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GREAT IDEAS: Why Jodie Fox talks about her failed shoe company

"I’m looking for my community. There are a lot of us hitting troubles."


 
“Let’s use the ‘F’ word. Because it’s real,” Jodie Fox says when we interview her for The Growth Faculty.  

Failed.

Yes, Jodie’s ambitious brand Shoes of Prey did fail, and she wants to talk about it.

The Australian entrepreneur hopes her book Reboot will spark a conversation, and draw together a community.

“A lot of us go through these really challenging times,” she says. “There’s a deeply personal journey that goes alongside our business journey.”


THE VISION


Jodie's venture-capital backed business once shipped custom-made shoes to 100 countries.
 
A purpose-built factory made each unique shoe by hand, and Shoes of Prey promised delivery in under two weeks.

“We’d broken even at two months, hit multi-million revenue in under two years. And then we decided to head down the venture capital route, because it fit with our vision.”  says Jodie.
 
The data predicted success in mass market stores.

 “We opened stores in Nordstrom, we opened stores in David Jones.  As we executed on each one of them, the sales projections simply didn’t match," she explains. 

“We ended up finding out the data….[showed] over performance in a niche,  as opposed to things that would translate into the mass market.” 

But, unfortunately, when Shoes of Prey closed the underperforming stores, the brand was damaged.

Despite all efforts after that, the company went into liquidation. 


 
Simon Sinek
THE LEARNING


Jodie says she advises other entrepreneurs to have an awareness around what a worst case scenario might look like.

“Nobody likes to think about death in any form, but actually knowing that you have considered the worst can be a really prudent thing to do.” 

She says venture backed businesses are vulnerable because they take risks.

“I read a number that says that 90% of venture backed businesses ultimately close.  They’re out there taking the risks to figure out and see how business models can and will scale and work."

 
jodie-fox-failed-entrepreneur-story

THE ENDING


On her last day of trade, Jodie Fox had to retrench all 140 staff at her China factory.

But, customer orders in the form of half-made shoes were still on the factory line.

 “The factory team (that I had just let go) approached me and said, ‘There are still shoes on the line.’ And I said, ‘Yeah, I know, it’s okay, we’re going to refund people.”

But, that’s not what happened.

The workers told Jodie "We want to finish making the shoes." 

So, 140 newly retrenched staff stayed in factory from Tuesday morning to Friday afternoon to make sure those shoes were made.

Jodie is emotional as she tells this poignant story. 

“It was a really, really tough experience.”



Jodie’s GREAT EIGHT
(8 getting to know you questions we ask all our authors).


Recommended book: The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horovitz.

And how did you get your first ever job?  I remember at the local fair wanting to work behind one of the stalls at, like, nine years old and I did it for fun.

And if he were not doing the job that you’re doing right now, what would you like to be doing instead?  Part of why the book is called Reboot is because sometimes when you hit that reboot button to stand up again after something that’s super, super, super tough, you’ve got to lean into that uncertainty of being okay with figuring out what’s next and I’m really in that moment right now.

How do you push yourself when the going gets tough? Honestly, sometimes I fall apart and then I kind of reach out to the people who are sort of my wisdom council. My natural response is highly emotional and also very highly critical as well. So, I’ll try and go and get an outside perspective from a trusted group of people. I find as soon as I start to get into some form of action around it, that’s usually when I calm down.

What’s been your lowest moment, and how did you recover from that? There have been a whole lot of low moments on the journey. The feeling. So for me, when I get, when I hit a really low moment, there’s  a very emotional feeling… a very physical response.  Some of the tools that I know helped me to come out of those moments [are] the wisdom council, a great therapist, and going for a swim is really helpful.

What’s one of the best decisions you’ve ever made to improve your career? Stick by my values. And take my decisions from there. [It’s] the reason I sleep at night now, having gone through something so tough.

What’s a fun fact that’s not widely known about you? I’ve only just started telling people, but I’m about to have my first child. So I’m really excited about that whole new little venture.
What is a prediction you can make for 2025? I’m watching all of these healthcare start-ups pushing a lot of boundaries and excited to see what happens with aged care. I’m also really pumped about this sustainability movement.




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