What’s The Toughest Call You’ve Made Since Launching Your Shoe Startup?

Zac Andrews
Zac Andrews, founder of CRDWN.
Courtesy of brand.

Founders of direct-to-consumer startups weigh in on their difficult but worthwhile decisions.

Zac Andrews
Founder, CRDWN
“Changing factories mid-season. The factory quality was not up to our standards after initial sampling, and with timeline constraints, we were forced to forgo an entire season of our business. I refuse to sacrifice quality and customer loyalty just to make a buck, and I’m proud to say our current factory has some of the strictest quality control I’ve worked with in my 10-year career.”

CRDWN Sneakers CRDWN sneakers. Courtesy of brand.

Evan Fript
CEO, Paul Evans
“Choosing a country and then a factory to produce our footwear. We had samples made around the world and in numerous factories before finally selecting our Napolitano factory. We opted in favor of producing the highest-quality product possible, despite slower production times due to the level of craftsmanship, as well as less-advantageous payment terms. We believe we made the correct choice as our product speaks for itself.”

Paul Evans Shoes Paul Evans men’s lace-up dress shoes. Courtesy of brand.

Paul Farago
Founder, Ace Marks
“Once we completed the product development stage of our business, we started getting more in depth with our marketing and inventory management strategy. We came up with the idea of using crowdfunding to help us purchase our first production. The risk was that the campaign could fail, kill morale and create some negativity around our brand early on. We went for it and not only have we gathered a lot of data, but it has also created a lot of excitement around our brand.”

Ace Marks Shoes An Ace Marks leather and suede dress shoe. Courtesy of brand.

Robert Nand
Founder, The Grand Voyage
“The biggest challenge we’ve faced so far is that going direct-to-consumer cuts off the organic exposure that takes place at retail and forces you to explore other alternatives. We are in the final stages of setting up a hybrid business model, partnering with an iconic luxury retailer that allows us to keep our DTC pricing but ensures exposure through their outlets.”

Robert Nand Robert Nand, founder of The Grand Voyage. Courtesy of brand.
The Grand Voyage Shoes The Grand Voyage boots. Courtesy of brand.

Sanford Nydish
Cofounder, Cobble & Hyde
“Although we’ve been in the footwear industry for many years, our expertise lies in private-label sourcing. Online retail is a completely new facet of our business. Determining our product mix and inventory levels — given no sales history — has been our toughest call to date. We decided to limit our initial inventories to determine which styles appeal to our consumer base. Through our strong factory relationships, we were able to negotiate quicker turnaround times to lessen supply interruptions.”

Cobble & Hyde Shoes Cobble & Hyde leather lace-up shoes. Courtesy of brand.