Welcome to The Shoe Garden - For women with longer feet!

Every pair of shoes sold helps a woman build her business

When I’m explaining the work of the amazing MicroLoan Foundation Australia, there’s one story I can’t tell often enough.

It’s when Dorothy, the leader of a lending group in regional Malawi, said to me: “I used to have to beg my husband for money. Now he comes to me.”

Fist pump. High five. Squeal.

I wanted to do all these things, but I remained calm and smiled as I sat with Dorothy and the interpreter and she told me about life after receiving a small loan; a loan that has helped her grow her humble grocery stall and given her independence and respect.

It’s simple really and that’s the power of it.

A poor woman in regional Malawi is given a small loan in order to start or grow her business.

Not just that, she is given training in business practices, often through song or dance as she is often illiterate.

Not only that, she is one of many women in a group that act as each other’s support and collateral.

And not just that, she is now empowered to achieve amazing things and help not just herself but her family. All because someone believed in her.

The loan is paid back in around three months. Interest is paid, too, and that helps support the charity. The average loan is around $60. Once it’s paid back, another woman gets the $60 again. Then another and another.

I love, love, love the idea of microfinance as one way to assist people escape poverty and a way that treats people with respect.

That’s why I’m so proud this past week to have reached a huge milestone: I have helped to raise $20,000 for MicroLoan Foundation Australia since April 2015.

About $6k of that is thanks to my darling family, friends, customers and peers who have donated themselves or organised fundraising events.

Around $14k is what I have chosen to donate. Every time a pair of shoes (or a handbag, or even a can of waterproofing spray for that matter) is sold at The Shoe Garden, in-store or online, a donation from between 25c to $5 is made the following month.

I always wanted giving back as part of the DNA of my business; it’s a no-brainer for me. I love doing it. My customers love it. And amazing women like Dorothy get to change their lives for the better.

Fist pump. High five. Squeal.

Until next time
Carol & CCx

Ps. Below is a photo of mum and myself with the amazing women of the Dodo lending group. Dorothy is pictured to mum’s left, holding the extra sarongs.

 

Laughter is good for the soul

It’s nearly the end of the financial year and it feels like there are a gazillion things to do.

I’m stressed and tired and a smidge overwrought.

Then I saw this gorgeous video and laughed, really laughed, from the belly. I just love it so much. I shared it on my book’s Facebook page, reminding people how easy it is to go around in circles sometimes but, if you fall down, it’s important to pick yourself up again. And run to mum if you need to!

I wanted to share it with you, too. Take a moment. Enjoy. Laugh. Relax.

Until next time
Carol & CCx

Sourcing gorgeous long shoes is closer than you think!

“You must go to Italy or to the US to find all these gorgeous shoes,” I’m asked time and again.

I wish!

Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately for my budget, agents who represent all the brands I stock pretty much come to me.

Twice a year, a shoe expo is held at various hotels at Kangaroo Point, around 10 minutes away from The Shoe Garden. This expo travels to capital cities twice a year and each brand hires a room or two and displays all their offerings for the upcoming season.

In July, I see the next year’s Autumn/Winter range and in January or February, I see that year’s Spring/Summer range.

I’ve just finished making all my appointments for a full and busy day one Monday next month. They range from 30 minutes to one hour. Sometimes every shoe goes to longer sizes, so I spend much more time with these brands, but sometimes it’s only a small part of what they offer. Anything is better than nothing though, right?

I’m getting much better at preparing for this day-long feast of gorgeous shoes.

I wear something comfortable. I admit that I carefully select my shoes because, hello, I’m surrounded all day by people who work in the shoe industry and, like me, it’s often the first thing you notice about someone! I also have an extra bag for catalogues, plus my iPhone fully charged to take photographs. And I have my greatest asset: my Mature Age Consultant (aka my darling mum!) who has come with me to every expo since the beginning and is always a great supporter and confidant.

Actually it’s quite a family event. Mum and dad join CC and I for breakfast beforehand. Dad then takes CC for the day so she’s not lonely. She’s so used to coming to The Shoe Garden with me every day that she’s quite put out if she’s ever left at home by herself! Then mum and I head to our fist appointment and try and pace ourselves across the course of a really busy day.

So Kangaroo Point is a long way from Rome or New York, and not nearly as exotic, but it’s also lovely to have such easy access to gorgeous choices of longer-sized shoes so close to home.

Until next time
Carol & CCx

A fabulous extra for your suede boots and shoes

I love it when brands value-add.

It shows respect to their customers, that they care and that they value their ongoing custom.

Supersoft and Diana Ferrari, two Aussie brands I’ve been stocking since I opened The Shoe Garden, are going one step further with their suede shoes and boots by applying a water resistant spray to them.

How good is that?

FB zm_VIBRANT_BLU2048_1[1]That means gorgeous creations such as the Vibrant over-the-knee boot (which I’mzm_BAZAAR_BLK056_2[1] wearing as I type this!), or the beautiful Bazaar ankle boot, already have that protective coating essential when wearing suede.

Of course, it’s highly recommended to continue to protect your fabulous footwear by applying ongoing treatments, but it means you can wear these straight after purchase and know they are protected against the elements. Very impressive.

Until next time
Carol & CCx

Shoes and boots reduced in not one, but two, sales

It’s always the same … the day before a sale starts, I think I’m crazy for spending hours and hours bringing out every shoe in every size still available and putting them on display.

Why don’t I just mark down the one pair that is already on the shelves and that’s it? The rest stay in their boxes out the back until required. It would probably take a quarter of the time.

And then the first day of the sale comes, and for its entire duration, I’m so glad that I spent the time displaying every shoe in every size.

It makes it so simple and fast for my gorgeous customers to find all the shoes in their size in one section of the shop and try on whatever they wish in their own time. I just get them the partner shoe if they fit and they decide they like them.

This year, I’ve decided to have not just one sale, but two. And yep, it took even longer and yep, I wondered out loud as I was doing it and yep, I don’t mind now either because I have seen how successful it has been.

The Secret Garden Sale is where everything is $80 or less. I’m housing it in my little courtyard and have decorated it with pink paper flowers and pompoms. It looks gorgeous and, of course, it’s filled with amazing shoes at amazing prices.

I’m a big believer that a retailer needs to be more than just a place to buy stuff. It needs to make you feel fabulous … from a caring, honest owner who is interested in you to an appealing environment with fabulous stock at great prices. Oh, and if you can throw in “giving back” in there, too (with 25c to $5 from every item sold at The Shoe Garden being donated to the amazing MicroLoan Foundation Australia), then that means you’re more than just a shop. You’re a community.

My sale is on throughout June.

Until next time,
Carol & CCx

Best headline ever for a lovely story on gorgeous long shoes

I would like to share a great feature story on The Shoe Garden that appeared this week in Bmag.

I really enjoyed answering the questions because, as usual, taking a rare moment to consider your journey makes you reflect on what has been and what could be. One of the hardest things as a business owner is to find the time to do this, so interview opportunities like these are fabulous.

They are also fabulous because lots of lovely new customers have found me and so many of my regulars have been amazingly kind on Facebook and Instagram with their comments and support when I shared it with them, too.

The interview covers how and why I opened The Shoe Garden, why I wrote In My Shoes and where I see my future. I had lots to say on all those topics! 🙂

Until next time
Carolx

PS
And that headline? It’s “Based on a Shoe Story”. Love it.

 

Bmag story

My next love after shoes!

I know not everyone adores books and has not done so since they could first read.

I know not everyone has two giant towers of books (nearly 50 at last count!) waiting to be read.

I know not everyone insists on reading only book-books (as opposed to e-books!) and buying them from independent book stores in order to help them survive.

But what I don’t understand is why more business people don’t read books to improve and grow their business.

Since writing my own book about my first four amazing, wonderful and, frankly, terrifying years in business, the reactions from some have left me speechless.

The one that stood out the most was someone who wants to open their own business, but doesn’t need my book or any other book about business because “I’ve been managing a business for years.”

The key word there is “manage”; not own. My, how it’s a different reality when it’s your name on the accounts!

So, given my love for books (second only to my love of shoes!), and how they have helped me so much in my Shoe Garden journey, I was delighted when I was asked to nominate my Top Ten books on business by Kochie’s Business Builders.

I took it super seriously and had to cull quite a few as I had so many options. All the books I’ve included have made a difference to how I run my business.

Books should inspire, challenge and motivate you. They should open up new worlds, new ideas and new discussions. Perhaps it’s because I’m devoted to learning how to be a better shoe shop owner (something that will never end as, seriously, there’s always something new to learn) and that books have served me so well on this journey into business to date, that I am such a devotee.

I don’t care how successful you are (or think you are!) in business … reading about someone else’s journey is always something to seek out, enjoy, consider and learn from.

Until next time
Carolx

Need new shoes … stat!

Okay, so I know how busy people are and how sometimes finding the time to visit The Shoe Garden for some gorgeous shoes is difficult to fit in between all of life’s demands.

So, I am super proud to introduce The Shoe Garden Express service!

Here’s how it will work …

Busy customers can browse my website and search by brand, type, size or colour.

They can then make their choices and email me with the brand name, style name and size of the shoes they would like to try on, plus the day and time of their visit. I will them email them confirmation to ensure I have received their request. I will ask for an hour’s head start (in case I’m super busy in the shop) and am happy to hold their selection for up to 48 hours.

It was so funny as I’ve had this idea for a while and last week a lovely regular came in and knew exactly what she wanted and I sensed she was in a bit of a rush. I ran this idea by her and she laughed and said she had been tempted to call me to put some shoes out for her but thought that would be a bit pushy.

Pushy? No. Organised? Yes! This is a win-win for me and my gorgeous customers.

I look forward to seeing how many enjoy using this new initiative.

Until next time,
Carolx

And the second most common question is…

In my last blog post, I revealed the question I am asked the most as a proud shoe shop owner.

Now for the second most popular question: “Where do you find all these (insert either gorgeous, fabulous or amazing) shoes?”.

It’s hard for many of us with longer feet to comprehend that we can have choices. When I first decided to open The Shoe Garden, I was a little worried about where to find my stock and if I’d be able to offer enough variety. After all, my shoe shopping experience up until then had varied from underwhelming to downright traumatic.

Where were all the gorgeous shoes for those of us with long feet?

The first thing I did was go through my own shoe wardrobe, make a list of all the brands, find their contact details and get in touch. I looked at what other shoe shops around the world were offering in longer sizes and before I knew it, I had up to 20 brands ready, willing and able to sell me some gorgeous shoes.

Now, none of the brands that I stock are exclusively for longer sizes. It’s just that other shoe shops (even, ridiculously, some of those that sell their own brands that go long) choose to stop at size 10, perhaps a size 11. A size 12 or 13 … you’re dreaming!

So I’m actually spoilt for choice these days, so much so that as I continue on my journey as a proud shoe shop owner I’ve become more discerning about which brands that I stock at The Shoe Garden.

Poor quality shoes? They won’t be coming back.

Too much inconsistency with sizing? So not welcome.

Pushy or disrespectful agents? I won’t put up with it.

So, when I answer this common question, I explain all this and reassure my customers that the brands I stock are those that I consider to be the best in quality, style and customer service.

Some of my faves include: CBDDiana Ferrari, Django & Juliette, FRANKiE4, Hinako, Isabella, J.Renee, Katie n Me, Naturalizer, Rollie and Supersoft.

It’s always nice to have choices. But for those of us deprived of choices for so long, it’s especially sweet.

Until next time
Carolx

The question everyone asks!

It’s the question people ask me all the time; at least once or twice a week.

It is usually asked with much reverence.

The questioner looks at me expectantly, willing me to respond and waiting to be impressed.

They really, really want to know.

The question?

How many pairs of shoes do you own, Carol?

The answer?

As of right now, 97 pairs. I actually had to check my book, in which I mention how many pairs I have, and then add all the shoes I’ve acquired since publication!

I know it’s yet another thing to be grateful for since starting this incredible adventure as a proud shoe shop owner.

Given I have my Spring-Summer collection locked in, I have about six in mind for summer … if I show restraint! Probably closer to eight really, to be honest, so I’ll soon break through the century.

Super duper lucky and grateful.

Until next time,
Carol

PS. Just read an article that Celine Dion has 10,000 pairs of shoes. Wow, I have a long way to go!!!