CrowdInk had the chance to sit down with Jodie Fox, Co-founder of Shoes of Prey to talk about her founding story, entrepreneurship, and of course, shoes. She extols the value of customized, to-order products, taking the leap to do what you love, and failing fast.
CrowdInk: We heard that you were working in law and advertising before you started Shoes of Prey. Could you tell us a little more about your background?
I completed my degrees in International Business and Law and started my career at a top five law firm formerly known as Blake Dawson Waldron — now Ashurst.
Working at Ashurst was a fantastic experience and I worked with some of the most amazing people on great cases. But it came to the point where I realised that my heart just wasn’t in it. The longer I was there, the more bland life became. It was the first time that I realised how important it is to fill your life up with things you truly love.
When I fully came to terms with this and confronted it, I made a list of things that would make me happy — not just for my career, but in a more complete sense and across all aspects of my life. I began to really grill everyone in my life about their industry, what they did day-to-day, the things they loved, what they hated, what they imagined for the future and a whole lot of other things.
I took those answers and compared them to my list that I had compiled. The career that ticked all the things I was looking for was advertising, so I went and learnt about building a brand, before deciding to build one of my own.
The moment that led to me working on Shoes of Prey full time was less about anything specific that happened in my career, and more about the fact that it was time to have a go at solving a problem I was experiencing as a business.
CrowdInk: How did you come up with the idea for Shoes of Prey?
I was solving my own problem. I had always liked shoes but there would always be something just a little off — maybe the heel height or the colour, or there was an embellishment that I didn’t love — I just couldn’t ever find a shoe that I truly loved.
So during my travels, I started getting my shoes custom-made in the same way that you can have someone make a custom suit for you. I loved being able to choose the silhouette, the heel height, the leather, the colours. When my shoes arrived, they were exactly what I was after — there were no compromises — I loved them! My friends started asking about my shoes and where they could get their own customised shoes, so I started to create shoes for them too.
My two co-founders Mike Knapp and Michael Fox were the ones who thought to take it further and turn it into a business. They were both working at Google and were excited about the future opportunities in online retail. They just needed an idea. Designing custom shoes online was the great idea that they had been looking for, and Shoes of Prey was born!
CrowdInk: Shoes of Prey started out as online only and you have since opened brick & mortar stores. Why did you decide to take that route?
In all of our customer feedback and survey channels there was one dominant question which was “what will my shoes look like in real life?”. When we dug into this, we found that it actually meant that customers wanted to try the shoes on to know how they felt, they wanted to see the materials and understand the quality. This helped us to understand that we needed to establish an offline presence for our customers.
Our 3D custom design technology puts the customer in the design seat and allows them to really become an integral part of the creative process. Being online, it means we are able to offer what we do to more women around the world.
Although our online design platform is user friendly and intuitive, we understand that not everyone is comfortable with creating things online or would like to have a more tactile experience. We now have five physical design studios across the United States in partnership with retail giant, Nordstrom and another in David Jones’ flagship Elizabeth Street store in Australia. When our shoppers visit our boutiques, they are really able to immerse themselves in the entire process. They are able to touch and feel the different fabrics, see first-hand the different colours, designs and embellishments we offer as well as try on sizing shoes to find their perfect fit.
CrowdInk: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
My co-founder Mike Knapp, taught me this lesson when we started Shoes of Prey and it’s changed the way I approach new things. When we first started Shoes of Prey, no one else was doing what we were doing, providing customised shoes for women in an online retail space, and there was very little for us to go off in terms of guidance. When you’re faced with something that you’ve never done before, the best thing is to just dive straight in rather than letting your apprehensions get in the way. It actually helps you find out very quickly where your strengths lie and where you can improve. We took this approach when we started the business and I still use this approach every day. I believe it’s one of the reasons why we’ve come to where we are today.
CrowdInk: What do you love most about what you do and why?
I love that we are giving people an opportunity to harness their creativity and truly express their individuality through their very own shoe designs. I’m always reminded of this by the happy responses that we receive — it’s so great to be putting a smile on people’s faces.
On the business side, I am really excited about the role we play in the fashion industry’s shift to mass customisation and manufacturing on demand. By making each pair of shoes one at a time, none of our shoes are produced in advance and inventoried in the hope that they will be purchased the way they are in traditional retail and shoe manufacturing companies. We’re able to offer an enormous range of materials, designs and sizes without having oversupply or leftover stock issues, thereby minimizing waste. I would love to see this business model in many more areas of the fashion and industries.
CrowdInk: I saw a recent collaboration with butter LONDON. It was so interesting to see a shoe company partner up with a nail polish brand. What was the inspiration behind that?
Over the years, we’ve collaborated with fun, interesting and forward-thinking designers, such as Carla Zampatti, Romance was Born, TOME, Jonathan Simkhai and Janie Bryant, the costume designer for Mad Men. Partnering with butter LONDON seemed natural to us — after all, a great pedicure compliments great shoes! When the opportunity came up to create a set of exclusive nail polish shades with butter LONDON that matched our on trend fabrics, it seemed a perfect fit. We’re so excited to offer shoppers the ability to express themselves through their shoes and nails!
A lot of the butter LONDON’s values around providing top quality products and helping people express themselves through colour made it an easy decision for us to partner and create the six exclusive shades. After all, sometimes a lick of nail polish is all you need to bring an outfit together.
CrowdInk: What’s next for Shoes of Prey?
Boots are next on the cards for us! But Shoes of Prey is about more than just shoes, it’s about the idea of giving consumers exactly what they want, when they want it. There are so many opportunities to expand this into handbags, clothing, and even homeware products. With innovations like 3D printing, the possibilities are always expanding. Watch this space!