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From shoe-shine to shoe line, the growth of The Shoe Snob

By PayPal Stories Staff: 25/02/2019
Great shoes, social media and PayPal Working Capital have helped The Shoe Snob to reach 45% year-on-year growth, underpinned by a loyal, international customer base. Director and co-founder Ngoni Tshekeche tells us how.
“Justin and I met at Savile Row tailors Gieves and Hawkes. At the time, he was shining shoes there,” he recalls. “We were talking about what we would like to do. He talked about his passion for shoes and wanting to create his own line. I said, well, let’s go ahead and do it.”
Justin Fitzpatrick, co-founder, had left his native America to study shoemaking in Italy with the famous Florentine shoemaker Stefano Bemar. Now settled in the UK, his vision was to combine the English tradition of sturdy, Goodyear-welted shoes with Italian flair and French shaping to produce an elegant, stylish and comfortable new take on respected styles.
The pair started selling shoe polish and accessories in Gieves and Hawkes, and then on eBay but, as Ngoni says, “The idea was always to start a shoe line. We thought it would take us 6 months. It took us 2 years to finally launch.”
“We just started with what we had,” the co-founder continues. “We put in £700 to buy the stock and then, when the shoes were ready, we came up with the required £42,000 from pre-sales, personal loans, our own money, whatever we could scrounge together.”
Justin already had a successful blog and the pair adopted the name for their accessories business, The Shoe Snob.
“The blog gave us an audience and a customer base.”
For the shoe line, and following the form of other successful shoemakers, the pair created a separate, personalised brand, JFitzpatrickFootwear.com.
The brands cross-sell each other, but keeping two separate web properties helps position the shoe brand for its market.
“We haven’t invested as much as we would like in marketing so far, but social media has helped, especially Instagram,” says Ngoni. “We offer a made-to-order service and we try to post a picture of every order, which gives inspiration to others and gets the ball rolling. We’ve gained a huge following on Instagram and a lot of clients, too.”
Without stock, we don’t have a business
The business grew quickly, but it soon became difficult to fund the stock necessary to sustain demand.
“When you see the number of products we have – the different models, colours and so on – and multiply that by at least 12 pairs of shoes for each, that becomes a significant investment. And, to sustain growth year on year, we need new models. As an online business, we are open to the world and we introduce new models to gauge what works well and what doesn’t in each market,” Ngoni says.
Dealing with a bank, “the process would be so time-consuming. I know the amount of paperwork I’d have to prepare. I know my business and the potential that it has, but conveying that information to a bank manager is very difficult. Everyone wants proof: what can you show me that’s tangible?”
Instead, the company turned to PayPal Working Capital.
“With PayPal Working Capital the process is really quick. Now, I can access funds within minutes” says Ngoni. “And, because PayPal understands our business – it can see our transactions and our growth – it can offer more. It’s been a godsend for us.”
PayPal Working Capital – the backbone of our growth
“The business has been growing at around 45%, year-on-year, and the funding we’ve received from PayPal Working Capital has been the backbone of that growth,” says Ngoni. “It has helped us buy the stock that we need to meet demand.”
The company sells around the world, with showrooms in London and New York.
“PayPal Working Capital has transformed our business. I like the ease of use and the fact that the money’s available quickly. When you have the money, you can place an order – you’ve got the ball rolling within a day.”
“If we didn’t have PayPal Working Capital our business would be about half of what it is today, if not smaller.”
Read more about The Shoe Snob, J Fitzpatrick and a passion for quality shoes in our customer case study, here.