It took me about five hours to decide to open The Shoe Garden.
From another perspective, it also took 30+ years!
In early November 2011, after an exceptionally busy year and nearly 10 years in fundraising and many more as a journalist and PR manager, I woke up physically, emotionally and mentally exhausted after a major event. I was spent and I needed a change. It took about five hours to realise what I really wanted to do – leave my established career, take a risk and open my own Size 10 and Up women’s shoe shop.
So I resigned and gave 11 weeks’ notice, sold my house and rented it back just as I had planned, and began using my own capital to create The Shoe Garden.
I was so lucky. I found the perfect premises near where I live, opposite a lovely park in a charming cottage on popular Riding Road in Hawthorne.
I came across a few hurdles (like buying stock for winter when everyone only wanted to sell summer stock that I wouldn’t see until August at the earliest; problematic when I was opening in April!) but all these challenges were surmountable, especially with the kindness and patience of all the people I have come across in establishing my business.
My parents have been extraordinary. Their kindness and support are always constant and most appreciated, yet they went above and beyond to help me create my business, with anything from cleaning windows to building shelves, putting up wallpaper and giving sage advice that I have treasured.
My friends have also been amazing – without exception, so encouraging and positive.
And my customers … what can I say? I have been hugged and high fived and made to feel so special by so many women with longer feet who now have a range of gorgeous shoes available to them. They truly make my job not so much a job but a happy adventure filled with laughter and divine shoes! Please see some testimonials that they have shared and send me your own if you wish.
As I say at The Shoe Garden, no nanna shoes or comfort shoes are allowed! When sourcing all my shoes I have and will always have two criteria: they have to be available up to at least a Size 12, if not longer, and they have to be gorgeous!
From the start, I wanted to turn The Shoe Garden into a not-just-for-profit that gives grassroots assistance to women in Africa. I truly believe that if you support and empower women, you support and empower the entire community. I finally achieved this in April 2015 and launched my Shop Share Care initiative that I’m super proud of. In a nutshell, a part of every sale made at The Shoe Garden, online or in-store, will be donated to an amazing charity that provides small loans to women in Malawi to assist them in starting or growing their businesses. I had the incredible opportunity to meet some of these women and I now regard the group we met, the Dodo (meaning love to dance) group, as my peers, mentors and inspiration in business.
I look forward to welcoming you to The Shoe Garden soon.
Carol & CC (my 14-year-old darling Maltese who comes to work with me every day!)