This is a slightly extended version of a speech I made at The Shoe Garden’s 1st birthday celebrations on 14 April 2013.
I had a dream a few nights ago that I was sitting at my desk at The Shoe Garden and talking to a man on the phone. He had bought a pair of shoes and was insisting on getting a tax deductible receipt. I kept saying to him that he couldn’t get such a receipt as he didn’t give me a donation but purchased a pair of shoes and for that he could only get a standard receipt.
We went to and fro for a while and that’s all I can really remember. When I woke up, I thought that my subconscious was apparently a bit confused about my career. In reality, I’m clearly not confused: I’m the proud owner of a shoe shop but, then again, 18 months ago, I was the proud Executive Manager for Fundraising and Communications at the Spinal Injuries Association.
I spent five very happy but very challenging years in that position and one Sunday in early November 2011, I woke up crying. It was the day after a major fundraising event, it had been a turbulent year and I was absolutely exhausted: mentally, physically and emotionally. I realised that I couldn’t stay in the role and I needed a change, not just from the job but from my 23 year career in media, PR and fundraising.
In four hours, I decided to open a shoe shop specialising in longer sizes. Eleven days later, I resigned and gave three months’ notice, put my townhouse on the market so I could invest my own money into the business, and started looking for a shop.
Fast forward to 31 January 2012. That was my last day working at the Spinal Injuries Association. It was also the settlement date for my townhouse which I had managed to sell to an investor as I had hoped so I could rent it back. And I was about to sign the lease for my fantastic premises. It was a momentous day.
Fast forward another 2.5 months to 14 April 2012 and The Shoe Garden opened its doors for the first time. In fact, many of you here today were here on that weekend, which is really fabulous and I so appreciate your long-term support.
The past 12 months have been incredible.
At this point, my voice starts to waver and I need to collect myself for a moment. I didn’t expect to be this emotional!
I have learned so much and met so many amazing people and been so happy. What a difference 12 months can make. I am super proud to own and operate a small business and source and sell long, gorgeous shoes.
But if the past 12 months have been exciting, the next few years will be even moreso. I want The Shoe Garden to move from being a for-profit business to being a not-just-for-profit business. I want to combine commerce with a conscious and ensure that giving back is part of the ethos of The Shoe Garden. I have lived and travelled to many countries in Africa and have always felt a deep connection to the continent. I would like to help empower and support women there, because I think if you help women, you help the entire community. I am not sure how this will happen, in terms of the format it will take, but I am sure that it will happen.
I would like to thank my friend Andrea for being CC’s official guardian today, a very important role. Her biceps are going to be sore tomorrow after carrying CC throughout this event, ensuring she is safe but still a part of the celebrations as bringing CC to work every day has truly been a highlight. And so many of my customers love her too.
I would also like to thank Danielle for taking photographs during the event and I would like to thank mum for helping me today too.
And here my voice breaks again … I never seem to be able to talk about how amazing the support of my mum and dad has been throughout my whole life, let alone since this huge career change, without tearing up. True to form, I struggle to speak.
Thank you mum for once again helping out today and wearing your Shoe Garden shoes with such pride. I love you!
So thank you to everyone for being a part of the journey so far. There is still a long adventure ahead and I look forward to sharing that, and more gorgeous shoes, with you all.
Ciao for now, Carol & CC