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Female Founders: Daniela Uribe On The Five Things You Need To Thrive and Succeed as a Woman Founder

An Interview With Candice Georgiadis

I think becoming a founder is something you must really want, something you are confident and passionate about. It will get hard, and you will have to overcome many obstacles, so you must be ready for that. As a founder, you must have vision, conviction, and drive. Willingness to work a lot and know that some sacrifices will have to be made. You must also be flexible and know how to adapt quickly to change and innovation along the way. I think you must be someone that is okay with stepping out of your comfort zone as entrepreneurship will take you out of your comfort zone many times. I think everyone could technically become a founder but not everyone does because not everyone has a clear idea or a passion they want to pursue. Some people prefer to take a more secure path or some do not feel ready to face the challenges, which is okay. There is no right or wrong path. You just have to make sure the path you take is the one you want to take.

As a part of our series about “Why We Need More Women Founders”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Daniela Uribe.

Daniela Uribe is a native Latin American Footwear Designer that has made a name for herself defying traditional beauty standards and through her shoes encouraging people and the industry to be more inclusive. Daniela has lived in London and New York where she has gained experience for renowned brands and companies like Jimmy Choo, Diane von Furstenberg, Paul Andrew, and ROSS Stores. Daniela’s striking, comfortable, Italian-made shoes stand for embracing individuality and celebrating unison in style.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

Thank you so much for the opportunity. Before I tell you where I am from and my career path, I would like to start with what I stand for. I am Daniela Uribe and I believe in embracing yourself and others for who we are. The reason why I like to begin introductions in this matter is that regardless of where we come from or where we have been, our beliefs and personal branding are what make us special. I am originally from Bogota, Colombia and I always had a love for fashion knowing from an early age that I wanted to be a fashion designer. However, I did not specifically know that I would become a footwear designer. After high school, I obtained my bachelor’s degree from London College of Fashion where I thought I would acquire a graduates degree in womenswear. The first year of pursuing my degree was a foundation year where we touched on different areas of fashion design. One semester was focused on Footwear Design and I fell in love right away. It was meant to be so I graduated with a BA (Hons) Degree in Footwear Design and Development. I gained work experience in London and New York at Jimmy Choo, Diane von Furstenberg, and Paul Andrew. Later, I decided to delve into fashion buying, so I worked at ROSS Stores in their New York City buying office. While at Ross, I saw an opportunity and decided it was time to take the risk, follow my dreams, leave the corporate world, and build my footwear brand. It was not an easy decision to make but I always wanted to have my own brand so I was determined. Working closely with my brother, we have worked to produce stunning Italian-made shoes with inclusivity in mind re-establishing the paradigms of absolute beauty and comfort. Looking back at my career and brand so far, it has been a challenging but very rewarding experience to see my dream come to life. I hope through my shoes I can positively impact people’s lives; I want my shoes to make people feel confident, powerful, unstoppable.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

A story I always like to share is the story of when I was looking for factories. I decided to enter a premium market, one that is very competitive, and I was constantly reminded of that. However, I never once doubted the market I wanted to enter. When I decided to look for factories in Italy and Spain, I heard one too many times how difficult it was for factories of that level to take in new designers. Regardless, that did not stop me. What I did instead followed the saying “fake it till you make it”. I flew to Italy and Spain with a professional brand presentation and detailed tech packs and approached every factory I came across convinced that I was already the next big thing. When you believe in it yourself, others will believe in it too. My mom accompanied me during this trip and together we traveled to MICAM Milano, a footwear tradeshow where I entered every single booth asking if they were a production factory and presented my brand. Then we went to Spain, rented a car and drove around the area where the factories I was interested in are located. I went knocking door to door, presentation in hand, for three days straight. To each one that received me, I walked in full of confidence presenting myself and the brand as a brand they needed to have because of how successful it was about to become. I can say now that it worked! Yes, of course, I received some rejections, but I got a lot more factories wanting to work with me than not. It was a good learning experience. You must believe in yourself first.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

When I was developing the lasts in men’s sizing, we had to do many tests and trials; the lasts came back and forth from Italy many times, more than I had calculated. I had to test these heels on different people, even my dad tried them and he had never walked in heels before! What a laugh that was! My brother and every guy friend I have pretty much tried them on. We had to make sure that the fit was perfect, but I had miscalculated the time it would take to do these tests and the costs. There are a couple of things I learned from this experience. First, you must calculate more time than you think it will take to launch something new that you have not done before. I thought with two rounds of tests we would have it, but it took around 4. Second, to go over all the costs more in detail. For example, in this case, I had calculated the costs of development, prototypes, and changes but I had forgotten that shipping was a big factor every time we had to send porotypes back and forth. However, I learned the importance of testing your product more than once no matter how long it takes, because it is what will make your product have impeccable quality. We always receive positive feedback on how comfortable and how well our heels fit. We did not just extend the sizing, we made sure the overall fit was accommodated to perfection.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Yes, very true, and I think many of us entrepreneurs tend to want to do everything ourselves but it is impossible. I wouldn’t have been able to get to where I am without my family. When the pandemic hit and we went into lockdown, my brother, who lived and worked in San Francisco, came back home to Florida. He saw what I was building and immediately believed in it and started helping me. He then decided to stay in Florida and work with me, leaving his career and devoting his time to helping me build my brand. He has been a great partner; we have both learned a lot together and I am thankful for his support. My parents have also believed, guided, and supported me from the beginning.

I also must mention another person that has been incredibly supportive through this process, Laura Kaplan. She was the president of Paul Andrew when I interned there and I admired her so much — still do. I reached out to her when I started my brand and since then, we have become very close. She has also helped and supported me along this path. I am very thankful to have reconnected.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. According to this EY report, only about 20 percent of funded companies have women founders. This reflects great historical progress, but it also shows that more work still has to be done to empower women to create companies. In your opinion and experience what is currently holding back women from founding companies?

There is a lot of progress being made and I think it continues to grow. I have met many inspiring and successful women founders.

Being a founder and entrepreneur is difficult, no matter your gender, race, or ethnicity. There are many obstacles and challenges that you need to overcome to build a company. I think the reason you see fewer women founders is due to the ‘old school’ way of business, which lacked female executives and female business partners. As that trend has started to shift, it gives us women more confidence to truly do the things we want to do and achieve our goals without being looked at differently. As women grow more confident and receive more support and credibility, we will start seeing more woman founders. I also think growth in female opportunities and woman building businesses has a lot to do with cultures; there are still a lot of cultures in the world that haven’t had as much progress in equality. As these cultures start shifting mindsets and equality initiatives arise, more women will be confident to found companies. Finally, technology and the ability to work from home open a lot of opportunities for women to be able to found companies.

Can you help articulate a few things that can be done as individuals, as a society, or by the government, to help overcome those obstacles?

Since I became I female founder, I realized there are a lot of support groups and platforms for women founders and entrepreneurs overall. I, myself, am part of a few. Through these groups, I have learned a lot about different aspects of starting a business, finding useful resources and funding, understanding legal structures, exchanging ideas, finding collaborators, and creating a community with people that help each other find that confidence and drive to keep growing and working towards their goals. I think in general it helps to surround yourself with like-minded individuals so you can learn from one another, share resources, and experiences. We all have something to teach, and we all have something to learn. Greater things are created when different ideas and people come together.

This might be intuitive to you as a woman founder but I think it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you share a few reasons why more women should become founders?

Well, first off, women should become founders if they dream of becoming founders. If you have always wanted to be independent or have an idea or a passion, you should pursue it. Building a business, overcoming obstacles, and watching your business grow gives you a sense of accomplishment like no other; confidence, resilience, and commitment. It will show you that you are capable of a lot more than you give yourself credit for. I think, us women, are very persistent; we have a strong sense of commitment and compromise and we put our heart and soul into everything we do. These are key success factors.

What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a founder? Can you explain what you mean?

I think the first “myth” is that to be a successful founder you need to find the “right time” to start your business, have experience and enough money to launch. Honestly, there is never a “right time” and you will never have enough savings. Some founders have launched having a lot of work experience but were not successful while there are founders that have launched with no work experience and are very successful. Every story is different so there is no right time or right way to do things. Yes, you can prepare yourself, do research and try to minimize risk, but there will always be a risk. You must only believe in yourself, be resourceful, resilient, patient, committed, and just go for it. You will always learn along the way.

Is everyone cut out to be a founder? In your opinion, which specific traits increase the likelihood that a person will be a successful founder and what type of person should perhaps seek a “regular job” as an employee? Can you explain what you mean?

I think becoming a founder is something you must really want, something you are confident and passionate about. It will get hard, and you will have to overcome many obstacles, so you must be ready for that. As a founder, you must have vision, conviction, and drive. Willingness to work a lot and know that some sacrifices will have to be made. You must also be flexible and know how to adapt quickly to change and innovation along the way. I think you must be someone that is okay with stepping out of your comfort zone as entrepreneurship will take you out of your comfort zone many times. I think everyone could technically become a founder but not everyone does because not everyone has a clear idea or a passion they want to pursue. Some people prefer to take a more secure path or some do not feel ready to face the challenges, which is okay. There is no right or wrong path. You just have to make sure the path you take is the one you want to take.

Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)

First, I wish this especially for people graduating from fashion or a creative degree, that programs provided a course in the basics of finance and accounting. My Bachelor’s degree is in Footwear Design and Development and we were never taught anything related to finance, or legal structures of business, accounting, taxes, etc. Looking back now, courses in these particular subjects would have been extremely helpful. We are creatives but these are things we can’t avoid, and we must learn, especially for starting a business.

Second, I wish someone told me about all the resources there are to find funding and grants for start-ups and women-owned businesses. I did not figure this out until I had already produced my first collection and it would have been very helpful.

Third, I wish someone told me what an emotional rollercoaster it was going to be. I have always been a very confident and emotionally stable person but wow starting my own business has shaken things up. However, I wouldn’t change any of it.

Fourth, I wish someone told me that it is going to take longer than you think, much longer than you think.

Fifth, I wish someone told me how much investment in marketing I was going to need. The internet makes Direct-to-Consumer brands sound so easily successful and the way to go nowadays, but they do not tell you that to drive people to your online store involves a lot of marketing that you need to invest in. Is not like a brick-and-mortar store where people will walk by it, see it, and enter. If you do not drive people to your store, they will not find it.

How have you used your success to make the world a better place?

I always say that my shoes are shoes on a mission to make the world a more accepting, respectful, inclusive, and loving place. I believe for the world to be a better place, we need to be better people and the first step to being better people is to believe, accept, and be confident in ourselves and others. I wholeheartedly believe life is richer when everyone is welcome, loved, embraced, and included for who they are. As I say “we are all uniquely equal and we should all be praised and applauded for being whoever we want to be”. I think when we do not feel accepted, we start creating resentment, anger, jealousy, and all these feelings are the basis of many problems. If we were more accepting and supportive of each other, we would live in better harmony. That is why I built my company on the basis of inclusivity: inclusivity of gender, race, ethnicity, and beliefs.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

I would inspire a movement of self-acceptance and unconditional love. Learning to love and accept people with our eyes closed, and learning to love and accept yourself. It might sound very romantic but, honestly, I think the first step towards happiness, abundance, success, prosperity, and resilience, is to be confident in yourself. I have come to realize that self-confidence is something most people lack, even very successful people. In my opinion, a lot of the superficial problems we see come from problems within. I think there should be some sort of course or network where we take people on a deep dive of themselves, who they are, what they like, what they stand for, what their talent is, what their purpose is, what they fear, what are they hiding, what stops them — a full dive to find oneself. Then when finding yourself, learn to accept others for who they are. If we all learn to look deeper within ourselves and others, we can start connecting on a different level, therefore, creating new ideas, collaborating with different people, building better companies and environments, and communicating better, consequently, increasing efficiency in everything.

We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.

I would like to meet Michelle Obama. She is inspiring to me because she has an impact on people. She motivates others as an empowered woman who stands for fairness and equality, inclusion, diversity, and self-growth as I and my brand stand for. She also advocates on behalf of working women balancing career and family and is well known for supporting American Designers. Given our similar values, a conversation together could flourish many impactful ideas and collaborations to positively impact younger generations.

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.

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Candice Georgiadis

Candice Georgiadis

Candice Georgiadis is an active mother of three as well as a designer, founder, social media expert, and philanthropist.