The 'shoe addict' who turned her passion into a multi-million dollar business
Written on the 11 April 2018 by Ben Hall
It's often said that the key to entrepreneurship is to solve a problem, and then monetise the solution.
For Jodie Fox, her epiphany came following a stop-over in Hong Kong and a chance meeting with a traditional cobbler.
Disappointed and frustrated with the limited choices of shoes she actually liked on the market, the self confessed "shoe addict" sat with the cobbler and designed 14 pairs in under two hours.
When she returned home to Australia, her girlfriends dished out compliments on her new and unique footwear and the former lawyer-turned-advertising executive knew she was onto something.
Speaking at the Global Entrepreneur and Investor Exchange event, as part of the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games Trade 2018 program, Fox says Shoes of Prey was then "born in the sand" after a night out in Broadbeach in 2008 with her close university friends.
"So there was me and Michael Fox and Mike Knapp and we're literally standing in the sand and I ran the idea past them and we all agreed that Shoes of Prey was a good idea and we decided to go for it," Fox says.
Her now ex-husband Michael Fox (they remain good friends and business partners) and Knapp were installed as co-CEO's while Jodie Fox took on the role of Chief Creative Officer.
"When we launched Shoes of Prey, we had a fairly clear vision of how it was going to be and what we were going to do," Fox says
"There have been challenges along the way and that's a part of any entrepreneur's journey.
"I've always loved shoes but the problem I had, as most women do, is that you find something you like but it's not in your size, or the shoe is great but the colour is wrong, or it's almost perfect except for one design flaw, these types of things.
"I'd been on an overseas trip where I was able to design 14 pairs of shoes myself and they were shipped to me a few weeks later and this is where the idea of Shoes Of Prey came from.
"Let people design the shoes in the style, colour and size they want and ship it to them within two weeks. That has been the concept.
"I'd like to think we're doing something that hasn't been done before and we're also solving a problem for women out there to be able to buy the shoes exactly as they want them."
Jodie Fox is now based in Los Angeles and Shoes of Prey is something of a juggernaut in the Australian retailing landscape.
In total the company has raised around $35 million, which has been mostly out of the US and Shoes of Prey raised US$15 million more recently in its Series B when it worked with Blue Sky Alternative Investments (ASX: BLA) in 2015.
"But we didn't just get $35 million and 200 staff just like that. It all started in my one bedroom flat in Sydney which was stuffed with shoes, naturally, and Shoes of Prey was built from this start," Fox says.
"The model we have goes totally against the standard manufacturing and sales processes within this industry.
"With traditional manufacturing, thousands and tens of thousands of shoes are designed seven to 12 months ahead of time, then they hit the market and the deal is these shoes need to be pushed onto the consumer in mass market fashion.
"We're catering to what we call the "Cinderella" customer. Cinderella gets the style she wants and the size she wants, which can be from size two to 15, we can do width adjustments and they are hand finished one at a time with a two week delivery.
"My Nonna thinks it's hilarious that we actually make shoes for people exactly how they want them and we do them one at a time," says Fox, who has a Sicilian background.
As for the controversy surrounding Blue Sky and the attack from short seller Glaucus Research, Fox says she would urge other startups and scale-ups to ignore the hype surrounding the bitter stoush between the two companies which has shaved more than two thirds of the value off Blue Sky's market cap.
"Blue Sky have been with us all the way on our journey and without them we wouldn't be where we are today.
"They've been our most active investor. They've been so good to us and other startups.
"For anyone on the startup journey I would totally recommend these guys."
Business News Australia
Author: Ben Hall