Bunions and the Inspiration behind Calla Shoes!

Drum roll!! This weeks featured entrepreneur is Jennifer Bailey of Calla shoes. If you suffer from bunions these are the most stylish shoes you can wear. 

The inspiration behind Calla by Jennifer Bailey

Calla shoes. I've been a sufferer of bunions most of my life and they've recently got a lot worse as I'm heading towards the big 4 0. 

I've always struggled finding shoes which fitted and didn't hurt my feet and as time has gone on my shoe wardrobe has dwindled to trainers, Ugg boots and one pair of heels.  I certainly wasn't ready to go to down the line of wearing 'comfort' footwear.

When I got married 6 years ago I knew it was going to be a struggle for me to find a pair of shoes for my special day.  I searched high and low on the high street and online and couldn't find anything suitable.  I literally spent hours browsing the internet to no avail. 

I thought to myself, why hasn't anyone thought of doing some stylish shoes for bunions. 

And that was the lightbulb moment.

It took many more years before I put my idea in to action.  3 years ago I was pregnant with my second child and in a redundancy situation, which was very stressful.  I suddenly realised that I wanted the flexibility of working around my children as well as following my dream of having my own business.  This was the kick up the behind I'd been needing.

When I talked to my husband about it he was the most supportive person in the world.  He wants me to be happy and he also knows that when I put my mind to something I always succeed.

My friends were surprised at my choice of business, they all thought I would set up a food related business, which is my other big passion.  Perhaps one day!

I decided I wanted to create a beautiful and elegant range of shoes for women, who like me, for years have had to either force their feet into shoes that don’t fit, or wear something for comfort rather than style.

I spent some time thinking about what to call this new company and finally decided on Calla, which comes from the calla lily – a timeless flower that symbolises beauty, elegance and youth – everything I wanted my shoes to be. 

Setting up the business

It was a hard slog getting from idea to launch. 

When you're a small brand with low minimum quantities, factories put you to the back of the queue when prioritising samples and production.  I know I was lucky finding factories to work with me.  I sold my idea in well to them so they could see the potential. 

It took 2 years to get from first visiting Portugal where my shoes are made to them arriving in the UK for distribution.

I feel like the world is against you when you're starting up a business, like it's something unnatural in a way. Especially as a mother who is constantly feeling guilty about not spending enough time with her children! 

There are so many things that go wrong all the time.  I've had delayed flights meaning I've missed meetings, a factory go under on me and many delays in production.

Somehow all the issues and set backs make everything so much more worthwhile.  I can't tell you how proud and excited I was when the first delivery of shoes arrived.  I did a little dance and a squeal in my storage unit!

Since the launch last year Calla has already sold hundreds of pairs of shoes to women all over the world and the feedback has been incredible.  Many customers take the time to email me to tell me how much they love the shoes.  Those are the best moments!

I'm now considering investment to scale the business - I really believe I have the ingredients to make Calla a big success and some additional finance and support will help enormously.

My advice

I've had lots of help and support along the way from family, friends, mentors and peers.  I'd recommend networking as much as possible to get as much advice as you can along the way. 

What I've realised is as a start up, no-one really know what they're doing as there is no magic formula for success. 

You just have to stay positive, believe you can do it and then find a way to make it happen.

You can find Calla shoes exclusively online www.callashoes.com. 

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