May 2015 The Business
Visiting shoe factories in Portugal
The shoe making dream is slowly becoming a reality.
I went to Porto in April to visit shoe manufacturers who could potentially produce the Calla shoe range for ladies with bunions.
The journey there was quite traumatic – like a test to see if I was sure about going alone and becoming an entrepreneur! After setting off at the crack of dawn I was delayed at Manchester airport by an hour – and then when I got to Brussels for a connecting flight to Porto there were huge delays at passport control because of strikes at the airport which meant I actually missed my flight!
I finally got to my destination later that night after frantically rearranging meetings I was supposed to be having that day and after patiently waiting at the luggage carousel I realized that the airline had lost my suitcase – what a nightmare, I was devastated!
Everything was in the suitcase, my laptop, sample shoes I had taken to show the factories and of course my clothes and toiletries. It was not a good end to an already awful day. Lesson learned – In future I am going to take hand luggage only.
Anyway, the next day was a new day and a lovely warm sunny one too, which always helps to lift the spirits.
I’d managed to get to a shop to buy some essentials, so at least I was clean!
I met with two agents, saw four factories, one heel making factory, an accessories factory and even a place which only did laces and ties for shoes.
I also had a lovely lunch in the sunshine! It was a really productive day and the people I spoke to understood what I was trying to achieve with the design of the shoes and are now ready to take on the challenge of making beautiful, stylish but comfortable shoes for women who suffer from bunions.
Everyone was very friendly, supportive and listened to what I had to say.
It didn’t matter in the end that I was pretty much wearing the same set of clothes I’d worn the day before! I realised how lucky I was to find people in Porto who wanted to work with me – the smaller factories did not speak English so you really need to find someone who can understand your product and be able to translate this to the factory owners.
I’d researched and prepared for many hours and days prior to the visit, and this really paid off. It’s very important to know exactly what questions you need to be asking and what type of responses you should be getting to know they are the right people you should be working with.
Further to the discussions with the factory I am waiting for samples to be made on a modified last. One has arrived already and some more should be following in the coming weeks. I’ll be visiting my professional fitter soon who will make more alterations to the samples so that they will be perfect to go in to production.
I also have a big decision to make – which agent to use. Both were very helpful, supportive, understanding and I felt a good rapport had been built – excellent foundations for a future working relationship.
I’ll have to carry out some kind of pros and cons exercise to help make the decision as well as checking the samples to see who has understood the brief the closest.
To start with the Calla range will be small.
Possibly around six designs with a short production run of each – so it will be quite exclusive to start with, with only a few hundred lucky women getting to wear this innovative new range of shoes. I’ll be looking to work with some of these women to develop further seasons to make sure we are always on top of trends and styles women want to wear.
Watch this space – I’ll be launching the retail website soon where you’ll be able to see the designs of the shoes and sign up for an exclusive discount off your first pair.