We had the good fortune of connecting with Sally Allen and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Sally, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
In my 20s, I could wear any shoe and any height. At about age 40, the years of wearing heels and poor arch support began to take its toll. I was on a search for a stylish, timeless shoe that looks great and is beautifully made, in which I didn’t have to sacrifice comfort and didn’t cost a small fortune.
I think women trying to buy shoes deserve more when they shop. The local shoe store is hard to find these days. E-commerce has made it so convenient but doesn’t solve the problem of finding the right fit, right heel and right style for my feet.
My idea was to become a small, traveling shoe boutique. With an e-commerce backbone, I wanted to combine the convenience of ordering online with the necessity, fun, and experience of in-person shoe parties. Restore the fun and 1:1 nature to shopping and make an event and completely experiential.
When a friend literally took off her heels at the dinner table to show me an amazing shoe in which the heel comes off the shoe and can be interchanged with any one of hundreds of heels, I was sold. I was so fortunate to find TANYA HEATH Paris.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
TANYA HEATH Paris is a luxury, socially-conscious footwear brand with a multi-height shoe and interchangeable heels. The customer gets to choose their heel styles, heel heights and pattern when they buy their shoes. The shoe accomodates every heel height and style and every heel interchanges with every shoe in the collection just by pushing a button. We source the finest and most ethical leathers and fabrics from Italy and then the shoes are manufactured in a family-owned factory in Portugal in which the artisans make a living wage. Heels are made in France often from exquisite leather remnants. We really are the most sustainable shoe concept in the world as the whole concept is all about wear more, buy less.
As a small brand with an innovative, unusual concept, our strengths are also weakness. An unknown brand name with limited marketing funds, it is difficult to establish TANYA HEATH Paris as a credible, luxury brand to the U.S. consumer. From a merchandise perspective, being a small business allows us to manufacture colors and styles based on the requests and preferences of our clients. Sometimes we produce as few as 10-20 shoes in a color or style, creating something very special for our clients.
I take pride in being a jack of all trades, from selecting my seasonal color palette and styles, to assortment planning, website design and development and client relationships. It’s certainly been a learning curve and I feel like I’ve been able to update my skills and leverage my unique experience and talents along the way.
I have found it important to find talent that’s as passionate as I am, to help me fill in the gaps. The biggest challenge has certainly been landing editorial coverage and press as an incredible, problem-solving alternative to other luxury shoes. In hindsight, having a marketing, P.R. partner would have made my ramp up significantly faster and more effective. Without dollars for P.R. / Marketing specialist, I have sent hundreds of press kits and emails myself to editors and content creators with little response, filling me with self-doubt at intervals along the way.
With so much competition, time and expense tied to digital advertising, I’ve hired a Digital Marketing team to support me with Google Ads and Social Media advertising. I have found this team to be a very valuable, supportive team. Having a group to bounce ideas off of and collaborate has provided a fresh perspective and has given me some of my sanity back.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I definitely love a balance between beach and L.A. city life. I think the best way to experience new places is through people watching, walks, hikes, and bikes to feel the energy, the air and the culture. We would make sure to hit these highlights:
Experience the Glamour of LA with a visit to the iconic Beverly Hills Hotel for lunch and people watching.
At least two beautiful bike rides, the first along the Marvin Braude Bike Trail from Will Rogers State to Torrence County; the second ride around Echo Park Lake.
A day in Malibu with shopping at the Country Mart . And, time exploring Santa Monica with lunch at Shutters and a great day of shopping and walking.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
In starting my own business, my experience is that support and encouragement has come from places that I least expected it. I’ll start by just saying that I was annoyed, hurt and disappointed to find that some of my dearest friends were completely absent. They didn’t ask how it was going or how they could help, or acknowledge my idea, effort, progress, or lend a hand or an ear.
I found an endless amount of enthusiasm and encouragement from placed that I least expected it!
Loyal Clients all over the country who had purchased TANYA HEATH Paris in France, LA, or Toronto, were hungry to see the brand more accessible in the U.S. and have a convenient way to continue to shop the brand. These clients read my email newsletters, corrected my grammar, shared the brand with their friends and would just extend a simple lifeline of encouragement. The women were anxious to have me succeed in the U.S. because of their affinity for the brand.
My family. My husband, a perpetual skeptic, provided unwavering support about my ability to turn our inventory and marketing investment into a big business. It has been a refreshing and new dimension to our relationship and conversation. My sons got in the game too. I soon learned that my thirteen year-old son has a keen eye for color and video; he became my head of Tik Tok and reels. It is super helpful to have a thirteen year old’s vantage point on social media.
Three friends, each with a unique passion and tremendous talent, rolled up their sleeves and shared ideas. My friend Jo-Di, with a background in publicity and a superpower for fashion, provided direction on my newsletters, photography and messaging. My friend Wendy went well beyond the typical photographer’s job description to explore creative ways to show how the heels interchange with shoes. My friend Dora, as my fit model, tries on each new shoe that comes in so that I can provide credible fit, styling and sizing information. They have taken an interest in my businesses and I’d consider them my unofficial “Board of Directors”.
Shot of Sally Allen working with shoes, phot credit to Wendy Moynihan Photography Shot of Womens legs with shoes/heels, photo credit to Cecilia Bilton