Ed’s note: This guest post was written by Jodie Fox (pictured), co-founder of Shoes of Prey.
“Do everything before you’re ready” and “fail fast” – these are two mantras you’ll hear me repeat time and time again.
The former is something that I’ve had to learn to do and has become my business mantra. The latter is advice I was given by one of my co-founders, Mike Knapp, when we were starting Shoes of Prey. I still find both statements invaluable to this day. They are examples of the mindset that has been so important to our success.
Success is a pretty subjective concept. What one person deems a success may be very different for another. Regardless of what your measurement of success is, here are a few pointers for those who are considering starting a new business.
The Shoes of Prey story
When we started Shoes of Prey, we set out to do something that nobody else was doing – providing customised shoes to women the world over.
The idea was born out of solving my own problem. I had always liked shoes, but it wasn’t until I could customise them that I truly loved them. I often found with shoes that, although they were beautiful, there would more often than not be something that wasn’t quite right – the colour wasn’t perfect, an embellishment wasn’t quite right, or it didn’t come in a heel height I liked wearing.
While I was travelling, I came across someone who could create custom shoes. Suddenly, I could choose the materials, the design, the heel heights, just about every part of my shoes in order to come up with my own shoe designs – I was so excited. So much so that I designed and bought 14 pairs of shoes within an hour. I had the shoes delivered to my office and my colleagues loved the shoes. They started asking if I could commission designs for them too. I wouldn’t have thought to turn this concept into a business had it not been for my two co-founders.
Identifying a gap
My two co-founders, Michael Fox and Mike Knapp, who were working at Google at the time, were keen to start a business and getting really excited about the potential of online retail. They just needed that big idea – and customised shoes was it.
The three of us started Shoes of Prey in a living room. While customisation is now becoming much more common in retail, we knew back then that, from the outset, we were pushing into new territory.
Looking at the retail industry at the time, no-one else was doing what we wanted to do. We saw that there was an opportunity in the market. Shoes are incredibly personal and everyone has different tastes and requirements. The more we thought about it, the more excited we became, and the more we could see that this was something that was needed in the market.
The three of us started Shoes of Prey in a living room. While customisation is now becoming much more common in retail, we knew back then that we were pushing into new territory.
While it was exciting to know that no-one else was doing what we were setting out to do, it meant that we had very little guidance on how to approach it.
On the one hand, it meant that we were able to set the standard (and we were out to set it high), but it also meant that we were going in blind. It’s daunting enough to start a business, but even more so when you have no clue where to begin!
Identifying a gap in the market was only the starting point. We had to do our due diligence and research every aspect, how we envisioned the business actually being implemented, and what we needed to do to get the business off the ground – as well as convince everyone that we weren’t mad!
It’s important to understand that there is never a point where you will feel completely ready and that everything is perfect; it’s much more beneficial to ‘do everything before you’re ready.’
Being the pioneers of this area, it could have been very easy for us to want everything to be perfect and as someone who loves everything to be just so, I’m more inclined to want this to be the case. However, it’s important to understand that there is never a point where you will feel completely ready and that everything is perfect; it’s much more beneficial to “do everything before you’re ready.”
When we were starting Shoes of Prey, my co-founder, Mike Knapp, said let’s “fail fast.” It seems counterproductive but it makes sense, particularly for us as we were building a business in an area that had no template for us to work from. It’s better to jump in, understand where our strengths were and where we needed to improve, rather than draw out the process trying to be perfect in every area. You learn more about your capabilities just by doing.
Knowing when to launch to set yourself up for success is largely an intuitive thing. There is no hard-and-fast rule that you can follow; every business idea is different. The only way you can set yourself up for success is by doing things, doing your research, doing the necessary ground work, and, ultimately, putting that into action. By doing this, you’ll find out what your strengths are, what your weaknesses are and what you need to focus on and develop.
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