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

Happy highlights of 2016

There’s nothing like the last few days of the working calendar to reflect on the year that was.

All in all, mine has been pretty fabulous!

First and foremost, everyone I know and love stayed healthy and well. That’s a biggie. Often we can’t anticipate or control what our bodies have in store for us and I’ve always been so grateful for good health.

Here are a few other highlights:

  • Writing my first book about the giddy liberation of creating your own business and operating it in a way that makes you, and others, feel great. The process of writing and self-publishing was cathartic, inspiring and humbling.
  • Watching first-time customers wander around the shop, often getting teary at the choices they have. I will never tire of seeing my shop through their eyes.
  • Catching up on the goss with lovely regulars who have made me laugh and sometimes cry at their mostly happy and sometimes sad stories throughout the year.
  • Raising lots of money for Microloan Foundation Australia with every sale. The total raised so far has nudged just over $12,000 from sales and just under $6,000 donated by friends, customers, peers and family … that’s more than $18,000 so far. Woohooo!
  • Visiting New Zealand and meeting the design teams behind Minx and Ziera. That was a success; me coping with the freezing temperatures … not so much!
  • Celebrating darling CC’s 13th birthday with lovely customers and helping to raise $356 from sales on the day. She continues to be happy and well with the sharpest eyesight, always on the look-out for other dogs, the postman, couriers and my dad as that means a walk is moments away and that’s so exciting!
  • Going through stressy times (read: slow sales) and finding an inner strength to get through, keep going and stay positive.
  • Finding new brands that “go long” such as Rollie Shoes, Bueno and Chrissie, not to mention sourcing fabulous new purses and handbags from Sakroots.

So many highlights … I really am very grateful.

To every single customer who has ever bought gorgeous shoes at The Shoe Garden, either in-store or online from around Australia and New Zealand, simply, thank you!

Until 2017, have a beautiful Chrissy and holiday period
Carolx

PS. Just a reminder that The Shoe Garden will be closed for two weeks from 5pm on Friday, 23 December and opening again on Tuesday, 10 January. However, online orders will be processed throughout this time and I am also happy to open by appointment if possible. Just give me a buzz on 0408 721195.

So, what is “In My Shoes” all about?

I spoke at a business breakfast this week about the transition from 23 years as an employee to being self-employed. I could speak for hours and hours on that topic, but restrained myself to 15 minutes!

Afterwards, a few people asked me what my new book, In My Shoes – What it’s really like to start your own business is about.

My standard answer is that it’s about my first four wonderful, amazing and sometimes scary years in business, but as I get more and more wonderful feedback from customers, suppliers, peers and friends, I realise it is about a lot more.

So I started to ask readers what they thought and their answers were illuminating…

Your book is about how to run a business that is genuine, authentic & client connected whilst standing in your own truth. From a lovely customer.

The book is very authentic and honest. I also loved how you commenced the book, sucked me right in. From a lovely friend.

Read this book! You don’t have to be a business owner or even be thinking of it – you just have to love shoes (I mean who doesn’t) and want to read something inspiring and positive written by an ordinary yet extraordinary woman! It’s a joy to read, a privilege to be alongside Carol’s journey that has ups and downs, but ultimately shows courage and faith! From a lovely Facebook follower who reviewed it on my In My Shoes The Book Facebook page

A lovely supplier thanked me for “teaching an old dog new tricks” and another said she was nodding all the way through and couldn’t put it down.

So I guess it’s about a lot of things: being in business, being brave, gorgeous shoes, being bold and being true to yourself.

Until next time,
Carolx

“In My Shoes” now available as an ebook

cc-with-in-my-shoesIn another exciting development in my first-time author journey, my beautiful book is now available as an ebook.

I’m not a fan of ebooks myself, as I love to hold and feel a book and then place it in a carefully-selected position somewhere on one of my four huge book shelves.

But even I have to admit that ebooks will allow many more potential readers to find “In My Shoes – What it’s really like to start your own business” from anywhere in the world.

I am humbled by the thought. And super excited!

Until next time
Carolx

What is business all about? Good question!

One of the most interesting questions that I’ve been asked by media was by a journalist from Kochie’s Business Builders.

It was: What’s business all about to you?

Good question, right? It made me think for a while, as all good questions do, and then I enjoyed sharing my answer:

“It’s about earning a living in the best way possible.

“For me, that means I get to go to my beautiful shop each day and make people happy. I get to do things my way and to my own standards, which I love and take great pride in.

“It’s about behaving ethically, so being honest and transparent with my customers, suppliers and peers. It’s about creating a welcoming environment that doesn’t bully or push people with crude sales and marketing tactics.

“And it’s about giving back. I’m a proud not-just-for-profit business, which means from every sale in-store or online, I donate a portion to MicroLoan Foundation Australia to help women in Malawi start or grow their own businesses. I was fortunate to travel to Malawi two years ago and see for myself the difference these loans, and the associated business training, have on their lives. It was an unforgettable experience.”

Yep, that pretty much sums it up really!

To read the full article, click here.

Until next time,
Carolx

Oops and yah!

So, where has the time gone? I last wrote in early September and now it’s early November.

That’s the “oops” bit!

In that time, I have been working frantically hard at The Shoe Garden with gorgeous summer shoes and sandals aplenty, but also on finalising and overseeing the production of my first book.

That’s the “yah” bit!

“In My Shoes: What it’s really like to start your own business” is a heartfelt, honest and hopefully inspiring recollection of my first four fabulous years in business.

inmyshoes_cover-72dpiIt’s not your typical business book, in that I don’t tell people what to do to start their own business; I just share what I did. Some things I got right; and others I got very, very wrong. If you’re interested in business, or in gorgeous, long shoes and the shoe industry, or in giving back, or in taking a leap of faith and believing in yourself, then hopefully you will like “In My Shoes”.

This morning, the wonderful author of “The Promise Seed”, Cass Moriarty, shared her thoughts on “In My Shoes” and I didn’t even get half-way through the review before I started crying. Happy tears though! She was so generous in her praise and so insightful with focusing on the key elements of my book. Please see her beautiful review below.

Until next time (and I promise it won’t be too long!)
Carolx

Pop Quiz: What Am I?
1. I’m attractive to women with longer feet.
2. I offer insight and practical advice to people considering opening their own business.
3. I am the poster child for giving back to less advantaged communities through business.

Answer? I am In My Shoes: What it’s really like to start your own business, a part memoir / part how-to book from Carol Haffke, the proud owner of The Shoe Garden.

This self-published book doesn’t look like one. The production is sleek and smooth, the cover artwork is eye-catching and gorgeous, the quality of the paper, the font, the lack of errors – all combine to produce a book with the look and feel of a professional / traditionally published product. But it is the content of this book that is really special.

Carol Haffke was a successful journalist, public relations manager and fundraising officer for 23 years. She has also had long feet for more years than that. One day, out of the blue, she decided to quit her job, put her townhouse on the market, and open a shoe store. Yes, just like that. She freely admits she knew nothing about the shoe industry (other than loving fabulous shoes, and a lifetime of frustration at the lack of options available for women with larger than average feet), and knew even less about running a business, and yet in the space of four hours, she made a decision that would change her life. Now, four years on, her project – The Shoe Garden – in Hawthorne, Brisbane, is a thriving testament to her passion, her courage and her heart. It details her journey, the ups and downs along the way, the things she’s learnt, and what she hopes to achieve in the future.

It is a simple fact that we cannot change the size of our feet (except perhaps through surgery – ow!) and yet for years, women with longer feet have had to be satisfied with a lack of choice in footwear, and higher prices. Not any more. The Shoe Garden proudly stocks only sizes 10 and up, with the rule that they must all be ‘fabulous’! No boring ‘nanna shoes’ (although comfort is still a priority!) And while Carol prefers the term ‘longer feet’ to bigger or larger feet, this book certainly captures her big heart, her big ambitions, her big dreams and her big commitment to giving back.

For anyone considering opening their own small business, or for those of you who have done so, this book will resonate. Chapters on topics such as ‘Love Your Product’, ‘Be Tough’ and ‘Happy Customer’ share all the practical knowledge that Carol has learnt along the way, from buying stock and negotiating terms, to navigating the tricky numbers game of tax and budgets and spreadsheets, to marketing and promotion, to managing staff, to looking after yourself. She introduces us to the people who have inspired her along the way, talks about how her background in marketing both helped and hindered her progress, and tells us how she goes the extra mile to make a sale, keep her customers happy, and most importantly, survive in this tough economic climate. Of course, her adorable dog CC – a fixture in the shop – is featured, as are all the people who she denotes as her support team, ranging from her accountant and her masseuse to her go-to IT team and her florist. The book is full of practical advice gleaned from Carol’s own experience – through mistakes she’s made as well as decisions that have turned out to be winners. It includes everything from big picture business plans down to the small details of which postal envelope to purchase to maximise profit.

At the forefront of the story are her customers – everyone from young girls who are delighted to find a glamorous shoe in their size, to 90-year-old grandmas who can finally own a fabulous shoe in a colour other than black, to transgender people who are finding their feet and are so appreciate of the personal service offered.

And the most wonderful aspect of this book is the story of how Carol gives back – her in-depth chronology of how and why she decided that The Shoe Garden would be a ‘not-just-for-profit’ business, and the steps she took to ensure that every single sale results in a donation to a charity. Carol supports Microloan Foundation, Australia which ‘gives a hand up, not a hand out’ by offering small loans to women in Malawi to help them set up and finance small businesses. As little as $50 can make a huge difference to the lives of these women and their families. Carol has travelled to Malawi and seen first-hand the benefits that her business is providing, and she proudly champions the charity and the women it supports. In fact, In My Shoes is dedicated to some of these remarkable ladies.

If you have longer feet, go to The Shoe Garden or visit them online. If you are thinking about small business, buy this book. If you are interested in how small business can give back to others, read this book. This is a great example of how one woman began to live her dream, and how business can be operated with warmth, integrity, kindness, sensitivity and generosity, as well as making a profit.

 

 

 

A painful lesson

I always go on and on about how small business people, especially solo business people like myself, need to look after themselves. We have no sick leave or peers to take up the slack if we get injured or ill.

It’s a favourite topic of mine and yet I found myself at the physio last week, wincing in pain and feeling very sorry for myself.

Apparently an enormous influx of new summer shoes that resulted in many hours of unpacking huge cartons and stacking shoe boxes onto shelves, high and low, combined with being extra busy at the shop was not appreciated by my spine and I ended up with a lower disc injury.

Ouch!

I now have exercises to do daily, have another physio appointment booked, will take up Pilates soon and will dedicate more time to focus on strengthening my core to avoid future back breakdowns.

And one thing I won’t do anymore, which is blindingly obvious really, is that when unpacking huge amounts of shoes, which I typically do once I’ve closed or before I open, I won’t be doing so anymore in heels.

I know! Doh, right? It really never occurred to me to take them off. What can I say?

So if you catch me bare footed at The Shoe Garden, I’ve probably just unpacked some more gorgeous shoes for you to choose from! Or, there’s also a teeny chance that I’m trying on a new arrival!

Until next time,
Carolx

Behind the brand: Toni Pons

Toni Pons espadrillesHappy 70th birthday to the Toni Pons brand. That’s quite an anniversary!

The specialists in crafting stylish and super comfortable espadrilles started in a small village called Osor in Spain.

Founded by Antoni Pons Parramon in 1946, espadrilles made with jute or rubber and leather boots were the first shoes off the production line.

Fast forward a few decades and the firm moved to Girona and began to sell their shoes beyond the Spanish borders, first to France and then to the rest of the world. Lucky for us they did.

Toni Pons espadrilles are divine creations, each is hand stitched with many lovely materials used, from canvas to suede and leather. Each also has a distinct Mediterranean feel and I love it that many of the styles go to a size 13.

This summer’s range is the best yet, in my humble opinion. Check them all out here.

Until next time,
Carol

 

 

It’s all in the stars!

IMG_0983There were a few times I had to laugh when I was reading through the comments and suggestions from my recent survey of customers who receive my monthly e-newsletter.

Quite a few suggested that the only way I could improve the shopping experience for them was to move The Shoe Garden to their suburb or town! Noted but not really possible, I’m afraid!

I also very much appreciated all the wonderful and kind things people said about myself and darling CC, too, as well as about their positive shopping experiences to date. Thank you!

I was so happy to see that the average rating when asked about their in-store shopping experience was 4.85 out of a possible five stars.

The online shopping experience was also rated highly at 4.9. Woohoo! My website was rated an average of 4.59 for its content and usability and as for the selection of shoes on offer at The Shoe Garden, the average rating was 4.5 stars.

Always interesting is to see preferences for heel height and the lower end was certainly most represented with 28.5% preferring low heels, 24.3% nominating flats and 20.7% preferring mid-sized heels. Only 3.8% nominated high but, having said that, nearly 23% nominated “any and all” heel heights.

Interestingly, it was neck and neck as to the most popular shoe size of respondents with 35% wearing a size 12 and 34.3% wearing a size 11. Next came those who wear size 10 at 17%, 12.1% who wear a size 13 and less than 1% each who wear a size 14 or 15.

A few customers wished for greater search capabilities on my website. I so get that. Unfortunately, my Point of Sale software restricts me to use a particular system and that, at least at this stage, doesn’t allow for searching by more than one filter.

I also noted that a few people commented about how they were disappointed when they were searching for shoes online in their size category, they saw something gorgeous they liked but when they went to order it from the product page, their size didn’t appear.

This is entirely my fault. When I upload my shoes onto my website, I manually tick the brand, type, colour and the available sizes for each individual shoe. Once that size sells out, I need to go back in and manually un-tick the size I no longer have so it disappears from the category.

I am doing a spring clean of my website and have found a number of times this has not happened so have updated everything and will pay even more attention to this in the future. Thank you so much for taking the time to share this. I will do better!

Oh, and as for shoes requested for next season, ankle boots and flats came out as the clear winners.

But, please don’t worry if you didn’t nominate either of these as something that I try very, very hard to do is to carry a broad range of stock to cater for my equally broad range of customers.

Just how diverse my customers are became clear as I read through the responses as to what each customer was looking for in shoes.

One respondent wrote: “More conservative shoes and more dressy black shoes.” The very next survey respondent wrote: “I like bright colours and sparkles. And the next? “A bit boho and fringy.”

To me, this just means I need to work extra hard at ensuring that I have something for everyone, from conservative to colourful and from dressy to sparkly to bohemian. And everything in between, too!

I did note that a lot of choices nominated (flat sandals, lace-ups, work shoes) will definitely be available during this coming season, which is exciting, and I’m pretty sure that I will be able to find many of the requests on people’s wish list for next season, too.

Until next time, Carol

Ps. Congrats to Georgia M who won my $100 voucher drawn randomly last week from all those who took the time to complete my survey. Thank you again!

Gorgeous long shoes arriving daily

 August and September are my favourite months of the year since opening The Shoe Garden.

The bulk of my gorgeous Spring-Summer shoes arrive in these frantic eight weeks which will see me unpacking huge cartons of shoes, sometimes daily, trying to resist the urge to try them all on in favour of unpacking, scanning, stacking and labelling. Not to mention getting all my beautiful new arrivals onto my website within 24 hours, if not earlier.

SARILA-KIRED-PRI[3]Spring and Summer, which in Queensland usually stretch into most of Autumn and some of Winter, is always fun: there are just so many more occasions to wear gorgeous shoes, from parties to the races to Christmas holidays, from comfy flats to pretty heels, wedges and sandals.

I reckon this season is my best ever. I have been known to say that before but I truly believe I’ve nailed it. With three new brands arriving (Chrissie already has; check out their wonderful sandals, with Bueno and Rollie still to come) along with all the other Shoe Garden favourites, I believe I have a wonderfully diverse range of shoes and sandals to offer … hopefully as diverse as my wonderful customers!

If you haven’t already, please consider liking me on Facebook to keep up-to-date on new arrivals with daily posts, or on Instagram, or keep an eye on my website.

Spring is just around the corner. Bring it on!

Until next time,
Carolx

 

 

So passionate about shoes

I love dealing with people who are passionate and proud.

I am deliriously passionate and proud of The Shoe Garden and so it’s easy to recognise these qualities in others.

I recently went on a quick trip to New Zealand with my darling mum to visit two shoe suppliers: Ziera and Minx. I’ve stocked both brands since I opened and having now visited their showrooms in Auckland, I appreciate even more how wonderful their shoes are as I’ve met some of the people behind them.

The customer support team at Ziera were gracious and hospitable when we met and we were given a lovely tour around their premises. It was quickly obvious that everyone there was proud of the Ziera brand and the company. I love that.

I especially loved seeing the room, filled with inspirational quotes and comfy bean bags, that the design team meet in to create their beautiful ranges. Such a great space for creativity to soar.

160125-012443_Minx DetailAfterwards, we ducked into Minx HQ and spent some time with the gorgeous Cushla Reed, the designer behind this wonderful brand. That’s one of her designs to the left that will be arriving soon for summer.

She took me upstairs to a room with a skylight where she can use the natural light to design her quirky, stylish creations. She showed me huge bags filled with swatches of leather and fabrics with an assortment of trims and buckles and bows, too. From there, her shoes are born.

I love that Cushla offers, like Ziera, some of her range to a size 13. I made sure I emphasised to both brands how fantastic it is that they go to longer sizes and to never forget us long-footed women! We deserve gorgeous shoes too, after all!

While mum and I basically spent most of our time frozen thanks to the chilly wind and rain in wintery Auckland (coming from Brisbane, we are such sooks in chilly climes!), we did feel exceptionally warm after meeting some of the people behind both beautiful brands.

One gorgeous shoe by Ziera has already arrived at The Shoe Garden for this season but there are many more to come from both brands. Just wait until you see them … they’re divine and made with pride, too!

Until next time
Carolx

PS. You can always see all my new arrivals for the season here or like me on Facebook for daily updates.