Being quick on your feet is an attribute small businesses have over their bigger competitors. And when your small, innovative shoe company is suddenly challenged by more dominate players in the industry, that idea takes on a whole new meaning.
Ask sisters Sarah and Jenifer Caplan. They became part-time business partners in 2009 when they created a niche product that they themselves wanted: inexpensive, durable, flat shoes that could be rolled up and stashed in their purses, providing quick relief when they had enough of their spike heels. Unlike indoor slippers, the Caplans’ flats would be tough and stylish enough to wear on city streets or on a nightclub dance floor. Customers would be fashionable, fun-loving, budget-conscious women like themselves. They designed whimsical packaging and gave the product a name that connotes comfort and fun: Footzyrolls. It was recessionary fashion candy.
“At trade shows we introduced our shoes to boutiques as a fashion accessory that would sell for about $25. Our wholesale price was $10,” says Sarah, 28, who continued to hold down her day job as an executive at J.P. Morgan Chase in New York until last year. At an October 2009 trade show Sarah tracked down an editor of Oprah Winfrey’s O magazine and got the shoes mentioned in the publication’s holiday gift guide. Orders rolled in.
So it should be no surprise that reps for Dr. Scholl’s saw the sisters’ product and sore feet pitch. Several months later the big brand prototyped a similar product with similar packaging and a lower price. Dr. Scholl’s Fast Flats went for only $10 retail at mass-market outlets such as Walmartand Rite-Aid.