Q&A: If the shoes fit (in the bag), wear them

Kerry Matheson is creator of, and driving force behind, Shoezie, the only purpose-built tote of its kind specifically designed to carry shoes. Launched just as the COVID pandemic took hold, Kerry has ridden out the storm and tweaked her original offering to have a viable, growing businesses 12 months down the track.

ISB: What was the inspiration behind you setting up Shoezie?

KM: There were a couple of things that sparked the idea of Shoezie. Like tens of thousands of other women, I would wear flats on the train in the morning and change into my heels when I arrived at work. Most of us stored our spare shoes loose in our handbag, but they weren’t protected from anything, so sometimes they’d scuff together or something would spill and stain them.

Then, when I was volunteering at Dress For Success in Sydney, women were preferring not to wear heels because they were catching public transport and didn’t want to get sore feet when travelling to an interview.

I didn’t need any other motive after those two experiences.

ISB: What was the biggest challenge you faced in getting the enterprise off the ground?

KM: Launching Shoezie in the middle of COVID-19 was the biggest challenge for me. Sourcing samples and navigating the unique design of the bag was difficult. It took eight months to have it made to the right requirements because of COVID-19 – factories shut down in China at the beginning of 2020 and there was a three-to-four week wait per sample round. It was a bit of a nightmare considering we needed samples before we could give manufacturers the tick of approval.

ISB: How was the transition from working as an employee in an office environment to starting your own business?

KM: I’ve been a marketer for 20 years, so while it was a change, my skills were transferrable which was great. I noticed that when you run your own business you have much greater control of outcomes. A majority of the time I spend on my business is related to driving business outcomes, compared to my corporate role where most of my time was spent in meetings and working on reports or admin tasks that didn’t drive direct outcomes.

ISB: How did you manage to get your venture off the ground in the midst of COVID, with the impact that had on so many people working from home and “dressing down”?

KM: It was difficult because public transport wasn’t being used and many people were working from home. I had to pivot to position Shoezie as an accessory for walking to and from a meeting, dinner, the gym or travelling (before travel bans were placed across Australia).

I ran some campaigns for healthcare workers because a lot of people working in hospitals don’t like bringing their work shoes into their house. Being machine washable, Shoezie has been great because they can pop their shoes in their tote at the end of their shift and head home.

I also ended up adding face masks to my collection. A sign of the times!.

ISB: What is your vision for the development of the business in the next couple of years?

KM: I’ve registered the design, trademarked the name and I’m looking to grow internationally. To see Shoezie launch in other countries with large populations of female corporate workers commuting to work on public transport would be great.

I’m looking to expand the range of designs and work with local artists, in particular indigenous designers, and also tap into the corporate world to create co-branded Shoezies.

ISB: And, finally, what is the number one lesson you’ve learnt on your business journey you’d share with others looking to start their own enterprise?

KM: Learn to pivot. The market I had designed Shoezie for were all in lockdown when I launched which is why I shifted to focusing on healthcare workers. Also, try and think as far ahead as possible and put away some spare cash. There are things that crop up that you wouldn’t expect.