â€œI like my house to be an expression of all the things Iâ€™ve touched and experienced,â€ says Jodie Fox, the co-founder of customisable shoe labelÂ Shoes of Prey. â€œI lived for an entire year out of a suitcase before settling here, because I was travelling so much for work that it made no sense to be paying rent on an apartment. Now I canâ€™t tell you how a physical home, that you can unfold in, is so critical for me.â€
While looking for a one-bedroom apartment in LA, Jodie fell in love with a faithfully renovated studio housed in a 1930s Spanish-style building. Her mail is delivered via a chute directly to her kitchen, while the apartment is made complete with a courtyard, powder room and, of course, a dedicated shoe cupboard.
It has been eight years since Shoes of Prey launched with a website that enabled women to design their perfect shoe â€“ style, colour, heel and all â€“ at an affordable price. Jodie, who trained as a lawyer before entering the advertising industry, came up with the idea when she was travelling and found a shoemaker in Hong Kong who would create any style her heart desired.
After two months, Shoes of Prey broke even and, in under two years, hit million-dollar revenue. Since then, shoppers have designed more than 6 million pairs of shoes (which are manufactured in a leased factory in China) through the site.
â€œWhen we launched the business it was always with a view to it being global,â€ says Jodie, who has since also founded eyewear brand Sneaking Duck. â€œI expected we would move overseas at some point, but whether that was Europe or the US wasnâ€™t something that we had a great certainty of when we started.â€ Â
Before deciding to relocate their HQ to Los Angeles in August 2015, Jodie polled her team with an anonymous survey to see if they would be comfortable with the decision (they all selected â€˜buy me a ticket tomorrowâ€™).Â Management invited 24 employees to make the move with them, and 22 said yes.
â€œThere are pros and cons [of being that inclusive],â€ she says. â€œAs youâ€™re starting to develop the idea, often it doesnâ€™t happen straight away. It can be a little bit frustrating for everyone waiting.â€
Jodieâ€™s open-plan apartment â€“ where the bedroom and living area is one large space thatâ€™s mostly filled by a couch she had shipped from Australia â€“ is reflective of her personality. â€œItâ€™s true, Iâ€™m a very open person,â€ she says. On YouTube she vlogs about the ups and downs of business, including her struggles with work-life balance, her people-pleasing mentality and the awkward meeting she had with a potential investor, who looked her up and down and said, â€œyou look amazingâ€.
In order to bankroll its expansion, Shoes of Prey reportedly raised over AU$20 million in series B funding in 2015. (Previous investors include Atlassian co-founder Mike Cannon-Brookes and Canva investor Bill Tai.) Whatâ€™s their strategy? â€œA lot of the venture-capital market is made up of men,â€ says Jodie. â€œBut we discovered that a lot of the administrative staff for these VCs were women. So we would organise for them to design a pair of shoes and deliver them the day before our meeting. The responses these women had gave the men the insight they needed.â€
Their supporters include the US department store Nordstrom, which opened a Shoes of Prey concept store where customers could choose from textile swatches and create designs on iPads. However, in October last year, it was announced that Shoes of Prey would close this boutique, along with a similar concept store in David Jones in Australia. â€œIâ€™m very confident with the decision [to concentrate on online sales],â€ says Jodie. â€œWe do tests every single day in our business, and some work and some donâ€™t. The main challenge with the stores is that it was a very public test that everyone knew about.â€
In the past, Jodie, who lives with her cat, Hunter (who has taken a liking to the dusty pink armchair at the end of her bed), admits she has frequently become lost in work; she once chose a speaking gig over attending a close girlfriendâ€™s wedding, and had an exhaustion-induced panic attack in the middle of an event. For her, the closure of the concept stores had a happy side-effect.
â€œI felt a shift in gravity inside of myself,â€ she says. â€œIt gave me space and brought me to a place where I could start to reintroduce personal-life priorities again. After a lot of years of extreme focus and dedication, it was a very beautiful moment, because it meant the business was bigger than just one person.â€ Jodie is now on a mission to discover extra-curricular activities, has taken up surfing, uses the app YogaGlo to attend virtual yoga classes, and relaxes by reading books on her Kindle.
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Photography Ian Maddox.
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