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

Five reasons I’m so happy it’s my fifth birthday!

The Shoe Garden is five years old this Friday, 14 April, and I could not be happier as a proud shoe shop owner!

Reason #1:

Well, I made it to five years! I hear so many sobering and alarming stats that something like one in three new small businesses don’t make it past the first year, let alone the second, third or fourth. Ouch!

And then there’s the more exciting stat that if a small business can survive five years, it has the strength, resilience and momentum to flourish.

All stats aside, rest assured that I’m not taking anything for granted. I’ve had some pretty tough times, many of which I share in my book, “In My Shoes” and so for me, every time I sell a pair of shoes, I’m grateful. As always, the tough times are when you learn the most, so I feel now even more empowered to forge ahead for another five years and beyond. How exciting is that?!

Reason #2:

While I have not created a revolutionary new product or a new service like many new businesses these days, I have created a new brand: The Shoe Garden. I was able to develop and build my brand from scratch, ensuring it reflected my values and vision of providing gorgeous long shoes in size 10 and up in an environment that was happy, friendly, kind and welcoming and in a manner that was honest, ethical and dedicated to giving back.

Reason #3:

I am probably most proud that I have raised $19,047.55 for MicroLoan Foundation Australia through my Shop Share Care program since becoming a not-just-for-profit. Just over $13,000 of that is from sales at The Shoe Garden. This money will help some amazing women in regional Malawi to start a second-hand clothing stall, cook and sell doughnuts or diversify their business and sell different types of fish at the local markets. Small loans that are repaid with interest and savings in a supportive environment that includes mandatory training in business principles is a surefire winner for success. I’m super proud to donate a portion from everything I sell to this amazing charity and take care to be as transparent as possible about my giving back. You can see every donation to date here.

Reason #4:

I love it that, after five years, I still get giddy with excitement when I walk into my shop. Maybe it was because for 23 years I was doing something so different that five years of being a proud shoe shop owner still feels very new and fresh. Or maybe it’s just because it all feels so right. Yes, I prefer that reason! Along with this happiness, comes a contentment that I’m on the right track and a reassuring feeling that I still have so much to achieve and so many ideas to implement and even more things to learn.

Reason #5:

I have met so many gorgeous customers over the past five years; sometimes two or three new ones each day, and I absolutely love hearing their stories, getting to know them and learning more about what they are searching for in shoes. I have laughed, joked and cried with them; and feel like I am a little part of their life whenever they go through another milestone and need new shoes, whether it be for a school formal, a first job, travelling or a wedding, and countless other occasions.

I am truly amazed how beautiful, supportive and kind my customers are. To have met so many brilliant people these past five years has been an amazing highlight.

Until next time,
Carolx

 

 

 

First formal training as proud shoe shop owner in five years!

As many of you know, I am a journalist by training…

…who fell into PR

….who then fell into fundraising

…who then took a huge leap of faith and opened a shoe shop.

From the time I made the decision to the time I opened the doors of The Shoe Garden, it was around five months so it was a pretty hectic period.

I did everything by heart, head and gut … in that order!

Given I had no experience in business, retail or shoes, I read as many books as I could and subscribed to blogs and asked lots of questions whenever I could. I guess it’s the journo in me … I’ve never been afraid to ask questions when I don’t know something. I hope to never, ever stop learning and starting a new career in a new industry certainly has given me plenty of opportunity to grow and learn.

Last week, I was in Sydney at the Inside Retail Live three-day conference and despite an annoying head cold, I couldn’t stop smiling. I was with my tribe, learning and affirming and being inspired and talking all things retail.

One of my new fave quotes, by Zig Zigler, is:

If you are not willing to learn, no one can help you. If you are determined to learn, no one can stop you.

I can’t tell you how determined I am to continue to create a beautiful, welcoming, inviting space for customers to experience The Shoe Garden, whether they come into my shop or onto my website, and to continue to ensure my brand matches their experience. I want to delight and surprise my customers whenever and however I can.

After three days of intense learning, I have come away with so many ideas for the future. As always, I have written a long list and will work my way through it. Some may not work; others might need to be tweaked; others still will be a hit, but all of that in itself is a huge learning.

So, as I get closer and closer to my 5th birthday, here’s to an amazing 2017 filled with determined learning!

Until next time … feeling very unstoppable!
Carol

Focus on long shoes only, Carol!

106909_iris-smartphone-crossobody_teal-tribalI have recently reduced all my beautiful Sakroots handbags and purses by 25%.

I should have known not to buy them for The Shoe Garden, but I got distracted by their gorgeous-ness!

You see, when an agent asked me if I stocked bags, I responded with a firm “no”. I had in the past, but they didn’t sell well. And then I made the mistake of looking into the room where the bags were and falling instantly in love. Oh my, were they divine and so well made and funky and fabulous … I just had to have them … for me and for the shop!

They sold pretty well at first, but then, not so much. I think I have since confirmed what I long suspected … Shoe Garden customers are focused pretty much exclusively on my long shoes. They might glance sideways at a pretty purse or a beautiful bag occasionally, but seriously … after years of deprivation, they simply want as many pairs of gorgeous shoes as they can get.

So … lesson learned. Diversifying can work for many retailers, but not for me as a specialist in long shoes.

I will focus all my attention on offering a diverse range of gorgeous shoes in size 10 and up, as that is what my customers really want. I’m listening!

Until next time
Carolx

 

Best ever shoe range … until the next best ever shoe range!

That’s it. I’ve finished. I’d do a happy dance if I wasn’t so tired!

I have this week finalised my Spring Summer 2017 range. It was my toughest range to order yet for the best of reasons: there were just so many gorgeous choices and a few new brands to tempt me, too.

I know people think it must be loads of fun to look at beautiful shoes and buy lots of them – and it is. But it’s also fraught with angst as I agonise over my choices and whether they will appeal to my gorgeous customers who span so many ages, tastes, needs and budgets.

If they don’t sell, I have to slash them at sale time and compromise what I need to earn to operate my business. If they still don’t sell, I am stuck with shoes that no one wants despite my best intentions and every pair represents dollars in limbo.

No wonder I hide some in cupboards! I can’t stand seeing them anymore.

But ultimately, it’s still wonderful to have so many fabulous choices. Not one of the brands I stock is exclusively for longer sizes … that’s what puzzles (and angers!) so many of my customers. Why don’t other shops stock them then, they ask me?

I reckon I bought and offered my best range ever this past Summer and ditto for this upcoming Winter. But now that I’ve seen this new Summer range that will start arriving as early as July but mostly in August, September and October, I reckon the best of the best is still to come.

I think I have everyone covered: from those who prefer flats to high heels; from casual to conservative to corporate; and, of course, just plain fun and funky! I have to say, it is way more fun buying shoes en masse in Summer … more bright and happy colours and styles are available; I guess just more occasions to wear beautiful shoes in our Aussie summer.

I do analyse the success of each range now and that can be sobering as well as inspiring. Very few brands repeat styles but when they do with their best-sellers, of course I feel more confident to buy these again. I have a few such styles coming up for both this winter (the wonderful Swansea shoe by Hinako is a classic example) and next summer, too.

For the first time this summer, I’m not stocking some Shoe Garden stalwarts. That took some deep consideration. Some of the brands have changed direction and I’m not as enamoured with their styles anymore. Others just haven’t been able to compete on style and pricepoint. In the end, I have to make some tough choices when I offer a wide range of brands. Then again, it’s this wide range that makes choice at The Shoe Garden so much fun! Sadly, there are fewer and fewer non-branded, boutique shoe shops around these days.

I guess it’s all a bit of give and take at the end. I start each buying session with an open mind and a strict budget. Weeks later, I emerge a bit blurry-eyed and sigh with satisfaction and anticipation for the season ahead. Mission accomplished.

Meantime, let’s bring on Autumn and Winter … new shoes and boots are arriving weekly and, yes, they’re gorgeous and yes, best range ever … so far!

Until next time
Carolx

So what DO I do when no one is buying gorgeous shoes?

I am often asked what I do all day when there are no customers in the shop.

Here’s what I did yesterday:

  • Arrive at 6.30am, put my hair up and kick off my heels. It’s about to get physical!
  • Re-arrange the whole shop as I’ve had new deliveries
  • Reduce the size of the “on sale” section as a result, so put spare shoes back in their boxes and onto shelves out back
  • Dust and clean shelves as I go
  • Cut back a plant that is growing up from the floorboards into my shelves (seriously!)
  • Unpack some more copies of my book “In My Shoes” and arrange them around the shop
  • Sweep
  • Vacuum
  • Put away shoes from the day before
  • Post on Facebook, both on The Shoe Garden page and the In My Shoes The Book page
  • Post on Instagram
  • Input some receipts from the past few days into my trusty spreadsheet
  • Finally clean out the filing cabinet out back. It was time!
  • Put the rubbish out
  • Open the shop. It’s 10am
  • Think about ways to celebrate my upcoming 5th birthday. Woohoo!
  • Start my monthly e-newsletter to customers that’s due out next week
  • Also start, and annoyingly not complete as planned, a brief for my lovely designer as I want to revamp the look of my e-newsletters and this blog, too. Stay tuned!
  • Study my cash flow and breathe a sigh of relief. All good
  • Pay some invoices
  • While I’m there, pay some personal bills, too
  • Somehow snap my bracelet and watch in horror as beads bounce all over the floor. Sweep yet again and worry all arvy that I’ve missed a bead and someone will slip on it
  • Finish January’s monthly report that I started the day before and the 16 variables that I count every month. Now onto February’s! I hate being two months behind but I just need to breathe and not beat myself up about it…
  • Clean the front windows and glass door … little noses gazing at CC in wonder from the outside often result in smudges!
  • Keep adding things to my list of things to do as I think of them … if it’s on there, it will get done eventually
  • Lose count of how many emails and phone calls I respond to
  • Read a few of the daily blogs that I subscribe to for inspiration and information. My faves are from Flying Solo and Inside Retail Australia
  • Water all the pot plants (something that I usually forget to do so feeling very chuffed to include this on my list!)
  • Change home page of my website so it looks fresh and exciting for regulars
  • Accept delivery of two big cartons of shoes; two styles that I will unpack, stack, put on my Point of Sale software and website tomorrow morning. Have run out of time today
  • Finalise and post this blog!

And yes, I also serve gorgeous customers throughout the day. I chat, give advice when asked, leave them in peace when sensed, listen to their stories, laugh with them and cry a bit, too (sad dog story…sigh!).

Then repeat the next day.

Until next time
A proud but pooped shoe shop owner
Carolx

Dreaming about shoes!

Once upon a time, in my other life, I used to regularly work 12 hour days.

I would get home exhausted, drained and anxious.

Now I regularly work 12 hour days and I get home inspired, excited and looking forward to going back the next day to do it all over again.

I can’t tell you what an impact that has!

Until next time
Carolx

DD

Hurry up! We need new shoes now!

Fast fashion: two of the most popular words in the fashion industry for some time.

Retailers such as Cotton On, H&M and Zara are among many associated with the ever-growing demand that sees drops of new clothing arrive in-store regularly with super speedy turnaround before the next drop … often there’s only a week in between.

It’s been happening in clothing for ages and I think footwear is starting, ever so slowly, to catch on.

But, and it’s a big but, I realise creating shoes, a three dimensional product that supports the weight of our body so therefore must be structurally sound and supportive, is more complex than two dimensional clothing … otherwise we’d all be making our own shoes, right?

It’s also important to realise that a lot of clothing that is made so quickly is not of high quality, some intentionally designed to not last long to encourage further buying.

This is not what I mean or want. What I would like is to have access to new shoes being delivered all year around, especially as lines between seasons are blurry at best. Last April was the hottest on record in Brisbane … I remember how long it took for Autumn to arrive, let alone Winter. I think shoe designers need to start creating and demanding trans-seasonal styles that are delivered throughout the year.

Given that, I was excited to discover that for the first time, I am being offered shoes for Summer 2017 by some brands that will purposefully arrive over four or five months, instead of all at once in one huge delivery. Some will be arriving earlier than ever before; others much later.

Think a more wintery style in July, another in August, something more summery in September and sandals in October.

I love that for so many reasons.

  • It brings my customers back in again and again to see what’s new
  • It helps my cash flow because my invoices are smaller and across a longer timeframe
  • It gives me so much to talk about in social media and marketing materials when new styles arrive
  • It keeps life exciting … for me and my gorgeous customers!

I hope other brands get on board … I would love to one day offer new shoes every month of the year instead of a glut of shoes from February to April and then again from August to October.

Fingers crossed. Time will tell, I guess.

Until next time
Carolx

Dreaming about gorgeous, long shoes and what comes next at The Shoe Garden

Everything you should not do on your precious, business dreaming and planning days!

  • Put a load of washing on.
  • Then another.
  • Unload the dishwasher.
  • Change a lightbulb … seriously, I did!
  • Not have lunch organised so you cook something and it tastes yuk so you have vegemite on toast instead, which you should have just made in the first place.
  • Keep checking your iPhone for emails and online orders even though your gorgeous staff member is completely capable of looking after your shop while you’re away for the day.

Yep, I was a bit hyper at first and not able to settle. I think it stemmed from a hugely busy few days and weeks in the shop, selling lots of gorgeous long shoes, unpacking fabulous new deliveries each day, as well as viewing shoes and ordering for next summer. My head was spinning.

pillowSo what you should do on these dreaming and planning days and what I eventually did:

  • Relax. This is your time to dream big (just like my cushion says!) about your beautiful business.
  • Don’t do any housework just because you’re at home. You’re working from home today; there’s a HUGE difference. Better still, if you’re worried about achieving this, get household chores and stuff done the night before.
  • Have a notebook in front of you and just write whatever crazy idea comes to you. This is sometimes where the magic starts. Other times, it doesn’t, but that’s okay, too.
  • Don’t chide yourself for being so crap at this … it’s a bit like meditation and takes time to clear your head and give yourself permission to dream.

In the end, I had a few pages filled. I think I have a few gems — they need a bit of polish, a bit of development, but I am confident they will evolve … just like my ability to maximise these precious days when all you really have to do is dream big!

Until next time,
Carolx

 

Three powerful words for business and for life!

Dream.Dare.Do.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Until next time
Carolx

Being me … it’s so easy!

I read the most amazing book on the holidays … “Shoe Dog” by founder of Nike, Phil Knight.

Now, it’s not hard to figure out that I’m not a particular fan of running shoes; I love pretty, fashionable shoes with high heels and lots of style, but I was fascinated to read about Phil’s journey from the mid 1960s when he started out until today.

IMG_2954And when I read these words, about why he decided to chuck in his job and devote 100% of his time to his fledgling business importing running shoes from Japan, I knew we had more in common than I ever thought.

“I wanted what everyone wants. To be me, full-time.”

That’s it!

That’s what is so special about starting your own business … you can be “you” all the time.

As I explain in my book, for all of my career I’ve been someone else … the impartial journalist, the spokesperson for my CEO or the face and voice of my organisation, carefully choosing words on everyone else’s behalf, ensuring I’m reflecting everyone else’s brand.

And now, since opening The Shoe Garden (nearly five years ago … wow, doesn’t time fly!), I can finally be me and, even better, be me all the time. I can say and do what I believe is right.

Authenticity in business is a popular topic. When you’re being you, it’s really, really easy to be authentic because it comes naturally. People respond to that; they like it.

As I look ahead to the coming months of 2017, I’m incredibly excited about the future. I wish you an amazing year ahead, too.

Until next time,
Carol