Hi, Tell us your name, what you do, and about your business. Please do mention the monthly revenue for our readers as well.
Hi, my name is Tanya Heath and I make and sell multi-height shoes with removable heels that a woman can create herself. My goal is that no woman should be left behind by her footwear, no woman should have to choose between comfort and allure and every woman should have the right to look exactly how she wants when she wants.
You can see what I do in more detail at www.tanyaheath.com. Monthly revenue is between 20 – 50 K€ depending on the month.
What’s your own background. Were you always proficient in this business, or did it just strike your mind one fine day?
I studied International Relations in Canada but when I moved to France I did a business degree so that I could learn how to speak French. Then I had a classic career in Management Consulting followed by leadership roles in the marketing/business development team of several technology companies and finally in private equity.
I was also a lecturer at one of France’s leading engineering schools where I taught a class on disruptive innovation. Creating a shoe allowing women to instantly switch from a high to a low heel that would be fashionable, desirable and good enough for work and travel has been my dream since I was 18. Back then I found it hard to walk in high heels but I liked to wear them to work and parties.
I had always thought it would be useful for women to be able to switch between high and low heels when she wanted to, but when I was younger I didn’t have the money to finance research and development, so I had to wait so I could save up enough start-up capital to finance my company.
What went into designing the initial product? Can you take us through the actual process?
I think the reason that I am the first person in the world to create a multi-height shoe that you can actually walk in, and that is comfortable, is because I am a woman. Unlike a man, I could try the product on, and I know exactly what a luxury shoe should look and feel like.
In fact, to this day, I still test every single new style to make sure it is comfortable. Also unlike everyone who had ever tried to make a mufti-height shoe with removable heels before I knew this was not just about design.
I hired multi-disciplinary engineers to work on the technology. All in all, research and development took 3 years to achieve, with me at the center of it making sure that communication was fluid between disciplines and across geographies.
Talk us through the process of the launch of your business
It was a lot of trial and error. We had a product that no one understood, that no one had tried, that no one had heard of, plus my background is not in fashion so I started with zero credibility. Consequently, it probably took me longer to get started than if the business was less revolutionary.
For example, once the innovation was complete it took 1.5 years just to mount a supply chain that could produce to our quality standards and it took 2 years just to learn how to sell the shoes and heels. In fact, this process has not just been long but it is been nerve-wracking.
I think its very challenging to be the first person in the world to do something, and, if you don’t have investor backing, you go even slower.
How is your repeat customer rate like? Can you take us through how you attract and retain customers?
I don’t do anything special but I do offer excellent customer service, if you look at our Facebook and Google reviews we are practically 5 stars all the time, and we sell probably the best, most versatile, most comfortable high-heeled shoe in the world, not to mention people love to be able to change heels when they want. As a result repeat business is at about 65% which is VERY high for a fashion brand.
What is the current situation? How do you see yourself in the next 12 months?
My business is not fast and there are many structural reasons that prevent me from going fast. Consequently next year I expect to be pretty much where I am today but with more happy customers, a few new models, and maybe a few new boutique clients.
If things go well I will have found an investor so we can jump-starting growth and open more boutiques.
As a woman founder, do you see this as only financially uplifting? Or otherwise too? If yes, then how?
For me, this is really about pride and self-realization. I am the first person in the world to crack multi-height. I have created one of the only products in the world that combines traditional craftsmanship with state-of-the-art technology.
I have succeeded in selling this concept and I have touched upon something that really resonates with women. Most women who like high heels would rather have heels that are also comfortable and they are thrilled when they understand that they can customize our shoes in less than a second. As for self-realization, I am not scared to say it.
I am the strongest most resilient woman I know. I set myself a goal and so far not only is it achieved but its surpassed.
Which are some resources, books, articles or podcasts that have been useful to you, and would share with your readers
One of my most favorite book that I would like to share with everyone is –
The Innovators Delima by Clayton M Christenson.
Many times, women feel that businesses are for only for men. What’s your take?
Obviously I don’t believe that business is only for men. The problem is that a lot of other people do believe this. I would say that even today, even in 2019, it is much more difficult for a woman to succeed in business.
Banks don’t trust you, investors won’t invest in you, in my sector factories and even clients can be condescending and sexism is quite literally everywhere. I would even go so far as to say that you have to be at least twice if not three times more talented than your average high achieving man just to exist.
The system and prejudice and tradition are simply stacked against you.
Looking to kick start your own venture?
Hi! This is Misha.
I interview women founders in building profitable businesses
My idea is for other women to get inspired by these actionable tell-all stories and start their own profitable enterprises.
I am hugely inspired by inspirational interview series starters like IndieHackers, StarterStory by Pat Walls, Failory, SpaceBandits and have put significant efforts in reaching out to women founders in order to get started.