After Eve quit her much-loved job because of unwanted sexual advances from male colleagues, she was left with almost nothing in her bank account and desperately had to figure out how to make money. Eve’s family have always traded in shoes. So for her, the shoe business is not uncharted territory.
So Eve began selling shoes to make some money pending when she could get another office job. When the business began to show fruits of success, she decided to go into it full-time. Today, Eve owns Shoe Space Africa – one of the fastest-growing shoe businesses in Africa.
This piece is about Eve’s journey with Shoe Space and how she has been able to grow her business from almost nothing to the phenomenal brand it is today.
What is the story behind Shoe Space Africa?
Starting Shoe Space was not intentional at first. I quit my job in 2016 and I was wondering what to do next. The only other thing I knew how to do asides my corporate job was shoes because I grew up in a family where my mum used to make shoes, my cousin used to sell shoes so it was an easy fall back plan for me. I did not know if it would work because I always liked the corporate life.
Shoe Space started in January 2017. At the time, I had no savings so I started Shoe Space from zero. I talked to a friend in the business and she gave me some of her shoes. I posted them online and made some money from it. My capital was gotten from the money I made off those sales. I thought I was going to sell shoes for a short time and then go back to working a corporate job. However, when I started seeing headway, I decided to do it full-time.
What are some of the challenges you have faced in the course of running Shoe Space Africa, what did you learn from it?
I would not necessarily call this a challenge but this time last year, I experienced a tragic accident for the first time in my life. I was travelling to Kampala, Uganda by bus to consult on some shoes. At the bus station, I met a good friend of mine and because we wanted to sit together, I swapped seats with another passenger on the bus. The person that sat on the seat I was supposed to occupy passed on in that accident. My friend who had a safety belt on was thrown out of the bus and even though I didn’t have a safety belt on, nothing happened to me. I remained seated.
This moment changed my life forever. After the accident, the way I thought and approached things in my life changed, my heart changed. Up until this day, when I think about that moment, I am stunned. Seeing someone else pass away on your behalf changes something in you. Many times in our life, we take things for granted. You look at your life and see all that you have achieved and you think you did it all by yourself. You forget that it is God that has brought you this far.
With regards to the lockdown, the major challenge we have faced has been sales. What has helped us cope is the fact that we have an online presence. I also gave my clients offers and discounts that made my items more affordable for them. Being online worked to my advantage because most people were at home doing nothing except scrolling through their feed. Most shoe lovers are people that will purchase whatever catches their eye even if it is the last money that they have.
What is your big vision for Shoe Space Africa?
I want Shoe space to be a household name for quality shoes sold at affordable prices. More importantly, though, I want to leave a lasting legacy through Shoe Space. Right now, I am working on establishing a foundation that will provide Kenyan kids with quality shoes. So when you buy a shoe from She Space, you are donating a pair of shoes to someone else that needs them. So my big vision is to make sure African children that need shoes have quality shoes.
What advice do you have for someone who wants to start a small business?
Having a relationship with Jesus. I know not everyone believes in Jesus but Jesus us the one I give all the credit to. There is a certain kind of wisdom and clarity that you can only get from God. When you start a business, you may not be sure of what you are doing or where to go next but if you have Jesus, He will help you out with that. When you pray about something and ask for help, if He says no, if He keeps quiet or if He says yes, you know what to do and where to go as opposed to just doing things blindly and on your limited understanding.
Discipline is so important. Even if you don’t feel motivated, discipline keeps you going. There are days you will not want to wake up but the discipline you have gets you awake. I call myself the 4 AM boss because I wake up at four am in the morning and I have been doing that since primary school. After I wake up I pray and get ready and then I am usually at Shoe Space at 6 am. That discipline has to be cultivated and maintained.
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This spotlight feature on Yomi Odutola is powered by Visa. Visa’s ‘Where you Shop Matters’ initiative aims to champion entrepreneurs across Africa while encouraging consumers to support small businesses by shopping local. Visa’s initiative is supporting small businesses through the Visa Small Business Hub, a merchant platform providing tools and information on how to start, run and grow small businesses.