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

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.

 

The Top 5 … no, 10 … no, 15 … no, 12 reasons I love owning The Shoe Garden

I am often asked what I love most about my “new life” and being the proud owner of The Shoe Garden for the past four years.

I actually get a bit anxious when I’m asked … not because I can’t think of what to say, but because I want to say so much; there are so many reasons.

Here are my Top 12 … actually I originally thought I’d do the Top 5 but that wasn’t enough so I went to 10 and that wasn’t enough so I went to 15 and that was probably too many to read so I trimmed it back to … here are my Top Dozen!

  1. I have the most incredible customers. They are so supportive, so loyal and so kind. They are generous with their feedback and I love seeing how excited they are when they see my new shoes each season or when they visit for the first time. I love the happy dances and the happy tears; the squeals of delight when something beautiful fits their long feet or, my goodness, is even too long!
  2. I get to take darling CC to work with me every day. As I type this, she’s sitting about 10cm away and I can hear her snoring. It’s been a busy day; she’s pooped from all the attention, cuddles and pats, I’m guessing!
  3. There’s still so much to learn: about shoes and about business. I knew nothing about either when I opened and it’s been a wonderful, challenging and sometimes scary learning curve but I have relished every moment, even the tough ones.
  4. I am deliriously proud of being a not-just-for-profit and donating money from every item I sell every day to the wonderful Microloan Foundation Australia so they can empower women in Malawi with small business loans. Visiting some of the women in December 2014 with mum – and learning about their businesses and the valuable training they receive, seeing them tell me with pride how their lives have changed – was something that I will never, ever forget.
  5. After 23 years of working for other people and with other people, now I work for myself and I absolutely love it: my standards, my way.
  6. I can also finally be me. For my entire career, I was never really me: I was the impartial journalist (the media did once upon a time see this as important!) or the spokesperson for my organisation or CEO, always using and choosing words on their behalf. Now I can be and say exactly what I want. It’s so rejuvenating.
  7. I see my gorgeous folks so often these days as they regularly pop in to say “hello”. Dad will take CC for a walk; mum will have a chat with customers or arrange the bunches of rosemary she has brought from their garden into vases to decorate the shop. It’s always so lovely to see them.
  8. I love being a different sort of retailer. No hard sell from me; just honest opinions when asked. And no branding in the shop; just gorgeous shoes, beautiful flowers and happy faces.
  9. I love being a champion of longer sized shoes. Firstly, for calling them long and not the immediately put-you-on-your-guard connotations of “big” shoes or “large” shoes, and for encouraging (I even resort to nagging!) designers and suppliers to “go long”!
  10. I am a convert to Facebook! I don’t have a personal page but I absolutely adore engaging with my customers through my Shoe Garden Facebook  page and sharing funny stories or photos of new shoes or, let’s face it, the most popular of all: photos of CC!
  11. I have gone from wearing corporate suits to caftans. What’s not to love?!
  12. And, oh yes, I have the most wonderful and amazing shoe collection now!!!

These are certainly my fave reasons but before I think of any more to add….

Until next time
Carolx

New diary = big dreams ahead!

Sigh … don’t you just love a new diary???FullSizeRender

The pages are all so fresh and crisp and are tantalising for their endless potential. I select a favourite pen, you know the kind that feels good in the hand and glides easily over the page, and begin filling in the days, weeks and months ahead with appointments, birthdays, reminders and lists of things to do. I am so neat and precise at the start; less so as time goes by!

A diary is such a blank canvas at first and then it slowly starts to reveal itself and your life comes into focus.

July is already crammed with another shoe expo to view winter shoes for 2017 and viewings with other brands either side of the expo that extend well into August. There’s a note to create a survey for customers to ask them about what styles they would like to see next season and how they are finding The Shoe Garden shopping experience, as well as tentative dates for the much anticipated arrival of my new J.Renee range, which will travel from Texas to Brisbane to delight my customers. A sneak peek is here!

My sale finishes on Saturday, 10 July so there is lots of work for a few days afterwards, returning the shop to its normal state and in readiness for the new arrivals for Spring-Summer throughout July, August, September and October. If you don’t want to miss out on some great bargains, head here if you’re size 10, 11, 12 or 13+ in the meantime.

I love diaries as they are filled with not just stuff to do but ideas, inspiration and plans for the future. On the flip side, there are also the everyday reminders which I like to include more and more to ensure balance: go for a run, call a friend, find some “me” time … things like that.

I am so old-school. Yes, I have an electronic diary too but I much prefer my “real” one … I don’t have to plug it in, recharge it or get annoyed when the internet connection falters. I just have to turn a page, scribble a note, cross something out. It’s so easy and tactile and I love it.

The year ahead is already looking amazing.

Until next time
Carolx

 

In the news

CC and I are in a lovely article in the Brisbane News this week about some lucky people who can take their dogs to work. I love the lead paragraph!

FullSizeRender IMG_1483

 

The power of gorgeous shoes!

Gorgeous shoes that fit our long feet have so much power…

They make you twirl in front of the mirror.

They make you do a little dance.

They make you smile

They make you refuse to take them off because you want to wear them out of the shop and never take them off.

They make you cry; happy tears.

They make your mum cry or your friend cry because they are so happy for you.

They make you clap your hands in glee.

I see customers do many, if not all, of these things every day.

No wonder I love my job!

Until next time
Carolx

 

Seeing is believing … long shoes at the movies!

Orders for gorgeous shoes from my website continue to grow each month so I’m always thinking about ways to improve the experience for customers from as far away as Alice Springs to Broome and from Winton to Hobart … and everywhere in between.

This new initiative began because I recognise how hard it can be to buy shoes from looking at photographs without the benefit of seeing them in real life, let alone trying them on.

What I’ve come up with is posting short videos on product pages of me trying on the shoe and twirling this way and that so the shoe can be seen in all its glory!

I give a running commentary too, pointing out key features such as adjustable buckles, Velcro-fastened straps or sturdy heels. I wear a size 12 so viewers can see what it looks like on a long foot too.

Now, I’m no Meryl Streep and the lovely Cherie, who “directed” the first few for me is no Steven Spielberg behind the camera (my Iphone, actually!) but I think they work fine for their purpose: to give online customers a better idea of the fit and look of the shoe.

The videos are especially fabulous when a boot has several looks like this gorgeous Aerobics boot in black and red suede….

… or when you don’t have any professional photographs and have to rely on your own crummy photography, like for this delightful Django and Juliette shoe in a divine red…

…or when a shoe just looks better on than off, like this stylish CBD pair of heels.

I’m guessing there will be a blooper reel at some stage … it’s amazing how you press “record” and the phone will ring or CC will bark at a passing dog or she’ll walk in front of the camera!!

The videos are great fun to make though and I am just getting started. Keep an eye on my website for many more to pop up on product pages and I’ve profiled a few on Facebook too.

Until next time
Carolx

Having a great coach is a good fit for business!

I have never been particularly good at asking people for help.

I am fantastic at sourcing information that I need from books, blogs and seminars but asking directly for help, face-to-face, on an ongoing basis … not so much.

Thinking about why, I guess I’m pretty independent in my decision-making process and since starting The Shoe Garden just over four years ago with no experience in business, retail or in shoes, I’ve relished the liberating feeling of being responsible for every aspect of my business. I just didn’t feel comfortable sharing that.

But a little while ago, my beautiful accountant Lynne Spalding, from Financial Controlling Services, asked if she could trial her skills as a budding business coach with me. I jumped at the chance.

I’ve attended two sessions now and I’m a convert!

Having filled out responses to a questionnaire designed to showcase where my strengths and weakness were in business and as a business, it was quickly apparent where my areas for development and growth were.

But here’s the thing with a coach, and why I love the concept so much, and it’s that it is not Lynne’s job to work everything out for me and give me all the answers. She is there to make me think and consider strategies to improve by asking lots of probing and relevant questions. Then together we look at what steps I should take to get to where I want to go and what I want to achieve.

And this is the best bit: we then wrote an action plan and gave everything a due date. Perhaps it’s the inner journo in me, but I respect and revere deadlines. Tell me to do something by a certain date and it’s done, no question.

In the next few months, I have a list of things to do in order to achieve a big goal and Lynne will be there to check in with me to ensure I’m on track. As a solo business owner, having someone else care about what I’m doing is pretty remarkable and gives me a great sense of solidarity and, let’s face it, responsibility too!

Lynne is a caring, empathetic person, and a small business owner herself, and she recognises the stresses and strains that are involved in running your own business. So she has insisted that I plan for ‘down time’ during this period where I … shock, horror, gasp … leave my phone at home and go to do something just for me. In my case, that will probably be a walk in the sunshine somewhere lovely with darling CC.

When rejuvenating and re-energising yourself is part of your new Action Plan, what’s not to love!

Until next time
Carolx

Beautiful Brand Profile: Naturalizer

“I feel like a kid in a candy shop,” say a lot of my customers when they visit or browse my website.

They feel overwhelmed by the choice (some even get teary!) and a big part of that is that I stock more than 20 brands at The Shoe Garden. Each is unique and offers something different.

In my regular profile on my beautiful brands, I have chosen Naturalizer this month to showcase some of their gorgeous creations.

Naturalizer has been around for a long time (they started in 1927) but they are well and truly current when it comesNaturalizer_Primary Logo Mark - Tagline to fashion with some fabulous choices in flats, heels and boots, for work, going out on the town or for casual attire.

This season, I have found their range particularly appealing.shoes_ibec0201717[1]

I’m completely in love with these divine lace-up shoe booties that are perfect for any outfit. They look spectacular on everyone who has tried them!

 

 

shoes_ibec0218470[1]If you prefer a stylish ankle boot, then this soft leather pair is oh-so-gorgeous.They look super sleek on the foot and the silver buckle on the side and the elegant heel means they are perfect for day or night.

 

 

 

shoes_ibec0217871[2]For a slightly more rugged look, the “Jarratt” boot is wonderful, especially in the denim suede with chocolate brown trim. I’ve only got a few left in this dynamic colour combo. It’s not often a coloured boot will outsell its black counterpart but these are proving irresistible to many!

 

 

shoes_ibec0213375[1]

For a lovely long boot, in the wonderfully-named banana bread or in black, these classic boots with subtle stitching take some beating. The chunky block heel is uber comfortable too.

 

 

quey-truffletaupe-side[1]

For a day in the office, nothing beats a wedge and Naturalizer offers this gorgeous choice in black and in taupe. I love it when leather and suede is combined … it really looks fantastic.

 

 

And for those who love a classic, these brogues (below, right) in black or in animal print will never go out of date.shoes_iaec0207555[1]

What I also love is that the Naturalizer range is super comfortable. I love watching customers try on their shoes and go “aahhhh” when they stand up. That’s what some extra cushioning can do and, indeed, it’s not just that. Naturalizer is super proud to offer what they call an N5 comfort system; five essential features to ensure all-day comfort.They are: extra cushioning, breathable linings, great balance, flexible soles and lightweight materials. Tick, tick, tick, tick and tick!

Sold in more than 60 countries, Naturalizer shoes go to a size 12 and offer a slightly wider fit for extra comfort and support.

They are one of the most popular brands at The Shoe Garden and I’m super proud to stock them.

Until next time
Carolx

Long shoes in the news!

IMG_1234I was so thrilled and excited to be profiled in The Huffington Post Australia this week.

You can read the full story, with lots of pix of this season’s shoes included, here.

 

Until next time
Carolx