Jennifer Bailey tells us how having bunions were the driving force being starting Calla Shoes
What do you currently do at Calla Shoes?
As Calla Shoes is a growing brand with big ambitions, I spend a lot of my time building the brand, devising new product lines and driving new sales.
Over the next two years, I have clear plans for accelerated growth, which I hope will be supported by raising investment. This will be used to not only increase awareness of the Calla brand both in the UK and overseas, but to also educate women on the fact there is a solution to problems like bunions and they don’t have to compromise on comfort as a result. In addition, I also want to develop more styles for other podiatry issues to ensure we can provide stylish and comfortable shoes for a vast and growing market.
What was the inspiration behind your business?
Having had bunions for years, I have always struggled to find comfortable and attractive shoes that actually fit my feet.
This really came to light when planning my wedding in Lucca, Italy, where I ended up spending hours and hours searching online to find the perfect shoes. By the time I reached pages 6, 7 and even 8 on Google, I gave up and said to my [now] Husband out of sheer frustration that I was going to create my own shoe brand that manufactured stylish shoes which also accommodated for women with bunions.
This was my real lightbulb moment, but it wasn’t until a few years later when I was made redundant during maternity leave that I re-evaluated what was important in life and decided to take the plunge and push the idea forwards. Fast forward 5 years and Calla Shoes are now worn by thousands of women worldwide.
Who do you admire?
My Mum is genuinely my greatest role model. She came from a severely under privileged background in Hong Kong but worked hard to become a Senior Nurse Practitioner. She did this and continued to work hard despite having four children. She has the most incredible work ethic, persistence, and drive which she has thankfully installed in me. So, whenever I am having a challenging day, I think of everything my Mum has achieved and know that if she can do it, I can too.
Looking back, is there anything you would have done differently?
There are loads of lessons that I have learnt since launching and continuing to grow the Calla brand. I think one of the main ones is to not put too much pressure on myself about meeting certain timelines or deadlines, particularly for things out of my control like the physical manufacturing process.
In learning this, I have also embraced the concept of failure and learnt to redefine success in line with my own metrics – not everyone else’s. I now believe that as long as you are moving forwards and working towards consistent marginal gains, you will achieve your goals, but you need to ensure you are kind and more supportive of yourself in the process. Key to this is working with a Mentor, whether paid or unpaid, who can not only guide you from their own experience in business but can also give you a pat on the back and tell you ‘Well done’ when it’s needed most.
What defines your way of doing business?
My main values and passion in life is solving problems and helping people in whatever way possible. Both of these values have filtered through to the Calla Shoes brand and in everything we stand for and have achieved.
I am also a big believer in honesty and integrity and am always incredibly transparent in how I do business and expect the same in return.
What advice would you give to someone starting out?
Before launching a business, it’s so important to find and build your community via platforms like Instagram. Not only will some of your community members turn into customers as and when you do launch to market but involving them in the early stages of product development will also engage them emotionally and transform them into real brand ambassadors.
A lot of entrepreneurs neglect the importance of building a community in favour of alternative PR and marketing strategies, but it’s something I would genuinely recommend to anyone thinking of starting a business.