British expats Samantha and Nicola already had a lot in common when they moved here in 2012 with their separate broods.
“We quickly became great family friends,” they recall. Before long, the pals were bonding over a shared frustration: where to find properly fitted, black leather school shoes in SG – mandatory footwear for tens of thousands of children at international schools.
“Whilst there were a handful of shops selling school shoes, they carried very little stock with a huge mark-up on price and a lack of measurement expertise,” shares Samantha, who previously worked in corporate communications; Nicola worked in retail management consultancy. And, they found that many friends were buying school shoes in their home countries over the holidays and lugging them back in an extra suitcase. “We saw a huge opportunity and decided to do something about it,” she says.
That “something” was registering Ten Feet Tall with ACRA in April 2016. After approaching large international schools who were “desperately keen” to make the shoes available ASAP, they expedited their original plan of launching the business in 2017 and opened in June 2016 instead!
To ensure their startup would have enough stock, they imported 8,000 pairs of shoes from the top three European manufacturers. They also leased a huge storage space, with air-conditioning units and dehumidifiers, to keep the leather uppers and rubber soles in good condition.
Soon, they opened a small “fitting studio” in Holland Village to carry one of every style, width and size combination of their shoes. Once fitted by Ten Feet Tall’s highly trained team, customers received their shoes within 48 hours at no extra cost. Today, shoppers can leave the studio with their purchases, and these “Shoe Ladies” – whose five little ones’ combined “ten feet” inspired their business name – have expanded the business to offer athletic shoes, socks and school uniforms.
The friends and founders’ advice for would-be expatpreneurs? “Make sure your business serves a gap in the market and innovatively meets the need.”
Read more about Ten Feet Tall here!
About The Finder Expatpreneur Awards
In 2017, The Finder debuted its first-ever Expatpreneur Awards to honour foreign-born entrepreneurs running successful expat-owned businesses in or from Singapore. In 2018, 23 expats were awarded for their tremendous dedication. This 2019, a new batch of 22 Expatpreneur Awardees have been unveiled! All of them have one thing in common: Their brands help people “live well in Singapore” – The Finder’s core mission.
By Melodi Ghui, The Finder Issue 298
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