How I Started A
Designer Footwear Brand
Hi! Who are you and what business did you start?
Hello, I am Jerelyn and I started my footwear brand Jerelyn Creado in September 2018. Jerelyn Creado is a premium footwear brand for both women and men. Currently, besides being the designer I manage the brand on my own, with a little help from my husband.
What is your personal story and how did you come up with the idea?
I come from an event planning background. I graduated with an undergraduate degree in Sociology and then went on to pursue a masters in Event Planning and Organisation. After having worked for five years in events, I decided it was time to do what I loved and that happened to be fashion, in particular footwear.
My hobbies and interests always included drawing, and styling my friend’s outfits. Shoes are very personal and the ones I loved most were always out of my budget, and the ones I could afford were mostly low in quality. There were also that appeared to be high-quality but with an awfully high price tag. This created a lot of confusion for me and was very frustrating as a consumer. That’s when I decided that women need to have access to high-quality, yet affordable footwear.
When I design my shoes, I not only keep in mind current trends, but I also try to remember the aspects that make a shoe comfortable, unique and classy. It is very important that good quality materials are used. I only use high-quality leather, heels and work hard to ensure the best possible craftsmanship goes into every shoe.
What challenges did you face when creating your product/service?
Continuing along the theme of high-quality, I decided to produce my range of footwear in Italy. The current cost of production in Italy is high and if you want to produce small numbers the prices are even higher. The main challenge I faced therefore, was finding an artisan shoemaker who could produce a small number of pairs for each of my designs and at a cost that made sense.
Due to the fierce competition, it was very difficult to find someone willing to do this. As an emerging designer, many artisans do not have the trust in you that they would with someone more established. This means that they usually request full payment upfront. The truth is, if you want to start a brand like this, you need to be aware of these conventions or you will end up where you started – with designs stuck on paper.
Another challenge came when I approached retailers. As a new and unknown designer, I offered stores the option to display my shoes without having to buy them as stock. In Italian we call it ‘contovendita’. No-one wanted to give me chance. They tried on the shoes, complimented them on their designs and their build quality, but refused to take a chance on the product.
I then proposed that they displayed the shoe and when they sold, they would receive 40% of the profit on each pair. If the shoe didn’t sell then they simply had to return the shoe back to me. Again, unfortunately, none of them decided to take me up on that offer. Instead, they wanted to take 150% profit!
I did not stop approaching retailers, I continued to contact retailers via emails proposing consignment sales. Until a small store in Granada agreed to try it for a season as the owner liked the shoes and was happy with the 40% profit she was making on every shoe sold. I also happened to find a store in Barcelona that happened to have the same idea. His idea was to collaborate on consignment sales with designers as mine was to collaborate with stores.
Unfortunately, I will not continue with consignment agreement anymore as stores are not very good at making payments after they sold my shoes. I am still waiting on a medium-sized payment since January for shoes sold in November by the store in Barcelona!
I still continue to contact stores for collaborations on a wholesale basis and not consignment sale.
Who is your target market?
I created Jerelyn Creado for both men and women who admire shoes, fashion and high-quality products. My target audience would typically be working women between the ages of 28 to 58 and men that mainly work in offices between the ages of 30 to 65.
Now obviously, these are both broad demographics, so even more specifically, our typical female customer is someone who might enjoy the arts, brunches and dinners on weekends and for men much the same.
Although we aim to be a worldwide brand, our target locations are forward-thinking cities like Barcelona, Milan, and London. Cultural centres full of individuals who truly desire high-quality and elite craftsmanship.
How do you market your business and which approaches have been the most successful?
Currently, we use a mixture of paid and unpaid advertising on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest. However, the most useful method of advertising to date has been word of mouth. With customers who have purchased our shoes in Barcelona, Granada and Milan, we have had more sales online thanks to customers spreading the word about our shoes. When you offer a quality product, word of mouth travels fast!
In 2019, I was fortunate enough to be approached by British Vogue to feature in their Designer Profile, which worked in our favour and we managed to earn a good number sales from that. I would recommend however, that instead of businesses waiting for these publications to come to you, you should approach them.
We have also previously used Ryanair in-flight catalogue to promote our brand to travellers, but unfortunately it didn’t yield many conversions for us. I haven’t tried shouting from the rooftop yet though! Maybe I will put that on my to do list (lol).
Since you launched, what has worked in not only attracting but retaining customers?
Most of our customers follow us on social media which allows them to stay up to date with our footwear collections. We also communicate with clients via email, informing them about upcoming sales or our latest designs.
Feedback forms help us a lot. These are usually sent to customers 2 – 3 months after they have purchased the shoes as this gives them enough time to wear them in and give the most appropriate feedback. As with many shoes sold by online boutique sellers, we do not necessarily come into contact with all clients directly, but we have had many communications with customers through our social media platforms.
What kind of culture exists in your company, and how did you establish it?
I cannot comment much on team building as currently I am the only one. That said, my relationship with my collaborators is excellent. We value each others talents and expertise and always respect each others opinions. I coordinate with my artisans in Italy and Spain very often to discuss the design process.
What software, services or tools do you use within your business?
I complete the product photography myself so editing in Adobe Photoshop is essential. For designing prototypes, I use Adobe Illustrator. For stock keeping I use Microsoft Excel and for presentations to buyers or at promotional events I use Microsoft Powerpoint.
What are the most important lessons have you learned on your business journey?
On the technical side, I have learnt a lot more about shoes and a lot more about leather. When working with materials or textiles, you should always ask for free samples! In retrospect, I would also produce fewer designs in the beginning and gradually increase them over time.
Whilst listening to others is important, be aware that you don’t always have to make decisions based upon what others say. You always have to evaluate the opinions of others and ask how they will benefit the business.
Finally, I have learnt that you should always strive to be different from everyone else! Be aware of the trends, but don’t necessarily follow them.
What is your favourite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
My favourite aspect of being an entrepreneur is the freedom and the ability to call the shots and make the decisions that ultimately determine the success or failure of my business. I love knowing that I can work to my own schedule and balance that with spending time with my family. I am able to choose to work with people I like and who share the same values and ideas as me.
The way I structure my workload enables me to spend the right amount of time researching new materials and finding innovative ways to be sustainable (ecologically). Making decisions such as not incorporating vegan leather in my collections since it is bad for the environment.
Most importantly entrepreneurship provides me with an incredible positive rush, knowing I am a business owner and an emerging designer with a bright future because all the hard work I put in to my company.
What is your LEAST favourite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
Chasing clients for payments! Taking huge risks!
One of the risks is participating in fashion trade shows like White Milano, or Who’s Next in Paris. These trade shows are very expensive to enter and as a new designer, it is very risky to participate.
Most exhibitors have been showing at these events for years and retailers always walk to brands that they have either been working with or have heard of before. The risk is spending a huge amount of money to participate, hotel, travel, stand design and not have a return on the investment.
Due to the Coronavirus outbreak, all events have been cancelled. This is an unforeseen risk, for both the organiser and participants. Unfortunately, one event I was supposed to attend in Barcelona has been postponed with a return date that is not feasible to all. However, the organisers have refused to return the participation fee.
As an entrepreneur, it is important to be on top of every situation but sometimes things cannot be foreseen and not being able to see the future is my least favourite part.
What books, podcasts or other resources have inspired and influenced your business journey?
I watch a lot of documentaries!
1.Manolo: The Boy Who Made Shoes For Lizards (This one was my favourite!) Manolo Blahnik is inspiring and so talented. He knows how to transform a beautiful idea into a shoe that is even more beautiful. He talks about passion and how he brings it into every shoe he designs.
2. Yves Saint Laurent – documentary
3. A Story of Shoes by Thom McAn about American shoemaking in the 1930s.
One book that has helped me a lot is Marketing Fashion Footwear by Fiona Armstrong-Gibbs and Tamsin McLaren. I also love Manolo Blahnik by Colin McDowell and New Shoes by Sue Huey and Rebecca Proctor. Manolo Blahnik is about his life and the story of the shoes he designed over the years, his collections and his inspiration.
New Shoes talks about different shoe designers over the years that have attracted many famous people to their shoes thanks to their unique and artful designs. It also talks about the one shoe that made each designer famous. It includes designers like Nicholas Kirkwood, Bruno Frisoni, Diego Dolcini Guillame Hinfray and Sergio Rossi.
Where do you see your business 2-3 years from now?
I plan on participating in many more exhibitions, shoes fairs and eventually (hopefully) New York or Milan Fashion Week. This will culminate in my footwear appearing in many more boutiques around Europe and the USA, which in turn would hopefully lead to an increase in revenue of up to €150k per year.