia—that’s a market that we know, love, [and is] still a big market for us,” Fox says. Nevertheless, she and her co-founders decided to shift their headquarters to the U.S. because of the market size and opportunities for investment partnerships.
“[It] was a tough [decision] from a personal and sentimental point of view, but from a business point of view it made a lot of sense.”
In a testament to the company culture Fox has created, 22 of the 24 people on the team at the time agreed to relocate. Two of the company’s values are “passionately create happiness” and “work should be life-enhancing,” and these play out every day at the office.
“It’s not something that just comes from free stuff and playing ping pong in the office,” she says. “It comes from keeping each other accountable, pulling people up when things aren’t going right, being really clear with people about what’s expected, [and] treating people like the wonderful humans and adults they are.”
Problem #5: Changing Consumer Expectations
“In many ways, we’ve built a business that consumers aren’t all that ready for,” Fox says. “It’s very intimidating to say, ‘design your own.’… Developing our brand and sharing our fashion credentials with people is a way that they can come to understand how customization works for them.”
So far, Shoes of Prey has focused largely on the “how” of delivering custom-made products at reasonable speeds and prices. As the company moves into its next stage, she’s hoping to spend more time spreading the word about it’s “why”—the value of customized retail.
“I believe on-demand shopping is the future of fashion,” she says. “It’s ludicrous, the amount of stuff we produce not knowing if we’re going to sell it.”
Her desire for consumers to catch the on-demand bug helps explain why Fox celebrates competition. “The more people showing how customization works and how it’s relevant … the more success we will have as a business as well,” she says.
These days, Jimmy Choo, Prada, and Gucci have all started to dabble in customization programs. “That tells me it’s heading to the mainstream, for sure.”
As Shoes of Prey grows exponentially, Fox remains grounded in her belief in what she and the team have set out to do. “There does have to be a human being driving what you believe in as a brand, because without that it’s really just constructed and not real,” Fox says.
“We were always of the view that we wanted to build something global and something that was creating a paradigm shift.”
Jodie Fox’s Tips for Any Would-Be Business Leader
- Traffic does not equal sales. As it turns out, generating half a million hits on your website doesn’t mean you’ll generate half a million sales. It’s essential to make sure you’re earning attention from the right audience if you want hits to turn into profits.
- It’s important to show up in person. “When you’re testing big things and when stuff is moving quickly, you have to show up,” Fox says. “I’m so much happier with my butt in the seat with the team. So many things make more sense, [and it’s] so much easier to make decisions.”
- Focus. Focus, focus, focus. “As much as you can, try and take stuff off your plate and do the thing that is most important right now. Prioritizing is critical to succeeding.”
- Why you need to tap into the power of micro-influencers to quickly grow your brand
- How to ink deals with the top brands in your niche
- Exactly when to look for funding, and when to keep on bootstrapping
- How to conceive, validate, and launch your idea in as fast as two months
- What holds most online businesses back from being successful, and how to overcome them
Full Transcript of Podcast with Jodie Fox
Nathan: Hello and welcome to another episode of the “Foundr Podcast”. My name is Nathan Chan and I am the host of this show. And also the CEO and founder of Foundr Magazine. I hope you all for having a fantastic day, wherever you are around the world I just want to say thank you so much for taking the time to share your earbuds with me. And today we have an awesome guest. Her name is Jodie Fox, and she’s the co-founder of a company called Shoes of Prey. And this is a really, really great conversation because she shares for me everything you need to know about manufacturing and producing a physical product, but also doing that at scale, and building a very, very large business.
We also talked about also relocating your team to a whole another country, which was very, very interesting. So she was based out of Sydney and decided to pick up and move the whole office, whole HQ to LA which is something I don’t know if I could ever do here in Melbourne. I just love Melbourne too much, but no fantastic story really inspiring and yeah a lot of lessons learned around manufacturing, building physical products, growing brands. And also she’s done some incredible business development deals with David Jones and Nordstrom.
And now looking to go into some B2B stuff as well. So really, really strong strategy here with this business model. I find it really fascinating so that’s it from me. Before we jump in the show I just wanted to say if you are enjoying these episodes please do take the time to leave as a review it helps more than you can imagine, and just the review on you know if you’re on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, SoundCloud. It just really, really helps. And also make sure you subscribe so you don’t miss an episode. All right that’s it from me guys now let’s jump in the show.
Nathan: The first question that I asked, everyone that comes on is, how did you get your job?
Jodie: My job today, I gave it to myself because it’s not a job that really exists. So I guess… with the history of where I was culminated in an idea, and I think I’ve found this job when you start a business is just to do everything that you haven’t hired anyone to do just yet. So I got my job sitting, what was I doing? Okay so I’ll tell you what, I actually couldn’t find shoes that I really loved. I’m half Italian, I spent a bunch of time in Italy with my non married mom looking at great shoes. I just just couldn’t find what I loved.
And I heard about a cobbler in Hong Kong, and I happen to be traveling to Europe for a holiday with one of my girlfriends. And I had to stop over in Hong Kong, so I made sure my stop over is longed enough, it was six hours, and I dashed up the plane, went to this shoe shock, and I walked in, and it just looked like a regular shoe shop and I was a bit disappointed. So I said to one of the sale staff is like, “Oh, hi and I just wanted to design some shoes.”
And they were like, “Oh.” I was sure and brought out all of these swatches and you know sketch pads, and I was in heaven. And in an hour and a half I designed 14 pairs of shoes at the time of my life. Yeah it was really fun and I had the shoes, bring it back to Australia, and they turned up at my work, and the women in my office, “Oh my god what is this? Where did they come from?” And when I explained they started asking me “Oh, okay well actually you know I had this pair of shoes that I loved and they don’t make them anymore, could you make them for me? Or you know I mean it’s size 10 wide and it’s really hard to find you know shoes that I love. Could you make a pair for me?” This is a style I’ve been thinking about. And just out of the woodwork came all these. Women who couldn’t find what they wanted. So I did that, and I have to say it wasn’t my idea to turn it into a business.
My two co-founders Mike Mac and Michael Fox we’re both at Google at that point in time so Michael Fox had been with super cheap when he went through their very first, he was they first graduate to go through a graduate program. So he’d got this deep understanding of retail, and seeing across all of their operations and Mike Mac had at that stage become a software engineer at Google. And they were really excited about e-commerce they’re like, “This is amazing, it’s going to take off very excited about it, don’t have an idea.”
And so the idea became design you’re in shoes online and tweak the kind of pull the pieces together when we were hanging out in the summer of 2008 on the beach of the Gold Coast. That kind of became the idea and then we started just biting off a little bits and pieces, thinking about how does that work? What would be call it? Are there other people doing it? How biggest women’s shoe market anyway? And honestly it was it wasn’t a defined process, it was just asking questions and figuring a little bits and pieces out. So I guess in the process of that I got my job.
Nathan: You like that question, hey?
Jodie: I know, I was like, how did I get my job? I was like “Oh my goodness how long is the
piece of string.” And that’s all has evolved over time, I mean I’m doing… I’ve done so many different things in the course of the business, and I’ve always been out kind of chief creative officer, a creative director, but today more so than ever that is true shoe. What a real creative director does which is so, so,exciting.
Nathan: Yeah awesome. So you can, you conceptualize the idea in 2008. Did you launch like an MVP version of the site? How’d you get early stage attraction? Talk to me about that. How that all came about?
Jodie: Oh yeah, so we we tested it on our friends. Friends were always good guinea pigs. So we we kinda built an idea of the website, but we didn’t make it with bells and whistles or anything like that. We just made it so that you could create a picture of a shoe. It’s built in flash, the first version.
So you could create a picture of the shoe and click buy. I designed some shoes and we took some photos of those so you could see what the real shoes were going to be like. And then we showed that to, I think about 50 women that we’re friends between three of us, or friends of theirs as well because we kind of needed to make sure that people didn’t feel like they just needed to say nice things. we wanted like real critical feedback as well. And we showed them and we gave them very, very, discounted shoes.
So they would go through the process and give us feedback and so that I guess was kind of the MVP. But the thing about Shoes of Prey is that while it was like quite tech intensive to build and certainly the operations needed a lot of thinking it’s a very cash flow positive business model. So launching didn’t have some of the traditional risks that in e-commerce or a particularly a fashion website might otherwise have. And when I say cash flow positive I mean when we started we were working with suppliers. So you would tell us, you would give us the order and pay for it in full and then we would go and get it made by the supplier, ship it to you and normally our bills wouldn’t fold you till after
that. So we, the cash flow positivity and that model was really fantastic for starting testing a business.
Nathan: Yeah I see. So when you launched the first version of the site how did you get your first hundred customers?
Jodie: I remember our first customer it was like a 30-email chain. Answering any little question and offering, anything we could just get that first stranger over the line, yeah it was amazing. Look with the first thing that we did again was go to the people that we knew, so we sent an email out to all of our friends, posted it on Facebook as well and we included a link in there that had an offer for like a discount on the shoes and we put tracking code on it, so that we could see how far it went.
And we sent it out literally to everyone in our lists. And I think that ended up hitting like ten thousand people which was over over a period of time, but still that was sort of our first driver of customers. That being said our first major traffic hit probably happened about five months in, so the first five months we had about 200,000 unique visitors which isn’t too bad for something that’s completely new. But we worked with a YouTube blogger and it was before brands we’re really working with YouTube bloggers.
So it was actually one of my co-founders Mike Mac’s idea and we ended up approaching this girl who name’s Juicystar07 of course, and she was a beauty blogger and she would explain how to create different looks and she’d started doing whole videos and a little bit of styling and stuff like that so wrote to her and we’re like, “Hey got this cool shoe company design your own shoes, are you interested”
And then her Hollywood agent wrote back which is amazing, that was such a new thing and it was mind-blowing for a blogger that I have a Hollywood agent so she wrote back and we ended up negotiating a deal, but at that time was really not expensive at all obviously that market has picked up significantly and it’s a very different story now. But she did a video for us, it’s ten minutes long and she explained how she design the shoes you know she’s excited about it and then at the end we said what going design a pair of shoes put the link to the shoes here and a comment away you would wear them too. And we’ll make the prizes, the two best shoes, we’ll make them and send them to you.
I was a bit dubious about it because I’m pretty lazy when it comes to entering competitions. I’m like, “Oh, I know you want my email address why don’t I just give you that let’s forget about the 25 words.” Anyway since I’m a bit dubious about it and it went live, the day went live we had half a million people hit the website which was just phenomenal. We had 90,000 people enter the competition like it was the most commented video and YouTube that day and I think it’s still number three for the how-to and style section of YouTube which is pretty cool.
So it went pretty far, but the interesting thing was that we made a bit of an error in our hypothesis which was traffic equals sales. So we had all this traffic coming in and, but the sales graph is still pretty flag, “We’re like okay what’s going on.” And we just completely messed up target audience, like the people watching, a young girl put makeup on a Youtube don’t generally have $220 in their back pocket to spend on shoes. There you know thirteen-year-old girls looking to buy a lip balm so and there’s nothing wrong with that it’s just that we miss the audience.
So we decided to write a story about it and we posted the case study and the Wall Street Journal got in contact which was amazing and really feature story on it and that’s when the story reached our actual target audience and be ultimate effective, that was it, it permanently tripled the business. So that was really cool, it was kind of a lesson in looking for funnels that don’t hope a big media may attached to them in clever places, but also a lesson in how we should have targeted it, had we thought about it a little more closely at the beginning.
That being said it’s not a lesson to say go to YouTube find a blogger and work with them because the markets super different now. So I think in those days and I sound ancient when I say that, but in those days there were these very big Youtubers who have right answers but now they’re quite fragmented and there’s something to more of the micro influencer strategy where you work with several people with small audiences who don’t have those really enormous fee asks and things like that.
Nathan: Yeah that’s interesting. So do you guys still do much influencer marketing?
Jodie: Yeah we do. I mean we’re sort of dipped in and out of it for a long time, but we’re really committed to it at the moment, we’re testing it again in a different way. We’re sort of looking towards that greater spread of not necessarily really big, but really great quality influencers that we’re working with. So TBC maybe if we can talk again in a couple of months all I can’t let you know how that works, but at the moment who knows? May fall flat on our face, may go well, not sure.
Nathan: Yeah got you. So when you first launch, how did you set up the logistics behind you designed the shoe on the site and then that order, does it, did it to go to the person that you, design the 13, choosing Hong Kong like a cat? How did you work that part out?
Jodie: That was pretty tough and there yeah… it’s sort of, it culminated in the end in us building our own factory, but obviously there’s a lot of steps that happen between selling a pair of shoes and then getting enough cash together to build a factory so should probably started beginning. I guess, so we did, we went to, we went over to talk to the person that I used to get these shoes made from and then we found there were quite a few people that did it. And so I remember we got, I got dressed in my just casual clothes and pretended to be a shopper, that sort of stuff and had a look at the goods and talk to them and let them take me through the process and then we kind of picked the best few that we liked and went back the next day in suits with cards and computers and we set up meetings with them. It was kind of it was interesting.
So we talked to them about our idea and what we were thinking of doing and the one… one factor that might do for today that was different then was at the global financial crisis just happened. And I suspect in the background that there was a bit of drop-off in terms of the mass production orders that a lot of those people were getting so they’re probably willing to entertain something a little bit different.
I’m not sure today how, if that would be, would provide much of a difference to us but and you know we just had to believe it and go for it. It’s a tough pitch to pitch mass production that you’d like to make lots of pair of shoes, but one at a time because MIQ is so important to the good running and survival of a factory. They run on pretty small margins so they’re looking for high volumes to make it all worthwhile. So yeah, it would probably be a slightly different pitch today if it were to go back and do that. So once we’ve got sort of some general buy-in from a couple of suppliers, we been wait and spent time with them and we had ideas about how the process of work from the website side, between Michael and I, what you might notice is that not one of us, three of us come from a shoe background, so we had to learn about how to make a pair of shoes.
So that required spending lots of time in the factories watching, learning, asking lots of questions and reading whatever we get our hands on. And then figuring in it how that becomes a process that’s simple because it’s pretty intimidating to look at a blank page we’ve all been at and to be asked what do you want? Just tell me and I’ll make it. So I’m trying to figure out how that worked was another thing. And then putting it within the parameters of what is constructionally possible as well is another thing. So it took a lot of time to sort of sit and learn about shoes and then figure out what information they needed to receive from us so that they could make the shoe that our customer wanted, and again that just took a lot of time on the ground to figure out.
Nathan: I see, and I know that you guys you get like a lot of press in the Australian media. I’ve known of Shoes of Prey for a long time and I’ve read a lot of stories over the years, and you guys are doing some amazing things. So I’m curious around you said your office is in Santa Monica. So can you talk to me, like do you have an office still in Sydney? Like talk to me about location why you decided to focus on the US market? And are you still quite a global brand?
Jodie: So the reason we decided, so we don’t have an office in Sydney anymore and, but I’m back there a lots and it’s still… I mean where and we are founded in Australia and that’sa market that we know and well, and spend a lot of time in, so and it’s still a big market for us to… The decision to shift over the headquarters to the US was a tough one from a personal and sentimental point of view, but from a business point of view made a lot of sense. So we raised $25 million so that’s in my calculation is not going to work fast enough and more about words than numbers when it comes to my natural instinct, so that’s 30-something million in Australian dollars.
And we, so a lot about really strong good investment connections, we’re here. And one of our investors is Nordstrom as well which is like Dave Jones here in the US. And the Australians are listening and that is we tested some collaborations with them, we tested some offline, and we also still work online fans and it just, I think one of the key things is that when you’re testing such big things and when stuff is moving so quickly you have got to show up. I remember, like I remember we were emailing with Nordstrom for months and then we, we’re the like, do you know what we need to get a meeting with them, so we emailed them and just said, “Hey we’re gonna be in Seattle. Why don’t we catch up here are some times.” And they said yes. I, we weren’t going to be in Seattle at all we flew specifically to make that meeting happen. And I don’t think I’ve ever told them that.
So surprise, and we set the meeting and after we spent an hour face-to-face within four months of that meeting we had our first door open with them. Then as I mentioned they’re become our investors since that moment. So the size of the market over here of course as well as massive and we’re getting good organic traction here so that’s why we made the move, but you know I mean we’re out it we invited, we had 24 in our a team in Australia and 22 moved over with us. Which was incredible. A lot of us are still going back and forward as well just for family and also just yeah, there’s still load of work that happens in that market.
Nathan: Yeah, well that’s crazy. How did you logistically do that? Like from a high job perspective. Do you help people with the re-locations? And…
Jodie: Yeah we did, we help people with the flats and also with having a place when they first got here for a period of time as well. We had like this house that we rented out in Venice Beach, it was this big house and we ended up calling it the frat house just because we were all kind of… we all did a little stint in there and I staged I think for a week or two
weeks in this little tiny room at the top which was basically like a glorified walk-in wardrobe that being built on top of the house. So it was really fun.
Nathan: Yeah, it sounds like fun.
Jodie: It actually really was the cool thing is that, so we had this thing in our values and it’s not just book service, it’s that life should be what I mean that your work should be life enhancing. And I think that a big part of that is genuinely liking the people that you work with and moving over and having those experiences together for sure, even closer together which is great.
Nathan: Yeah I know for sure, and I think that’s a really great reflection of the company that you’re building, and the values, and the culture if you know 20 out of was it 22? Have moved across? Like..
Jodie: Between 24.
Nathan: 24 like that because that’s a big commitment.
Jodie: Commitment, and I mean look part of it too is probably the… the things people had going on in their lives as well. We’re at at that time like a fairly young group of people and you know now that we’re here people are starting to start families and things like that maybe it would have been a different decision for some people if they were already established with family or other things in Australia. But I think that I’m generally like people are really up for the adventure which was really cool. We did have a couple of people that were in Australia still on the team or team from there who couldn’t make the move or I’m headed out of the move which is completely understandable and, but yeah
unfortunately we’re all US-based now.
Nathan: Yeah I think, I think sometimes you just have to choose, one lesson that I’ve learned is you either go all remote or all local it’s very difficult to do a mixture of the two.
Jodie: It’s super difficult. So we have, when we built our factory we, so that’s in China and it’s in this part of China where I think it’s like 75 to 80% of the world’s shoes for women come from, like in the same little area that we’re in this valley is Nine West, there’s Zara. So we’re all in that same area, it’s absolutely phenomenal, really good Italian food bags, and so many Italians.
They’re making shoes and leather goods, but so we had that office, we’ve got a team in Manila, we’ve got a team here, and even though there is a reasonable number of people in each of those places coordinating globally between those is tough. I have spent a lot of time sort of doing an outward work from the business rather than being in the office over the past few years just because that’s what needed to happen and I have to say like I’m so much happier with my butt in the seat with the team because just you get the feeling understanding, you can you hear the things that you really help you turn form and create better decisions. There’s so many things that make more sense.
Nathan: Yeah I know. I totally, get it totally feel it. That’s what we’re looking towards, we’re looking to build out, out of Australia, our team, the core team. It’s been interesting, sort of fun though.
Jodie: Yeah we can we can talk about that. We built at so many things, that we built a checklist of things that people needed to think about. Would just extending to think about with accounts and things I need to shut down in Australia when things I needed to open in the US. How to do it? All that kind of thing because it was just sitting over people’s heads like a massive heavy cloud I could just see it every day walking in the office. We tried to do as much as we could to make it a simple thing to do.
Nathan: Yeah, so talk to me, well I’m really curious around… you said you’ve raised, how much was it? Was it 20,26?
Jodie: $25 million US.
Nathan: $25 million US.
Jodie: Roughly it’s 24.6 to be exact fit.
Nathan: Gotcha. So you, that was a Series A?
Jodie: Series B.
Nathan: Series B. So can you tell me about that decision?
Jodie: The decision to raise cash?
Jodie: Yeah, I mean look it’s a decision that’s unique to each business. It depends on the vision that you have for the business as well and what you need to do to get there. For Shoes of Prey, Mike, Michael and I were always of the view that we were wanting to build something global and something that was creating a paradigm shift something that we believed in as well.
And I wholeheartedly believe that on demand manufacturing a customized product is the future of fashion. I mean it’s ludicrous the amount of stuff that we produce and then don’t know if we’re going to sell it and… I’m genuinely committed to this model and in knowing that and the possibility of what this could mean I think that we beat stretched the first two and a half years and we’ve done multiple bases over the period of the business, but the reason we decided to raise in the first place was to move faster on something that we could see, what is working well. I mean for some people there’s this great businesses that didn’t ever do a capital raise.
I mean look at Cogan for example, I mean as I hear it now which is amazing. but I think, I mean Cogan didn’t take any cash and built that from the ground up which is bloody extraordinary. In our case we picked a different path it just depends on the type of business that you’re building. The path you want to take with it and for us raising capital seemed to make sense.
Nathan: Yeah gotcha. So talked to me about like David Jones, and Nordstrom, and being in there because how does that work? Does the people go? Because I don’t know this space right. The people like, is wholesale a big part of your play? Or is it still be to see, and people shopping online? Or okay because the people go inside to Nordstrom or DJ and say, “Hey.” here’s a selection of shoes and you talk them through it? Or…
Jodie: Yeah, so actually so this is a really interesting story because so much of retail moment has this kind of you know obsession of the sexy thing where we’re doing. Our clicks, clicks to bricks and we need to be on the channel and all of that kind of stuff.
So we’ve actually decided to close our offline stores and we closed them late last year it was a really interesting decision, and a tough one when the rest of the world is digging and you decide is that, but get into that in a moment I can talk to you first about why we did it, and what the experience was like. So we were hearing in 2013 or 2012 a lot of our customers saying “I want to know what it looks like in real life.”
And when we dug into that the insight was that they wanted to try shoe long, they weren’t comfortable buying it on the internet, they wanted to know what the materials looked and felt like, how the colors of the letters went together, and all of this as we broke it down really pointed to, people would just turn up in our office.
Nathan: Yeah wow.
Jodie:If you like hi I’m in holidays, I looked up your address I just wanted to see a pair of shoes. It was all leading to we need a physical presence and so we built the story and David Jones it was so much fun to build, and stressful, but fun. So the store was made out of things we make shoes out of. So every surface was made out of a different kind of leather. That we even padded the table with the padding in the shoes so that when you put your arrested your elbows on the table you would feel what it was like to be put in it.
We had iPads so that you would be able to design at the table and then we had all these boxes full of swatches so that you could pull the letters out and look at them as you were designing. We had all different shoe styles you could try on, sizing shoes and but then there was magic to it so it’s all the functional stuff, well the magic was building it out
of shoes, but then we also built sculptures out of shoes. So we wanted to lift you into a space where you stopped thinking about shoes of the shelf, be started to be more creative and. We developed a fragrance and a soundtrack for the store as well so to help pull you out of the fluorescent light pop music environment and get you into spaces is a bit more creative as well.
So that store itself, it was super fun, it did double its forecasted revenue in the first 12 months and it went through should be a finalist for the world retail awards for the world’s best design and it was up against like Karl Lagerfeld his concept store in Paris and a few noted for their store and a soccer. And we were like that is crazy so they want ceremony was in Paris and none of us win because it’s Karl Lagerfeld.
But then you know like 3 o’clock in the morning and start glowing and we find out that someone from the Australian retail Association had picked up the award for us because we’ve won most best store design. So it’s just this bloody extraordinary moment. And we went okay this is, this is amazing so then we took that to Nordstrom because so Nordstrom really incredible here in the US and they have their DNA in shoes that’s how bit I started out as a shoe store.
It’s still a family-owned and run business. It’s so cool one of the Nodstrom brothers what passed our store and was like I bet that toy box and that shoes a bit tight and like, oh my god this is a, it’s amazing expertise is extraordinary and so we took the idea to them, we the open stores with them as well. And I have to say offline retail is really
interesting and it’s really hard. I still believe in it, but I think it’s a life stage that we’re at in the business at the moment. Online is actually where a customer is.
And the other thing is I think we had a floor and I have offices. So in 2013, she was saying all of those things I wanted to try to shoe on, but also she wasn’t generally shopping for shoes online anyway. So this wasn’t she’s afraid problem, it was an industry problem and fast forward to 2016 she definitely is buying shoes online and it’s cool with that. There are a couple of things that shifted for us and the tough things about deciding to close the store, stores was that you know it’s a public test. So kind of helping people to understand why we did it and why would you think to close the stores was probably the hardest thing about it from the, on the personal side. There were people impacted in the business as well so that was tough. The sentimental attachment we had to the stores of course from a business perspective made total sense.
Nathan: Yeah, I see that makes sense. Do you guys do like a Warby Parker kind of style?Now that, they can people try selections? Or before they like you can send them some stuff before they try? Or that just wouldn’t work because of postage?
Jodie: So interesting, so we are thinking about it. Those lucky guys over at Warby Parker have a much small and lighter product to ship than we do.
Nathan: That’s right.
Jodie: Yeah, so we haven’t done that yet, but it’s sort of playing in our minds and make it some pop up situations might be the go as well we’re not not really sure yet, but our returns policy is good and to be honest our turns rate is really low. So it’s not too much of a problem just yet, but it’s certainly something that’s on our radar.
Nathan: You guys are 100% focused online now. What’s next?
Jodie: Oh my God, so much… so I mean if I fast forward it into the further future there is a number of things, number of ways the business could go. So for me I still wanna, I think that we have still so much to offer and explore in terms of B2C. And the range of shoes and cracking that not really well, but also to, I mean one of the big problems that massive retailers like David Jones, those German’s guys have is their one-stop shop, but they constrained by the amount of inventory they can afford to have sitting in the back and we can provide it demand solution to that.
So there’s something very, very, interesting and the biggest sea land about that as well. I also… I mean as to my knowledge we have me best scalable on-demand manufacturing facility for shoes in the world, for women’s shoes. So there’s definitely a potential B2B platform play in that as well, and to explore not totally sure what it is yet, but there’s sort of this room to poke around that idea, but also too I mean we’re in the process of becoming the brand of the honor, I mean for many years with being how and what friend, which is what is it? You can design your shoes.
Wow? We’ve got this great website, but we’ve never really talked about why and more, and more, I think Shoes of Prey has been a pioneering space that people don’t know about any many ways but builds a business that is… that consumers aren’t ready for, they don’t, it’s very intimidating to say design your own.
So what you sort of coming into a space of really developing our brand and sharing out of fashion credentials and all that sort of thing with people is a way that they can come to understand how customization works for them because if I say you design your in shoes that sounds a little bit scary and fun, but if you say to me I like this shoe do you have it in my size and red and I say to you yeah absolutely and if you like me heel height because I can change that for you too I haven’t called a customization, I haven’t called it design your own but you know what that’s exactly what solving a problem right now. So there’s lots of really interesting conversations around how that forms and communicates with customers too.
Nathan: Yeah I know, I think your right around on demand, and for sure like in the future when the way people will shop is it’s putting on like some sort of VR headset and they can see it, and they can try it on, or virtually and you know that that is definitely coming I can see that caught level of customization and just people are you know, a very specific on what they want. I’m really curious around competitors have you had competitors because I don’t know this space. Have you had come up and how do you handle that? Has it been problematic? Come to take a market share?
Jodie: Yeah, it’s to me Frank, saw with hand, there were two competitors that kind of happened slightly after we started. And we now own both of them. So we didn’t buy their full businesses that parts of their businesses were valuable to us when they decided not to continue. And so I guess it’s not problematic and to be honest I would prefer that they kept going because the more people showing how customization works and goes and how it’s relevant and all that’s stuff, the more success that we will have as a business as well because it’s more people educating in that market.
There are some other competitors that are starting to come on the rise which is really… which is good too, but the at the moment we’re still much further ahead in terms of size and progress with the technology and things like that. And I think too though, we’re starting to see it more and more in other brand. Second, I think that customization really is ready for the, on the cusp of being ready for the mainstream anyway. We’re seeing Jimmy Choo, and Prada, and Saboteur Ferragamo have all executed customization programs within the last two or three years. Gucci is really pushing on it now as well.
Gosh you can even get your bag, monogrammed a country road now. Like it’s, this tells me this is heading to the mainstream for sure. So competition is definitely a welcome thing. And frankly I’d like to see more of it at the moment when I think about who are our competitors, honestly it’s the women’s shoe market as a whole it’s not necessarily anyone else building on customization because to be honest its market share will come from the customer from the wooden shoe industry not from other customers shoe options.
Nathan: That make sense. So can you tell me about the companies that you did acquire?Like what pieces did you acquire that were valuable to you? And yeah, tell me about them why do you decided to do that?
Jodie: We decided to pick up a customer databases and the reason we didn’t pick up the other parts of their business was because technology was so much further developed and we’re very comfortable with where that was and neither those companies had manufacturing capabilities at all. So that was anything to acquire there. So for us it was more about gosh they’re here these groups of people who understand customizing a pair of shoes who don’t have anywhere to go now so that’s why those parts of those businesses made sense to pick up.
Nathan: Yeah okay, gotcha. And so I’m also a curious around when it comes to shipping and speed. I can see that you guys deliver in two weeks. Does it, do you have Manufacturing in many different parts? Or just in China? Or and do you have fulfillment like how do you, because one thing I notice where standard place physical products as well at Foundr, people with books, physical books and stuff and printed magazines, and people we’re… so we’re not digital anymore. And 100% and people who like and Amazon is training people to expect things really, really, fast. How are you managing that?
Jodie: Yeah. So I’m really proud of two weeks because like we started out at ten weeks and it’s amazing. We can make from scratch. We’re soon introducing a one-week express option, which I’m super proud of. And to be honest like the majority of that is shipping time. So we’re using third party providers for that at the moment which I don’t think it makes sense for us to build our own distribution network that is crazy. Sorry although I may have to eat my words, nothing’s ever impossible, but I think if Amazon hasn’t even done it we’re okay. So I think that the shipping time is pretty important. I think like my ideal scenario in the future is that we’re not aiming a website that which is second interface in your wardrobe. And the wardrobe is connected to your calendar, and to the calendar everyone else that you’re meeting with that day, and to the weather, and to… has data on what’s or what’s data on, what’s been sitting? What you’ve been wearing? And all that kind of stuff. So when you wake up in the morning it’s just your shoe based on what your day is going to be, and the weather, and what you might wear that day and then you print that out in your wardrobe while you’re going to have a shower. That for me is the kind of division of what manufacturing would be in the future. The in-between steps to that are they will keep manufacturing where we are at the moment, but I would love as volume increases to set up hubs where we’re seeing the highest per capita, purchase is happening so that we can speed up that delivery.
Nathan: Yeah, gotcha.
Jodie: On a couple of pieces of technology, like it relies on the way componentry is produced being 3D printed instead, and some things like that, that we’re experimenting with, So yeah there’s a few things that would need to happen for that to go ahead.
Nathan: Okay that makes sense. We have to work towards wrapping up Jodie. I’ve got a couple more questions. Just around leadership, what kind of leader are you? And how do you, I guess instill, I guess a great, I guess way to lead your team to get the best result?
Jodie: I love this question, it always cracks me up because I’m like, “I’m oh I’m a great
leader,.” I don’t know. It’s probably better directed at someone it’s not me because it’s hard to know what you put out, and that’s a blind spot, that’s beauty at 360 reviews, right?
Which we do here because there’s plenty of stuff that I’ve learned while leading my port team. They’ve been very resilient, so I think very consultative as a leader, but not afraid to make a decision as well. One of the ways that we did that was by instilling a decision-making process that gets attached to like all the different areas of the business and I’m sure lots of people aren’t out there part of it it’s called a rapid so in each and we certainly didn’t develop it we heard it out that’s what it was a great idea. So someone recommends a particular project, the people who know the technology, the things that need to go into it approve it or disapprove it, or send it back for more work and P and people who produce and people have inputs for precision making process indeed, the person who gets the decision.
So there’s always this chatting office around who has the D. So in doing that it creates a collaborative, but a very definite cycle of how things are gonna go down. So that, I think that probably connects with well is it probably whatever one of the good indicators around how we, how leadership here in the business. It’s pretty flat as well so we do, it’s, we all no one has an office everyone kind of sits in open desks and we all sort of tap each on their shoulder on if we need stuff.
Of course we don’t physically tap each other on the shoulder we slack each other. And that has been a great way to unite project teams across the different offices around the world as well. Also very transparent leadership as well, but transparency would learn over the course of the business it’s not simply sharing everything, but putting it into a format that’s really digestible. And so it’s not enough to share numbers and graphs with people it has to be shared in a way that makes sense to every single person in the company so they can connect that to what they’re doing, and understanding how to ratchets up all the way to the brand promise at the top of the pyramid. So yeah, I’d say that it’s collaborative, it’s transparent, and it’s pretty honest, but it’s also friendly as well and respectful.
Nathan: Yeah, no that’s amazing. When it comes to building your team, what kind of people are you looking for? What qualities you’re looking for? Can you tell me more about your values and the culture?
Jodie: Yeah sure. So some of the values that we have so passionately create happiness. We know that creating happiness is important, but it’s also not something that just comes from free stuff and playing ping pong in the office, like it, it comes from keeping each other accountable. Pulling people up when things aren’t going right, and also make it being really clear with people about what’s expected. Also treating people like they’re wonderful humans and adults they are. So a good example of that is we have an unlimited leave policy. So you still have to get approval from your manager, but we don’t count the amount of days that you’re taking, what we count is are you getting your work done?
Are you leaving the time it’s really critical in the project? That you’re doing running? Or whatever it is, yeah. So and then that connects into things like what should be life enhancing. So I for people who are smart, but care about what they’re doing, and here for a bigger reason. So I really like when people turn up and they kind of talking about I love solving a problem, I love, and people who understand a start plant as well, and can build structures from the ground up, rather than sit and get instructions. So as we go on like wait we need to get people with deeper and deeper expertise in various areas, but I would a really find people who also meet the passion, the kind of smart… and team to figure out a problem criteria as well.
Nathan: Yeah I know, that’s something that I’m learning as well. I think like your first
40 to 50 people they really have to be able, you need to be out of this throw them in the deep end and say, “Look I don’t know how to do this, I need you to get it done or need you to work it out.” And they just gonna just just go with some run with it. Specially early days.
Jodie: Definitely and it’s curious too because you hit different stages where those things
change and some people don’t like to change and go, but you can’t take that personally because it’s about what they enjoy and the way they like to work. So like a really big turning point for us actually happened around 15 or 20 people where it wasn’t just that we all were in sync because we’re all sitting in the same room together and could just quickly communicate.
We had to actually create an architecture and write down what our culture was and write down what everyone was, and things like that so that we could all be on the same page. And then we had to start writing really proper job descriptions so that people and some people felt really closed in by that space took lots of things but we were hiring experts in those areas and they didn’t, didn’t enjoy it as much anymore. So everything’s roll and change and it’s I mean… I’m still got a ton to learn. We’re 220 people now and you know all going well they’ll be a lot more. So we’ll, I’m looking forward to and a little bit scared of what that might, what might that be.
Nathan: Yeah, well okay. Awesome. Last couple last questions. Best piece of advice that you’ve received from an adviser, mentor in the early days when you’re starting out? And then after that just, just share the best place people can find it more about your work.
Jodie: Sure, I guess focus, focus, focus, and to be really honest I didn’t understand what that meant when I started, but boy do I understand it now. So even in saying that I don’t expect it to mean much, but what just as much as you can, try and take stuff off you plate and just do the thing that is most important right now and then do the next thing, and then do the next thing, and prioritizing is critical to succeeding.
And to find out more, so have a Youtube channel it’s my personal one, so it’s just Youtube.com/jodiefox. And yes there are some light-hearted videos around styling and stuff like that. but I do talk about stuff that I’m thinking about in the business, things that go into a fundraising deck. Some of the ways that we first snuffed out our business plan, how to find Corey found us, things like that. So that’s the place for business stuff to check out the website www.shoesofprey that’s P-R-E-Y, .com and yeah. That’s about it.
Nathan: Just one one last question. You spacked at one last question that I had.
Jodie: Of course.
Nathan: I was ready to wrap. One thing I noticed when I was teeing up this interview maybe after a while ago, that when I went to your site it said… no please forgive me if I’m wrong, but they would there was there was a strong element of Shoes of Prey with you like, kind of personal branding, but I don’t see that now with the site anymore. Was that like… do you know I’m talking about?
Jodie: Yeah, yes I did a collection of shoes. So I don’t always slather myself all over the website.I had done a collection of shoes. And so we, every now and then we’ll do collections or shoes with people. And it was actually the first, I mean, I’m in design background for all of the shoes, but it was the first time that I put my own collection together. And so we work with influences from time to time and the team like hey so you should do a collection too and I was like that sounds exciting, so that’s why I was everywhere and not so much everywhere now.
Nathan: Yeah got you, I wasn’t sure whether you like kinds show. there was like some sort of positioning play to feel like more connected to the founder or you? Because I do see some companies they really put the founders personal brand at the forefront. Like for me I am quite with founder, I am quite because it has to be a leader driving a movement, but I was just wondering oh, good.
Jodie: Yeah it’s kind of, it’s interesting like and ,I’ve had lots of discussions with people about your personal brand versus your actual brand, and I think the conclusion I’ve come to is that it’s an ecosystem. And the truth is that there does have to be a human being driving what you believe in as a brand because without that it’s really just constructed and not real. So yeah, I think that, like I it’s… I’m not afraid to kind of mesh those two up brands when needed, but I’m also not egotistical enough to believe that I need to be on every single touch point all of the time.
Nathan: Yeah that make sense.
Nathan: Awesome look out, we’re over the edge Jodie, I just want to say thank you so much for your time. Was great chatting.
Jodie: Yeah you too thank you so much.
Key Resources From Our Interview With Jodie Fox
- Checkout Shoes of Prey
- Learn more about Jodie Fox
- Connect with Jodie Fox on Linkedin
- Follow Jodie Fox on Instagram
- Follow Jodie Fox on Twitter