A Shoe Biz Guide
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A Shoe Biz Guide

How I started a shoe brand

An idea is born

The idea for RAYO (my footwear brand) came to me in my second year of university. It was in my second year of uni that I did a lot of self discovery and realised that I no longer wanted to go into a career in law because I wanted to work for myself.

Since childhood, I’ve always come up with ideas and get rich quick schemes so really this path was a logical one. I’ve worn a UK size 9 in shoes for as long as I can remember and it was definitely something I was embarrassed about in school. I tried to squeeze into size 8’s and avoided talking about my shoe size as often as possible but that was hard at times as we always seemed to do these random exercises in maths classes that required us to share our height and our shoe size.

As awkward as those maths classes were for me, the real frustration I had with being a size 9 came when I started developing an interest in fashion. I’m sure you guessed it… this was in my second year of university. I wanted to wear cute heels, get dressed up and just be the bad b**** that I am but I was relegated to New Look which at the time was the only shop that went up to a size 9 and had remotely stylish shoes. Even New Look was very hit and miss at times.

So after years of frustration, embarrassing experiences and squeezing my feet into shoes that were not my size, I finally had the revelation to simply start my own footwear brand.

A time to wait and a time to launch

Although I had the idea for RAYO in my second year, I didn’t end up launching the business until 2017 (almost 4 years later). On reflection, I wish I hadn’t waited so long to start the business but at the same time I think the delay was necessary in some respects. During that period of waiting, I was able to complete my degree, graduate and I had the opportunity to travel and work for about a year after graduating.

When I came back from my work year abroad I had a fire inside of me to start the business once and for all. After conducting research, working hard to secure a start up loan, find a manufacturer and get some stock, RAYO was finally live. I remember when I was in that period of getting ready to launch, I told myself that no matter what, I will never give up on RAYO, it will be a success. So you can imagine my surprise when the website launched and the sales didn’t come flooding in as expected…

Crashing and burning

In the first year of launching RAYO, I made 10 sales. If I recall correctly, 9 out of those 10 sales were thanks to family and friends. And the majority of those sales came around 6 months after putting the website live.

At the time I was truly dumbfounded. I didn’t know why sales weren’t flooding in and I didn’t know what I needed to do to make things change for the better. Each day my morale was crushed more and more as less and less people visited the site. That fire I once had for RAYO was almost completely extinguished and I didn’t know how to get it back. It was at that point that I had to take a step back and decide how I was going to move forward.

I took down the website and stopped posting on social media. I eventually deleted/ archived all the posts on the RAYO Instagram and for quite a few months, I just did nothing.

In 2019, I met up with a friend that had studied footwear design at university. We met by pure coincidence but it was this meeting that really made me start reflecting on what the purpose of RAYO actually was. Aside for wanting shoes that fit me, what did I want this brand to be and what did I want this brand to achieve and how was I going to make it happen?

Time for a revival

All of this leads me to where I am today… relaunching RAYO!

Reflecting on the brand and the purpose of the business really helped to add fuel to the fire inside of me that was almost out. I’m so excited to be relaunching RAYO now because not only have I learned so much since initially launching but I’ve also got some beautiful shoes lined up and I’ve realised that RAYO is about more than just me. It’s bigger than me. I want RAYO to be a brand that inspires women to be confidently their authentic selves by providing them with the styles they deserve in the sizes they need.

RAYO is no longer just about me… it’s about we. With that being said, I’m set to relaunch the brand early 2021, with a completely new brand vision and aesthetic.

Final thoughts

Some people might say “they’re just shoes what’s the big deal?”. Although, yes, they are technically “just shoes” I don’t think we should have to settle for anything less than fabulous when it comes to buying a pair of shoes. I don’t think people should feel embarrassed when it comes time to buying a new pair of shoes because they know it’s going to be an arduous excursion to find a pair they love that FITS and I definitely don’t think the thought of shoe shopping should conjure up a feeling of dread for anyone.

All of this is what helped me to realise that it’s not just about shoes, it’s about building women up to realise just how amazing they are regardless of whether they fit societies standards of what is “normal”.

Useful bits and bobs

RAYO mailing list: If you’re a lady that wears a UK size 7+ you can sign up to the RAYO mailing list to find out when we relaunch. You’ll get progress updates, access to new styles before the public plus exclusive offers and deals. You can join the mailing list here.

RAYO the Outlet Store: I bought a lot of stock when I initially launched RAYO and with the new rebrand comes new styles. I recently launched RAYO the Outlet Store which is where I’m selling all of the old, discontinued RAYO stock, plus one off samples at discounted prices. So if you’re looking for a great deal on shoes ranging from a UK size 7–11, you can purchase some here. All of the proceeds will go into producing the new range of shoes.

FREE shoe brand checklist: I recently started documenting my journey, learnings and advice on setting up a footwear company. If you are in the process of or hoping to set up a footwear company then this one is for you. I’ve created a free checklist of things to consider when starting a shoe brand. You can access this document by signing up to my mailing list here.

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I’ve started A Shoe Biz Guide as a way of sharing my journey relauching my footwear company RAYO. I hope to share my experiences as well as my advice in the hopes of inspiring budding footwear founders and so that you can avoid making the same mistakes I have.

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Paula Oyinkan

Paula Oyinkan

Sharing the journey of running my shoe brand, RAYO, and my learnings, thoughts and feelings along the way www.rayo.co.uk

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