When I first decided to open a shoe shop, a few people asked me whether or not I thought I would get bored. In fact, one friend asked me just last week.
So far … no way! I’m having too much fun, learning new things all the time and I love every moment.
I guess I can understand their fears, though. I’ve gone from working frantic 12 hour days in a senior role; ricocheting from meeting to meeting; leading and managing a team; working with a large number of colleagues and stakeholders; and trying to balance proactive strategies with reactive opportunities in a career I have been in for 23 years.
Now it’s just CC and I in the shop six days a week, working very civilised hours and my only interaction is with lovely, happy and excited customers and suppliers.
There is still much to learn but I agree that perhaps, just perhaps, after a few years I may feel a bit restless.
But that’s where the next stage of The Shoe Garden journey kicks in.
In the future, when The Shoe Garden is making a reliable and respectable profit, what I am determined to do is turn my for-profit business into a not-just-for-profit business.
That is such a great term, isn’t it?
I have borrowed it, with enormous respect, from Sseko Designs, based in Uganda, who employ young women needing to earn money to fund their university studies to make gorgeous sandals with interchangeable straps, which are currently available in the shop. They are a business but they give back to individuals in a sustainable, valued manner that makes a real difference.
That’s so inspiring.
I once lived and worked in Hanoi and a young Vietnamese-Australian Jimmy Pham borrowed $10,000 from his mum and opened KOTO, a restaurant and training school for street kids. I was working for the United Nations at the time and Jimmy did more with that $10,000 than I believe the UN did with millions. His charity was personal; it was grassroots; and it helped individuals, one at a time. Graduates from KOTO are now amongst the top chefs and wait staff in the country and Jimmy’s tiny eight seat restaurant which I can still remember so well now seats 80 and another has opened in Ho Chi Minh City.
That’s so inspiring.
I have worked for the past 10 years for two wonderful charities (RACQ CareFlight and the Spinal Injuries Association) and I was inspired every day by the people we were assisting. I could see the difference we were making and I was so proud to be a part of it.
So with all this inspiration in mind, I am already dreaming of what next … not an empire of The Shoe Gardens all over Australia, but a single responsible business that remains personal and personable and ultimately can use its profits to do something good. It will probably take a while…it could be a few years or many years but it will happen.
I have lived and travelled a lot in Africa and am enchanted and intrigued by the continent. This is where I want to make a difference and I want to focus on women and assist them to develop their own businesses and careers. If you help women, I believe, you are also helping children and families and communities, such is their strength and power when given a fair go. It may be that they create beautiful products to sell to The Shoe Garden customers and beyond, or maybe The Shoe Garden will back them in projects to set up a market stall or go to university or fund a new business venture.
There are endless possibilities and it will take much research and time to find how best to help so that it is of value, is sustainable and will make a difference.
So, please know, that as you are shopping at The Shoe Garden and buying gorgeous shoes, you are also an important part of a long journey ahead. It is certainly not going to be boring….it’s going to be inspiring and amazing and together we will make a difference.
Thank you so much for your support these past six months. The best is still to come!