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

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!!!

 

Ankle boots: they’ve come a long way!

Once upon a time, ankle boots were like little mini wellington boots or else were the classic pull-on boot with a distinct country look and feel.

Not anymore!

In the past few years, I have noticed a purposeful shift away from not just the old style of ankle boots, but also long boots, to much more effort, style and focus placed on the lower end of the spectrum, from shoe booties (shooties, apparently!) that stop at or just below the ankle bone to any height of boot up to the mid-calf.

For anyone who only wears dresses and skirts like myself, this is a fabulous development. I started wearing ankle boots for the first time a few years ago and have never looked back. I’ve been impressed that each year the range gets more adventurous and fun and, importantly, stylish.

A good fit is the key, much like a long boot, I guess. You don’t want a lot of gaping around the top of the boot aka the wellington boot look. Ankle boots these days tend to fit closer to the ankle or the leg, tapering at the top and offering a shapely silhouette that is ideal to accompany most outfits.

Donda TanI love the lace-up look and many of these, given their style, fit snug on the leg. They reflect a certain charm from years gone by and look wonderful with floaty dresses and skirts and even pencil skirts. There’s usually a handy zip at the side so once the laces are adjusted to suit, access is easy and speedy. FB iZZY-Gunmetal-Side

A bold, block high heel on an ankle boot always looks great if you don’t mind the extra height. This style has brought the ankle boot into the corporate wardrobe and it’s not uncommon to see them worn with suits and looking sensational.

This season, there are some great shoe booties that will also make another appearance throughout Summer later in the year. They look like a high heeled zm_WILDER_MET1479_2[1](typically) shoe but have full coverage across the foot, perhaps with a peeptoe and/or side or back cut-aways. For our warmer climes in Queensland, these are especially versatile all-year-round.

I have just this week completed my order with J.Renee for Winter 2018. I know … so far ahead of time but given our different seasons, a necessity. I can assure you there are some SENSATIONAL shoe booties and ankle boots in this range.

Until next time,
Carol

Giving back is good for business … and it feels amazing!

I will never forget when Dorothy said to me: “I don’t have to beg my husband for money anymore. Now he comes to me.”

Ah yes, the power of microfinance and the undeniable truth that if you support women, you support the whole community.

At the time, I was sitting in a small, mud brick building in a tiny village in regional Malawi. It was raining and hot; boy, was it hot. I was delicately balanced on a small, rickety stool and listening intently to a series of women answering my questions through an interpreter. In the other room, the rest of the group continued on with their meeting to pay back that fortnight’s loan instalment and then listen to vital business advice that would help them grow their businesses.

MicroLoan Foundation Australia has funded thousands of loans to women in the Mulanje region of this southern African country. When my darling mum and I visited in late December 2014, we were fascinated by the women and their stories … probably as fascinated as they were about us!

But differences aside, business is universal. I remember they were learning about market research and everything the loan officer was telling them was something that I had done with my own small business, prior to and since establishing The Shoe Garden in 2012.

I knew from the moment that I decided to open a women’s shoe shop specialising in longer sizes that I wanted it to be a not-just-for-profit.

That means that giving back is embedded into my business.

It’s not negotiable.

It happens every day on every sale.

And it’s transparent. Each month I faithfully record on my website how much I have donated from the previous month’s sales.

Two years in and I’m super duper proud to announce that I have helped to raise $19,047.55.

Of this amount, $13,086.25 has come from donations that I make, ranging from 25c to $5, from everything sold in-store or online for the past two years. I thought this was the best way … to tie my monthly donations to sales in order to make my giving back sustainable.

Shop-Share-Care-logo-CMYKThrough my Shop Share Care program, a further $5,961.30 has been donated and fundraised by my darling customers, peers, friends and family.

Just look at what we can do together!

This means women who are typically marginalised because they are poor and because they are women are given trust and respect (and a small loan) and encouraged to support one another as well as given valuable lessons in business.

It means wives don’t have to beg husbands anymore (go Dorothy!) and young women like Estery who I so enjoyed meeting can build a house for her mum and be happy that her mum is incredibly proud of her.

So many stories and so much more to do.

Until next time,
Carolx

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