Hi Shaherazad, let’s start off by telling me a little bit about yourself. Who is the lady behind the brand?
Hi Nadine. I’m a business woman, a change maker and an avid shoe shopper! My employment background is in commercial retail; I've worked for brands such as Comet, Boots, Superdrug and The Co-operative. My educational background is in English and Cognitive Science. Business is my passion, as is women’s empowerment and alleviating poverty. That’s why I set up my brand; to find a way to combine my three life passions.
Why Shaherazad? What inspired you to change the way women wear heels on-a-daily-basis?
I’ve worked in many a boardroom where my feet and those of my female colleagues have been aching at the end of a work day. This can seriously impact whether or not we’re able to enjoy a night out. So I decided to find a way that women could wear heels both comfortably and stylishly. Fashion should never be painful. When it hurts, it’s wrong! So I decided to invent Shaherazad.
How did you develop key partnerships to create your amazing designs?
It was one of the most time consuming aspects of setting up my business but also very worthwhile. The only way to develop a key partnership is to invest time and effort in to it. It took me two years to find a factory which I was happy with. The team at my factory are great and I make sure I visit them regularly. It’s the best way to make sure we understand each other’s requirements properly. It took me a year to find a charitable partner with the right due diligence processes in place. But they were worth the wait as I couldn’t have hoped for a better partner than GlobalGiving UK.
I’ve also been lucky enough to develop partnerships with organisations such as Birmingham City University. They’ve enabled me to use their lab to do 3D printing so that I can create the intricate moulds for my designs. It’s such a cutting edge place to work and allows me to develop designs which are only possible with their futuristic equipment.
What do you think sets you apart from other competitors?
My product is first to market for it’s 18 hour comfort. Lots of footwear brands use padding to achieve comfort. My brand is the only one in the world to be inspired by the grace and elegance of flamingos which means that the heels are comfortable due to the way that they distribute body weight effectively. The shoellery straps are also a unique concept and I’m so proud of the shoes being manufactured in England.
My proudest point of difference is the philanthropic element of my brand. Lots of companies have Corporate Responsibility policies but I make sure that every pair sold directly supports a woman or girl living in poverty. At least 10% of the operating profit of every pair goes to charitable projects which is a meaningful and often life changing amount.
Every entrepreneur or business coach bangs on about finding the right niche. How did you find yours and when did you know it was the right time?
I knew that if I was going to set up a business it had to be something which I would enjoy, and most importantly that other people would also buy in to. I wanted to wait to launch a business until I had enough experience to apply, and having worked at a number of retailers I knew I was ready to give my own business a go. The right time is when you feel ready but just a little bit scared. A little bit of caution along with a dash of confidence never goes amiss!
What is the number one question every entrepreneur should be asking themselves?
Just because you love your product doesn’t mean everyone else will. Are there sufficient people who will part with their hard earned cash in exchange for your product over other options?
Recharging every so often is important. How do you recharge when you’re feeling burnt out?
I love a good pyjama day and a stack of books with a pot of tea!
Do you prefer to bootstrap or secure funding, and why?
Secure funding definitely. I like to take risk but when it comes to finances I’m heavily structured.
What was that moment like when you receive the first pair of Shaherazad heels?
It was totally magical. I was at the factory when the first pair came off the production line and I was so excited I believe I actually squealed! It was definitely a group hug kind of moment. I wore the first pair that very night to give them a good road test and collected lots of happy compliments. I also dashed out of the factory and bought every body on the production floor doughnuts to celebrate and thank them for all of their hard work. It was a truly brilliant day.
What was the design and testing the product process like? Did you find it took multiple trials to get to the perfect heel?
It was hard work and took lots of resilience and creativity. It took a year to complete the designs and a full year after that to test and develop the product. It took about 5 full scale iterations before the final shoe was produced. It’s so important to test, listen, test, listen, test, listen. Asking strangers to test the product is vital as friends and family will often soften what they want to say out of love when what you actually need to hear is the cold and hard truth to make sure the end product is absolutely right. As a result, I have a market leading retention and return purchase rate of my shoes. 60% of my customers come back and buy another colour in the shoes within 2 months of their first purchase.
How do you believe Shaherazad will change the way women buy and wear heels in the future?
I would love it if my brand enabled a culture of women buying less, but buying better. It’s important that we feel good in what we wear but that the world doesn’t suffer for it. Ultimately, I want to make the world feel like a happier place through the conscious philanthropic and sustainability choices that my customers make.
What plans do you have for Shaherazad over the coming 12 months?
With Brexit on the horizon I’m firmly focussing my efforts on export. I currently export to 16 countries through B2C and I’m looking to extend my reach further in Germany, Austria and Switzerland in particular. The value of the pound makes buying British product especially attractive for export markets.
I also have some new designs launching in time for Christmas which celebrate the sentiment of “togetherness”.