Australia’s Jodie Fox is the co-founder Shoes of Prey, which has grown from the world’s first website where women can design their own shoes to a multimillion-dollar international enterprise. I caught up with the 32-year-old to chat about how Shoes of Prey was created, the power of YouTube and building a fashion and homewear empire.
Tell me a bit about your business, how you came up with the idea of Shoes of Prey and brought the concept to reality.
Shoes of Prey are the place where you can design your own women’s shoes. We started back in October 2009. We were the first people to do this globally. The whole reason this came about was because I was solving my own problem. I couldn’t find shoes that I loved. So I found someone … who could [make] shoes. Then I started commissioning my friends’ shoe designs, too. So “Design your own shoes online” became the idea.
Was the business an instant success?
We broke even after two months. We had multimillion revenue in less than two years. Today we’ve had more than 5 million pairs of shoes designed with us … We also have six stores in the US, one in Australia and two in Tokyo.
Were you always entrepreneurial and did you always envisage your life to be the way it is today?
I always hoped so. I’m half-Sicilian …There was a real focus on education because both my mum and dad came from very poor backgrounds and so they weren’t able to finish their schooling. [My parents] were always aspiring towards helping me to build these dreams. I think my first major strike at independence was telling my mum, when I was eight years old, that I was ready to move out and that I was going to move into the cubby house [laughs]. Like a good mother, she convinced me otherwise.
How did you make it such a thriving business?
I think one of the key things for us like from a business perspective is that, initially, we were extremely cash-flow positive … which was so important when you’re starting out. I think the other thing we looked for was making the experience really special for our customers … About 75 per cent of our traffic today still comes from word of mouth. But our first really big milestone – with getting people to learn about what we were doing and getting excited about it – was working with a YouTube blogger.
Why was that such a milestone?
In March 2010 we found … JuicyStar07 [Blair Fowler]. She had, at that time, about half a million subscribers and she was posting three videos a week, getting more than half a million views … She did a 10-minute video and it was about her experience designing the shoes and at the end we ran a competition … The day the video went live, we had half a million people visit the website, which was extraordinary. And we had 90,000 people enter the competition, which was amazing. We wrote a case study about what we’d done and the immense power of a 16-year-old YouTuber to drive traffic to the website and then we pushed that story out by Twitter and emails and I went to bed.
Then what happened?
I woke up the next morning with an email from someone from the Wall Street Journal and they wrote a feature piece on it, which was amazing. That’s when we got to our target audience – she is 25 to 35, she is not watching 16-year-olds on YouTube. She is reading the paper. She is into news. She is a businesswoman. She’s professional. And then we started winning awards for the campaign and ultimately what it ended up doing is permanently tripling the business.
As a businesswoman, what is your advice to someone starting out?
The biggest one that I had to learn was just to do everything before you’re ready, because I don’t think there is ever a point [where you are ready] – you do need to have a business plan but the more that you think about things, the less you’re going to do things and you just learn so much more when you’re doing. The other thing, too, is that you genuinely have to be passionate about it because if you don’t then you’ll give up easily.
What’s next for Shoes of Prey?
We will also be going into handbags soon … [and] clothing and we’ll go into homeware products as well. And I really see so many opportunities there, especially with things like 3D printing coming to the fore now. So we’ve started experimenting with 3D-printing some of our components for shoes, which is really good.
How many pairs of shoes do you own?
Do you wear all the shoes that you create?
Of course. The only time that you’ll catch me in another pair of shoes is if it’s something that we don’t make. And I have an appreciation for what other designers are doing as well.
What would be your perfect day?
Cooking. I love it. My perfect day is to, like, wake up without an alarm clock. And then go to a farmers’ market and just get great local in-season produce and cook something for lunch or that night, and just spending time with friends.
WE WENT TO CHAR & CO, Double Bay
WE ATE Charcuterie Board with Pickled Guindilla Chilies, Pickled Red Onions, Grilled Haloumi, Beetroot and Caramalised Online Dip, with Grilled Sourdough; Serrano Ham, Spicy Marcon Sausage and Longaniza Blanca Salami nig
WE DRANK 2013 Salton Paradoxo Chardonnay
JODIE WORE Dion Lee and Shoes of Prey