The year has been a sparkly one for Shoes by Shaherazad. Business, good deeds, travel and new products .... there are so many 2017 highlights.
I wanted to share a diary post of my favourite moments and to thank every one who has been involved in the second year of my business adventures. None of these moments would have been possible without my wonderful customers who have made the world a happier place to be just by buying in to the concept of "Good Deed Heels", which empower women and girls living in poverty. This diary is a summary of happy moments which we have created together. Big hugs of solidarity to my customers. You are my leading ladies; my motivation to keep growing the brand.
Happy Moments We Created Together
An Empowering Start to 2017: January - March
- Shoes by Shaherazad was featured on prime time news on BBC Midlands Today for it's innovative flamingo inspired technology and good deed heels.
- Successfully completed the 12 month Export Programme through the Department of International Trade.
- Media frenzy! The brand was featured in a number of high profile magazines and newspapers and as a result started to export (B2C) to a number of new destinations.
- A new block heel shoe was designed and put in to production.
- A number of new shoellery lines, featuring animals, were designed.
- Our 3D printing technology was put to the test with my most intricate design yet called "Follow Your Butterflies". The sample run was delightful so it is now in production.
- A beautiful update arrived from our project in Peru. Girls as young as 6 should not have to work in domestic labour; or even work at all. This is what we are working to end with every sale of Shoes by Shaherazad.
- The famine crisis in Yemen haunted me. So Shoes by Shaherazad made a £1000 donation to the GlobalGiving UK fund supporting local NGOs on the ground.
An Eventful Spring: April - June
- Our debut consumer show was at the prestigious London Olympia where we were lucky enough to exhibit at The House & Garden Show.
- My brand secured a place on the European Regional Development Fund thanks to the Department of International Trade.
- The block heel samples arrived. I am thrilled with them.
- New dragonfly shoellery called "She's Unstoppable" and block heels are put in to launch production.
- A new handbag is launched called "Crave the Rose".
- I enjoyed a lovely get together with the CEO of GlobalGiving UK, Eleanor Harrison. Not only is she a great leading lady for Shoes by Shaherazad, she also gained a sparkling OBE this year and wore her #18hourheels to the Palace to accept her award. So thrilled!
- An enthralling new book which features the spirit of empowerment is released by Kiran Millwood Hargrave. It's called "The Island at the End of Everything" and is a totally gripping read. Kiran invited me to her book launch in London and, to my delight, wore Equally Ever After heels in mulberry red. She also wore the heels to her wedding. If you've not read the book yet then you absolutely must.
- A project update arrived via email from our partners in Palestine. The girls at Tomorrow's Youth Organisation are doing well.
- A beautiful set of photos also arrived from the Girls' Empowerment Centre in Kenya. I am brought to tears when I learn that Shoes by Shaherazad supplied the funds for the first sewing machines and computers for the centre.
A Scorching Summer: July - September
- An export planning trip to the United Arab Emirates kept me busy (and very warm).
- It was a true pleasure to show off our product ranges to the press in Bloomsbury at the Christmas in July Festival. This was the first press party for my brand.
- We were delighted to meet like minded entrepreneurs, bloggers and wholesale customers at the London Accessories Show in Sloane Square.
- What a wonderful experience our first Business to Business show was at Cranmore Park's Associated Independent Stores in Solihull.
- Ran an exclusive pop up party at Burgh Island in Devon. It was such a beautiful destination and a wonderful celebration for a very special leading lady. And at a venue where Agatha Christie wrote her novels from the comfort of a cove apartment room!
- I presented on stage to a large auditorium of my peers in London at the Enterprise Nation Fashion Entrepreneurs event.
- It's photo shoot time! One of my favourite events of the year is when we snap lifestyle photography for upcoming campaigns.
- The Rohingya crisis in Myanmar haunted me. So Shoes by Shaherazad made a £1000 donation to the GlobalGiving UK fund supporting local NGOs on the ground in Bangladesh where many refugees have fled to.
- A project update arrives from our Seed of Hope project partners in Kenya. The girls are all doing well in their studies and sent some photos to show off their new skills.
Mistletoe Kisses Guaranteed: October - December
- We won an industry award! The Footwear Friends Award recognising "Exceptional British Talent". I was interviewed by a shortlisting panel comprising of footwear industry "heavy weights" ahead of the awards night and was so delighted that Shoes by Shaherazad won. I even got to meet the Master Cordwainer on the night that the award was presented.
- Medea Benjamin, Peace Activist for Code Pink, who I am totally in awe of since I saw the film "We Are Many", sported a piece of my jewellery and my "Get Your March On" mantra.
- Stephanie Burgis and Deborah Rodriguez, favourite authors of mine who hold women's empowerment close to their hearts, wore my heels and both wonderful authors also featured my shoes in blogs on their websites. I love the work of Stephanie and Deborah so very much that the glow of their reviews kept me smiling for weeks!
- We began a new project partnership with the Khoj School in Pakistan and provided funds for a set of 4 shiny new bicycles so that girls can make the arduous journey to school every day.
- The award news hit the radio airwaves and the press.
- The brand was featured in The Lady magazine for "Affordable Couture". Our mulberry red heels and gold crystal clutch purse graced the pages on Britain's longest running women's weekly magazine.
- I was delighted to deliver a Ted style talk to Coventry University graduates during Global Entrepreneurship Week.
- Attended The UN Trust Fund to End Violence Against Women gala event at The Tower of London. It was inspiring to spend the evening with role models for the campaign such as HRH Princess Eugenie, Jo Froggatt, Sarah Ikumu, June Sarpong and many others.
- A Shoes by Shaherazad jewellery range is developed and put in to production for a select few leading ladies. One day it will be brought to market, but for now I'm happy wearing mine to keep me motivated and to keep empowering others on a daily basis through my shoe work. I am a Shoe Empowerment Officer after all!
- I meet with Trupti and Soelene from GlobalGiving UK and they shared with me that Shoes by Shaherazad has donated over £5000 already (which is ahead of the target I had set for my first and second year). It's so wonderful working alongside such empowered women and helping to empower even more women and girls. After all, that's the purpose of Shoes by Shaherazad.
The year wasn't all sunshine and sunbeams though. I had some challenging moments too. But this is all part of the learning process and I have used the rainy moments to make sure that my business is stronger for the future.
Things I didn't expect to happen but did:
- A journalist who decided to take a whole suitcase of shoes and shoellery home after a photo shoot which had a cost value of over £1000 (and which took a number of months to get back from her). The missing suitcase also meant that I didn't have my new lines for a number of shows as the journalist wasn't wanting to send them back, despite the agreement we had in place.
- I've also been surprised that two bloggers signed up to review my products, kept the shoes and handbags I sent, and then didn't complete the reviews. Gentle cajoling and persistent encouragement didn't bring any results. I can't understand why anyone would do this, especially when the business profits go to charity. However, I've learnt that not everyone will treat others with integrity, and so caution with precious products is required. I will emphatically declare though, that there are more people with integrity in the world than not.
- An outdoor photo shoot I had been planning for months had to be cancelled due the rainy British weather. It couldn't be rescheduled due to availability of several members of the team and so I had to get creative with content I already had.
Challenges are integral to business life. I've certainly learnt from my rainy moments.
Thank You 2017 & Hello 2018
What an absolutely magical year! Huge hugs of solidarity to everyone who has supported me and my business. Your help has meant a happier future for hundreds of women and girls around the world. Special thanks also go to a handful of very special people listed in my diary adventure acknowledgements below.
PS. We do not need miracles to change the world, we only need each other.
Shoe.E.O at Shoes by Shaherazad
Special thanks go to following people without whom such a sparkling year would not have been possible. You are my flamingo philo-shoe-phers:
Mehreen Ali: Brand Advocate and Packing Expert
Suna Ali: Pop Up Party Facilitator
David Melhuish: Business Adviser, Display Engineer and Brand Advocate
Kara Christopher: Stock Controller
Zurren Yasmeen: Common Sense Adviser
Cheryl Morris: PR
Lisa Barrett: Graphic Design
Victoria & Kate: Miss Dashwood's Register
Richard Kiely: Photographer
Peter Bennett: Florida Group Ltd
Jane Matty: Department of International Trade Adviser
Ben Wright: Micro-Pak Ltd
Keith Adcock: 3D Mould CAD
Barry Abbotts: Metal Basher
Eleanor Harrison: Chief Charity Partner
Olivia Sentosa: Social Media Strategist