Julie McDonnell and Frances Robinson are franchisees for Shoes Glorious Shoes. They tell www.workingmums.co.uk how they got into the shoe business.
Julie McDonnell had been working in marketing, PR and events for Royal Sun Alliance in Liverpool for 10 years before she became pregnant with her first child Henry in 2002. She was made redundant and had her daughter Scarlet a couple of years later. When she went into pre-school, Julie decided she wanted to go back to work, but her husband worked away a lot and she needed a part-time job to fit in with the children and couldn’t find one. She did an interior design course to “keep my brain ticking over”. She was worried that the world of work had changed so much since she had been out of it for seven years. “I hadn’t been to an interview for almost 11 years. I needed to build my confidence back up,” she says. “My life revolved around the kids, but once they were in school I realised I needed to work for my own self esteem and confidence. I needed to do something for me and I wanted the kids to see that people have to work and everything doesn’t just come to you.”
It was the perfect match. Julie had a passion for shoes. She started making calls and researching the business. She says Maria was very supportive. “It feels like you are in a team, but it is your business,” she says.
She went to see Maria in August and signed contracts. Maria’s press agency helped with the press release to say she had launched. On 2nd October she held her launch party and says business is building up nicely. She is going to meetings, networking lunches, sending out flyers, attending charity events and getting the word out generally about her business. Julie says the most difficult thing has been getting back into the work frame of mind, setting the business up and writing the business plan. Her children help with unloading and loading the car for parties and are starting to understand that their mum has work to do.
Frances Robinson has been a Shoes Glorious Shoes franchisee for two years. She had been working as a legal clerk and commuting into London from Bromley. After her son was born, she had been able to work from home, which had worked well, but her bosses decided they wanted her to be in the office more, sometimes until after 7pm. She felt this was unnecessary and left. She worked part-time for another barrister’s, but found the commuting stressful, particularly getting back in time for school pick-up.
She decided to take a year off, but she felt she needed to do more than be a member of the parent teacher association so started looking for work.
She needed something which would fit around her son and wouldn’t mean she had to pay childcare. Almost 20 years before she had been to a shoe party and she still remembered it. “It was fab,” she says. She started searching on the Internet for shoe parties and Shoes Glorious Shoes came up.
She emailed and rang Maria and was on the phone for two hours. She says the first months were a steep learning curve. “I thought I would just have to mention shoes and the phone would ring off the hook,” she says.
Maria gave lots of support. Her first party was in November 2007. She took every opportunity going , but experience has now taught her to pick and choose more. When she goes to a party she takes time to set up and display the shoes and bags nicely. She gives a short talk and people try on the shoes and boots. She then takes orders.
As well as the parties, she attends fundraising events and shows and is a member of a women in business network where she says she picks up tips. Sometimes her son comes with her and reads quietly in a corner until her husband, a lawyer, comes home from work and picks him up. She can do most of her work in term time. Frances says she loves the shoes, which helps her sell them. She has several pairs of her own.
Frances thinks if she did the job full time, she would earn as much as she earned previously, but for her it is about more than money. “I wanted to do something for myself,” she says.