Q: What did it feel like to start your own company at only 25yo in a male-dominated industry?
A: The first thing that struck me was how most of the major shoe designers were men, yet their client bases were largely women. I knew I could bring a uniquely female perspective to the design process, combining luxury styles with comfort features. There is nothing beautiful or luxurious about being in pain.
At first, I was told that incorporating wider toe boxes or extra padding would look too comfortable and that this “wasn’t luxury.” However, I thought being beautiful and comfortable was the ultimate luxury. Setting out, I was definitely nervous about being seen as too difficult or too pushy, but I kept advocating for my vision because I knew my voice had value.
Q: What advice would you give to future female founders?
A: First, I’d say to be relentless. Don’t be afraid to knock on every door and ask questions–the worst you’ll ever be told is “no.”
Second, I’d say to really think about the value you specifically can add for your customers. What problem can you solve, and how are you uniquely positioned to do that?
Q: On your most challenging days, what’s the pep talk you give yourself?
A: I try to keep things in perspective. Certain challenges we’re facing are ones that come from fast growth, which is a lucky position to be in. I just try not to take any situation for granted.
Q: How would you like to see the fashion/footwear industry change in the next five years?
A: There are still many more male versus female executives in the industry, which I would love to see change. I would also love to see and encourage more female founders making their way into the space.
Q: Who were your female role models growing up?
A: I come from a large family of amazing women, including my mother, three sisters, and two very strong grandmothers, all of whom I looked up to as a girl (and still now). On a professional level, I’ve always admired Sarah Blakely, the founder of Spanx, and have long followed her career.
Q: Why did you choose to name your shoes after women you know/admire?
A: The people in my life—customers, family, friends—are always my biggest source of inspiration, and I’ve always wanted to respond to their needs. For example, my best friend Emma wanted a low block-heel pump that she could wear anywhere, so it only made sense to name the Perfect Emma after her. The Alysia is named after one of my long-time customers, and I chose Parker (a family name) as a tribute to loved ones.
Q: What’s something you know now that you wish you could tell your younger self?
A: Just because something’s been done one way in the past, that doesn’t mean that’s how it has to be done in the future. I’ve learned this lesson time and again, from adding comfort features to luxury shoes, to pulling my shoes out of retailers and relaunching as a direct-to-consumer brand. I’m always trying to think about what can be done differently and why.
Q: What would you say to the women in the workplace struggling with imposter syndrome?
I think everyone—and all founders—feel this at times, especially if they started out young. I started my brand at 25, so I have spent my career hiring people who were older than me and had many more years of work experience. In those situations it is hard not to feel like an imposter sometimes or even to trust your instincts as to what is right for your business when you have less institutional knowledge than those around you. What you have to constantly remind yourself of is what you uniquely bring to the table. In my case, that has always been a vision for what our customer wants and needs.
At the same time it is important to know your own strengths and weaknesses. It is easy to waste a lot of time and energy trying to do the best you can in areas of the business that come less naturally to you. Ultimately what you have to realize is that energy would have been so much better spent in the areas you excel in.
Q: What do you do to feel most prepared/confident, whether it’s going into a board meeting or speaking at a conference?
A: Well obviously, it helps me to put on a killer pair of shoes! I do think there is something to be said for putting on an outfit that makes you feel good and having your hair done, just because it helps you project confidence. It’s also just one less thing you have to worry about, if you don’t have to be fidgeting with your clothes or shoes because you’re uncomfortable.
It also helps me to prepare with other people. I like to discuss interview questions or talking points beforehand, so I’m clear in what I’m saying, and also it gives me more time to think about who my audience is and what they need to hear.