In February 2010 bookkeeper Wendy MacManus embarked on a much-needed holiday overseas to unwind and de-stress from the long hours, and boring, unfulfilling desk job as a bookkeeper.
Little did she know the trip would fire up an intense determination to begin a new chapter in her life: pursuing her lifelong passion for women’s shoes at the ripe young age of 54!
“I started to feel very stifled by my job. Accounts was all I had known. I realised I was ‘dying’ in my role. I had no enthusiasm to go to work. So I made a radical decision, and quit.’
It’s been a rollercoaster ride of ups, downs, and near fallouts a few times. But determination, resilience, and Wendy’s keen eye and ear for what women really want in a shoe have seen the journey continue more than 11 years later.
Throughout this time she’s had her shoes featured in fashion magazine Cleo. She was a guest speaker for the Second Act Success Summit in 2015. And in the same year, Wendy reached the finals in the fashion category of the Australian Small Business Champion Awards.
Wendy has run Wendy and Holly Shoes from a Noosa showroom, online, and now on SV Attitude, the boat she sails with her husband. You’ll often find her preparing orders on the boat and selling at markets along the coast.
Wendy has the wisdom of age and over a decade of experience as a solopreneur. We asked her to share her best tips with our small business community:
What are 3 things you wish you knew when you started
1. Find local companies
I tried very hard not to look at the competition (jelly shoes) but in hindsight, I should have put more time into investigating major shoe companies within Australia.
2. Check prospective retailers
Tradeshows are a great platform but they can also be the downfall for new brands. I should have been more diligent in checking prospective retailers. Other wholesalers and brand representatives can – and do – place orders to copy designs.
3. Find a company with better spot rates than banks
I was careful and made payments at my bank branch to my factories but in hindsight it cost me a lot of money. International charges and rates were not the best.
Once I found a good company that deals in international payments I secured spot rates much better than the bank.
What 3 services have most helped your business?
- Accounting: (it stops passion ruling)
What marketing activities have made the most impact on your business?
I set up an online shop when I started my business. I then sourced people in PR and marketing to help me brand myself.
Retailers frowned on brands that had an online presence. I worked with them so I could build a direct and in-store presence.
I advertised on Facebook regularly and set up newsletters competitions which built a Facebook following of nearly 7k and a healthy email list.
Dealing with manufacturers
- Find an agent who speaks the language especially if your manufacturer is overseas.
- Factor your failure rates into your sell price.
- Visit your factories regularly.
I found quality control a major problem. No matter how much quality control I put in place, the benchmark of 2% failure was never reached: 10 to 20% was the norm. As a small brand, I had to accept this failure rate and factor the cost into the final sell price of my shoes.
You must visit your factories regularly so they understand your needs. This was especially important as I only use factories that are ethically run.
Working with stockists vs selling direct to customers
I’ve discovered most retailers go with trends for one season and you continually need to find new retailers. When you sell online, customer service is very important as well as the quality of your products and the integrity of your brand.
What’s your main goal for your business over the next 5 years?
I’ve tried to retire from my business but my loyal customers continually want to purchase my quality jelly shoes.
I’m so passionate about my loyal customers so I won’t leave them yet. I’m the minder waiting for the next Wendy and Holly Shoes champion to take on the reigns of running a phenomenal business enterprise.
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