The coronavirus has disrupted how people shop. But it didn’t prevent Sophia Chang and Romy Samuel from launching their female-focused e-commerce project Common Ace. The online marketplace, which launched May 15, aggregates sneakers to one place and gives women a chance to shop with variety. “Common Ace is about accessibility, offering options and going to one place instead of on an unnecessary treasure hunt. It’s 2020, the process should be easier,” Chang said. Samuel admitted they debated launching during the COVID-19 crisis, but ultimately decided bringing a new idea to a marketplace in need of change was the right thing to do. “I truly believe there isn’t a better time to start new projects. The world needs to see women and people in general doing new things regardless of the circumstances, to constantly be inspired,” Samuel said.
Below, Chang and Samuel discuss the importance of female leadership in the footwear industry and name some of the women who they find inspirational.
Footwear News: Who is Common Ace for and who does it cater to?
Romy Samuel: “Common Ace is for us. It’s for us and it’s by us. It’s for every female across the board, whether you’re a 12-year-old girl living in the Czech Republic and you love your sneakers or you’re a mom living in Australia that has four kids and wants to buy some new sneakers to go to the gym in. It’s for literally everybody, for every female across the board for her to know that this is the one-stop shop that she can go to online and feel that she’s going to get exactly what she needs when she needs it.”
Why was it critical to forge ahead with this new project given the economic uncertainty created by the coronavirus crisis?
Sophia Chang: “We’ve both been keeping it under wraps, not telling anyone about it, and the support that we’ve received ever since going live and making the announcement has been just insane from people within our industry, people who are strictly fans. The support is just immense. The entire planet is going through what they’re going through as far as COVID and struggling with whatever is in front of them and I think it’s a good time to launch because it’s hope, it’s refreshing, it’s a breath of fresh air, it’s something that we all needed for a long time. I think it develops this positivity for people within the community. And we’re really excited to be able to kick off the fundraising process as far as potentially talking to venture capitalists to see what support we can get. We see the potential. We know the potential.”
Did you have to adjust your launch plan due to COVID-19?
RS: “Not really. It was really just straight up, let’s get it live and get the message out there. There wasn’t really anything really changed about it. I mean, we pushed it out a little bit, maybe a few weeks date-wise, just so it didn’t time with all the madness that was occurring around March and April.
SC: And as soon as COVID hit, we were like, ‘What should we do? Should we still launch?’ And of course, we decided to launch, but we wanted to really focus our energy into polishing the test to start and also just marketing in terms of developing stronger brand awareness. And then we were like, ‘Let’s buckle down and let’s figure out what those two avenues really take.’ The website was very, very close to finished already, that’s why it was really easy for us to be like, ‘Let’s do the finishing touches, let’s go live.'”
Why is it vital for the sneaker marketplace to have a platform for women, by women?
RS: “It goes back to the original message of why it so important that there is female leadership in the industry right now. A site like this is going to create a space and a home for women online to know that we are in tune and we are in alignment with what the female market wants and understands. And women are going to resonate with that message. I think it’s important more than ever that ever that businesses these days really represent who is behind them as well. It’s important for our audience, our customers, our users to know that this is Sophia and Romy standing behind this with our heart and that we truly believe we are in alignment with what our audience deserves and wants in a product.”
Who are some of the women who inspire you?
SC: “There’s just there’s a lot. I think it’s really important, first and foremost, to pay homage to a lot of women who actually have been working in the streetwear and sneaker scene for a very long time behind the scenes like Beth Gibbs kids from Union. April Walker, I feel like she might be the first woman [in streetwear] — that’s always a fun argument to have, or discussion, about who was the first woman to really be a prominent person in the streetwear space because for me, sneakers and streetwear go hand-in-hand. I have a hard time separating the two. As far as designers, I’m a huge fan of Johanna Schneider, who worked on Stone Island and Acronym and was working with Nike for a bit of time — she’s done some some sneakers, but definitely very involved on the NikeLab side and training product. For me, aside from the talent itself, it’s also what the gesture and the projects represent: Vashtie being the first woman to ever work on a Jordan and seeing the work that Aleali [May] is doing now and Melody Ehsani is really exciting and Jazerai [Allen-Lord] with Reebok.”
RS: “Obviously the names that Sophia mentioned are definitely inspiring from within our industry and our community but I’ll just have to say, and I know this sounds really cheesy, but my inspiration always stems from my grandmother who raised nine children in a very intense time in history. I just look at her and I think, ‘God, if she can do that, I can do anything.’ That’s really where my heart lies when I think of females as a major strength and inspiration.”