For a group of female-led foot care and accessories brands, it’s all about creating problem-solving products with a woman’s point of view.
First to open the door to the category, which had traditionally been targeted to men, was Tina Aldatz, who launched her Foot Petals line in 2001. Since then, new entrepreneurs have emerged offering everything from decorative shoe stuffers and shapers to foot sprays and cushions.
For Solemates co-founder Becca Brown, Foot Petals’ Aldatz was her muse.
“Tina was very much a trailblazer for all of us female entrepreneurs in the footwear accessories industry,” said Brown. Her company, which launched in 2012, counts Oprah Winfrey and Demi Lovato as customers. “Part of the reason there have been so many of us in this space is because shoes may be beautiful, but they’re not always functional. We all have the same goal, which is to make women feel better and look better.”
Brown and her partner, Monica Ferguson, met while working at Goldman Sachs, then self-funded their venture, which focuses on heel protectors designed to prevent high heels from sinking into grass, an issue the two had often encountered at outdoor events, such as weddings. Since the launch, the line has expanded to include blister blockers and shoe cushions sold in shoe repair shops, bridal boutiques, DSW and CVS, in addition to online. Buy Blister Blockers here.
According to a 2019 report by Global Industry Analysts Inc., a worldwide business strategy and market intelligence source, shoe care is projected to be a $4 billion business by 2024, driven in part by a growing awareness of overall health and wellness.
“I was in the closet putting on my shoes and they were pinching me,” she recalled. “I couldn’t imagine getting through the night. Meanwhile, I looked over at my husband, who was pulling those old-fashioned chunky wooden shoe trees out of his shoes. It hit me hard. I wanted [them] for myself and knew my girlfriends would, too. There’s great opportunity for women [who can solve] their own problems.”
Stockton, who financed the venture with funds from her children’s holiday decorating business that had generated $20 million in sales, got to work developing a delicately shaped footwear form designed to help shoes retain their shape as well as stretch them.
“They can stretch shoes up to a half-size,” she said. “That’s where we’ve hit something in the market since 80% of women have one foot that’s larger than the other.”
Since the brand’s direct-to-consumer debut, business has doubled, said Stockton. The product was also picked up by Amazon and The Grommet online marketplace.
While the forms may seem pricey at $49 a pair, Stockton said customers are making a long-term investment. “The components are stainless steel, engineered with a resin coating, so they can withstand pressure under load for years. And they have a lifetime guarantee.”
In yet another women’s foot-related venture, Olivia Hollaus, like Stockton, created Protect My Shoes to keep her footwear in their original shape. “I’m a shoe addict and got frustrated with putting tissue paper stuffers in my shoes that wrinkle and shred, and they’re not environmentally friendly,” she said.
With funds earned from her own consulting firm, she launched the online business in 2016, later adding bags and fragranced shoe sprays, retailing from $5 to $35. In addition to e-commerce sales, the line is sold at Bed, Bath & Beyond, as well as through a private label program. Sales, said Hollaus, are up 20% year over year.
While Hollaus admitted she’s had her share of ups and downs due to the niche nature of the product, she’s received encouragement from other women-owned business owners as part of a female entrepreneurs group in Florida called FemCity.
“We all do something different and aren’t competitors,” added Brown. “What’s so nice about being in this part of the industry is we can all coexist. Our brands are solution-oriented and have similar customers. It’s very synergistic. We all have the same goal, which is to make [women] look and feel better.”
Sarah Jessica Parker’s Advice for the Next Generation of Female Entrepreneurs, Businesswomen
Women Are Often More Effective Leaders — Why Do We Push Them Off the Glass Cliff?