I Can Make Shoes, a female-run, shoemaking school in London was founded by native Aussie Amanda Overs in 2010 and offers shoemaking classes for beginners.
The school, which brings the art of shoemaking into the at-home craft space, is built to empower women through making and is driven by positivity and support.
Being in a traditionally male-dominated and very intimidating industry, Amanda was able to break down this barrier and make it possible for people to give shoemaking a try as a hobby, even having some of her students go on to start shoe brands of their own.
Now providing shoemaking supplies and online tutorials I Can Make Shoes has grown into an internationally recognised brand and continues to support students all over the world.
Can you tell our readers about your background?
I was working in the corporate world straight out of high school and feeling totally lost about what I wanted out of a career. I loved shoes but wasn't really interested in studying fashion so I took a short shoemaking course and totally fell in love with the making process. It was that moment when I realised I was a 'maker' first and a 'designer' second.
What inspired you to start your business?
I moved to London from Sydney Australia and it dawned on me that I didn't have access to the machinery that I needed to make shoes anymore—this was quite a shock because I realised I was back at square one. I was searching online for any instructions on how to make shoes from home and couldn't find anything so thats when I realised that shoemaking needed to be brought into the 'at-home' craft space.
Where is your business based?
The shoemaking studio is based in Bethnal Green, London but we also teach guest workshops in Brooklyn, New York.
How did you start your business? What were the first steps you took?
I had decided to write a book on how to make your own shoes from home. I decided to run a little workshop to make sure that my instructions made sense to novice shoemakers and tweeted about it, next thing I knew people started asking when the next one would be, so I just kept running them. Fast Forward 10 years, thousands of students, various eBooks and online courses and I am (finally) getting around to publishing the book later this year.
What has been the most effective way of raising awareness for your business?
Social Media and Google ranking has played a major part in raising awareness about my business. It's so niche so it can be difficult to reach people who might be interested but they just don't know something like this exists.
What have been your biggest challenges and how did you overcome them?
Managing staff is always a big challenge for any business owner. I have taken the advice of my mentors on how to best deal with situations from a professional point of view.
Financing your business is another big challenge. I have been lucky that my business has grown really organically so I haven't ever needed any outside investment but I've been really sensible and never spent outside my means.
How do you stay focused?
I use a default diary. I was suggested this by a time management mentor and it changed my life! I have a team meeting once a week where we set our goals and then I schedule in everything I need to do each day in order to reach the goal. When I don't do this I get distracted and can spend the whole day in my inbox.
How do you differentiate your business from the competition?
Luckily, I didn't have much competition when I started out but there are lots of smaller business's popping up that are similar to mine. I take it as a huge compliment and am genuinely glad to see it, as it means the industry is growing. I just keep looking forward and improving what I do, it’s the best way to be.
What has been your most effective marketing strategy to grow your business?
Influencer marketing has been a great tool for us. By inviting key craft bloggers to our workshops it has shown the crafting community that shoes are achievable to make from home which has been really popular for us.
What's your best piece of advice for aspiring and new entrepreneurs?
Keep going especially when it's hard. It only gets easier for those who hang in there when the others start to drop out on the race.
What's your favorite app, blog, and book? Why?
My favorite app by a long shot is Instagram and UNUM for managing it - this will save you so much time and allows you to curate your feed in a beautiful and easy way.
I am more of an audiobook/podcast person and highly recommend 'How I built this' by Guy Raz, it is a collection of inspiring stories from hugely successful entrepreneurs.
What's your favorite business tool or resource? Why?
Google G-Suite. We keep all of our emails, documents, spreadsheets, photos EVERYTHING on Google. It means that the whole team can access anything they need wherever they are.
Who is your business role model? Why?
I try not to have one role model. There is so much to learn from people in business so I am always listening to stories of entrepreneurs and going to talks, meeting with mentors etc.
A fantastic resource for women in business is the Create & Cultivate community.
What do you have planned for the next six months?
We run courses every weekend and do private tuition during the week, so outside of that we're expanding our supply shop and filming some new online courses.
And the big thing is my book launch YAY!!
How can our readers connect with you?
website - www.icanmakeshoes.com
email - firstname.lastname@example.org
INSTAGRAM - instagram.com/icanmake_shoes
FACEBOOK - https://www.facebook.com/icanmakeshoes