Angela Scott, Founder of Oxford Shoe Company
Angela Scott founded her oxford shoe company to prove women did not have to wear six-inch heels to feel empowered in the workforce changing the landscape of female footwear. On the brand’s 10th year anniversary, The Office of Angela Scott remains dedicated to the empowerment of women and girls. It recently announced a pledge in honor of the brand’s anniversary to donate a million dollars over the next 10 years to female centric organizations. Celebrating its tenth anniversary, The Office of Angela Scott has established itself as the bespoke, fashion-forward, go-to brand for women and A-listers alike who want all the style of an oxford married with comfort.
Find Angela Scott and Oxford Shoe Company
- The Beginning of Her Office Footwear Journey
- The Passion for Female Office Footwear
- Reflecting on Lessons Learned
- The Finance Question
- Attracting New Customers
- Building a Team and Culture
- Tips For Budding Entrepreneurs
The Beginning of Her Office Footwear Journey
Mimi: Angela, thank you so much for coming on today. I really appreciate it. I’m excited to talk about your company that just hit its 10th anniversary. Is that correct?
Angela: Yes. In a couple of months, it’ll be officially 10.
Mimi: Awesome. Congratulations. That’s a feat, right? Because a lot of businesses don’t last past four or five years, so I think a very, very small percentage. Congratulations on doing that. And so how did you get into starting your own footwear company?
Angela: It really started, I’ve always had a love for footwear. Even as a kid, that was my outlier. It was what made me individual was my footwear. And we come from a low to a middle-class family. For me, it was, when sketchers were in, I had the palest version of Sketchers. Everything from my Adidas to my Vans. And I was kind of a sneakerhead when I was younger. And it was kind of a way for me to distinguish myself. It made me feel confident. There was something about footwear that really made me stand out. And I never let go of that. That was always something that resonated with me. I didn’t know that it would end up being through the avenue of actually starting a female footwear company.
It was kind of like, I guess, the happenstance that happened later on in life. But I’ve always felt shoes have the ability to do something, especially for women. I feel like cars and watches are for men, shoes, and handbags are for women. They’re like little Ferrari’s on your feet. They make you feel invincible and they’re the foundation of everything. I think understanding and know that power was definitely rooted in me as a child, but as I got older I think the idea of creating a footwear brand for women that was comfortable became really important to me. That was something, I worked in industries, I worked at Neiman Marcus. I wore high, high heels. I felt like I had to look and be a certain way when I was kind of coming up the ranks and in my professional career.
And I always felt I had to wear that typical outfit, that tailored suit with a high, high heels. And I was running behind men trying to keep up. And I’m thinking, why isn’t there some sort of opportunity for women in the flat arena that isn’t a ballet flat than it is something that makes you feel good, because Oxford’s have been around for decades for women. You look back at any of the Hollywood starlets, the women that you think of as sex symbols, Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn, all of them. They’re in flats, half of the time, maybe for a photoshoot, they’re in a heel, but they’re in flats. They’re functioning and flats. And so I wanted to bring that to women.
The Passion for Female Office Footwear
Mimi: Did you already have experienced in launching companies or in footwear, when you had this idea, you were just kind of like, I have this idea, then what happened from there?
Angela: I had the idea and I felt like, I’m kind of a field of dreams kind of person. If you build it, they will come. And I think that I didn’t get the guts to do it until my husband moved to Dallas. I was in a really nice career. I had a good trajectory. I was making great money. It was kind of that arena. And I knew in the background, I always wanted to do something. I really wanted to start a female footwear brand. Footwear’s probably one of the most expensive items in fashion to create, because you’ve got lasted molds and sizing.
Mimi: And the skews.
Angela: It’s crazy. It’s crazy. And I have had people go, you’re ridiculous, really? Why not a t-shirt company? I remember asking mentors and they’re like, how about t-shirts or sweatshirts or a sweat pant company, or something that you don’t have to worry about sizes and people’s different feet.
We got small, medium, large, and that’s it. It just didn’t make sense to me. I basically went the route of finding the factory. I thought if I could become knowledgeable and understand how to build the shoe, then maybe I can build myself a sample set and then go hustle. And it was kind of like, let me build proof of concept first. For me, I put all my savings into finding a factory, finding a factory that made shoes men shoes, where they were stitched and not glued.
That they were saving and kind of preserving a traditional manufacturing. I found the factory, I had them make my samples, and then I knocked on door to door. And it was basically, I felt if I could get the interest and if I could get proof of concept again, if I could actually get people interested in the shoes, then it warrants me looking and trying to find funding. I went the reverse. It wasn’t find funding and then start the brand. It was, prove that there’s something here that there’s a concept here that there’s desire. And then the money will come.
Mimi: But you weren’t trying to sell them at that point. You just have samples that you were trying to get orders from.
Angela: Just had samples I was trying to get orders from.
Mimi: Right. And you were going to retailers, like department stores or what were you directing-
Angela: All of them. I went to the boutiques first, because I felt it was a little bit more approachable. I could walk in. With the Neiman Marcus, the buyer’s not sitting on the floor. You can’t walk into Neiman Marcus and try to sell your goods. But at a boutique level, and back 10 years ago, boutiques were the heartbeat of the business. All trend, all fashion, all innovation, they curated the heartbeat of fashion. And so for me, that was flattery to go into those stores and have one of those stores accept me and go, oh, I love your product. That would be everything. I knocked on doors all over the US. I tried going internationally. I basically kind of spent all my wad on just trying to get in the door.
Mimi: And how did that work? Out of how many did you get nos and yeses? What percentage?
Angela: Lots of nos. Lots of nos. And embarrassing nos, absolutely embarrassing where you’re there, I felt like a ventriloquist. I’ve got this big case and I’m like, let me open my case. And I’m walking in the door, but I have no ego. I don’t mind getting a no, I don’t mind embarrassing myself and bringing in my case. I felt like the goods were worth showing. I didn’t feel embarrassed if I got the no, but there were some times where it was just like, oh, that was rough. Or somebody just be like, no. Just kind of that face. No, no, no, no, no, go.
Mimi: Oh my gosh. What was your break? What was your … Obviously something happened, somebody said yes, because you’re here 10 years later.
Angela: Jeffrey’s. Jeffrey’s in New York. He saw the collection, he loved the collection. He actually introduced me to Vogue. It really kind of was a serendipitous moment. He was incredible. He bought the collection and then a couple of really well known, female footwear boutique stores and Tomorrowland in Japan bought the collection. It was kind of this really cool, very trendy, very hip collection of boutiques that started buying the collection or that were interested in the collection and ready to place orders.
Mimi: That’s great. And then I see you’ve had a lot of celebrities wear your shoes and talk about that, because I think that’s something a lot of startups would love. Did they come to you? Did you go to them? How did you get that opportunity?
Angela: Luck, all luck. We didn’t have PR. It was all basically them just coming to us. It was on the stylist side of it, I would say. We had a lot of incredible stylists that we didn’t know that would just email at info@AngelaScott. And just say, we love your brand. Can you … And we were quick. Whenever anybody wanted pulls, we immediately, it was like, take it out of inventory, ship them the shoes. I think it’s just luck.
Reflecting on Lessons Learned
Mimi: And what has been your hardest part, learning? What do you wish you knew 10 years ago that you know today?
Angela: It’s so hard, because it’s changed. I mean, the retail industry has changed. We’re now an e-commerce brand. We started out as a wholesale brand, but I wouldn’t know that. I guess I could go back and tell myself, start a website right away. We didn’t start a website until three years in. That would be my one piece of advice is go e-comm, because you learn so much about your customer.
Mimi: Yeah. And I mean, did you have any mistakes, financially losing time on things that you’re like, oh geez, that was a … If I had known that or someone gave him that advice, I wouldn’t have lost this much money or I wouldn’t have lost this much time.
Angela: Product. Product is the beast. Having inventory that I couldn’t sell through. Basically just buying blindly, not knowing what the volume would be and then having boxes and boxes of inventory in my living room. I always say it’s better to sell out and to be desired than it is to have too much inventory just sitting on the back of your shoulders. It’s just sell out. I’d rather go short and shallow and miss the opportunity and bring it back. And hopefully that desire will still exist, rather than sit there with a load of inventory on my back, hoping that it’ll sell. And then you have to sell it at discount. And that’s the last thing that you want to do.
The Finance Question
Mimi: Right. Because then it just devalues the brand. And then you were talking about funding. When you were looking for funding, did you actually ultimately find funding or get funding or did you kind of sell finances?
Angela: I have an angel investor. I have a business partner and I worked for her. I worked for her as her estate manager. And then I moved to Dallas, started working for Neiman Marcus and then started the brand. And when I came back into California to start showing the collection, I would stay at her house and she and her husband, wave and go good luck, wish you the best. I felt it was like mom and dad rooting me on. And one day I came back and she goes, “Did you get any orders?” I said, “I’ve got orders.” She goes, “How are you going to produce the shoes?” I’m like, “I’m not sure yet. I don’t have the money.” I had applied for SBA loans.
Angela: I basically did all my research for loans. And so she said, well, why don’t I invest? Why don’t I invest? And I’ll give you a loan. And the loan will basically be to help pay your production. You finance the rest of it and I will pay your production. I didn’t get what typical people might think of as a lump sum of money. And then I worked from that. It was I had a mold bill. And so she would pay the mold. I had a production bill. She’d pay the production bill. And it was a loan. It was kind of this building a relationship where I had a security net, I guess you would say, but in a way that was like, you’ve got to work hard for it. You’ve got to prove it. I’m not just going to give you money, show yourself.
Attracting Customers Online
Mimi: Now that you’ve transitioned to direct to consumer online as an outlet, has it been hard to get customers? Where do you go to get customers? Because I have a lot of people that I’m going to build this website. I have this great product, but once I put the website out, people are going to just come and it’s just definitely not that easy.
Angela: No, they don’t just come.
Mimi: No, they don’t, it’s very hard to get eyeballs, as I say. What is your hook or how do you get eyeballs?
Angela: I think that the key is, I mean, advertising obviously does a lot, so we didn’t advertise for quite a long time. I was a little bit skeptical about it. I have to say, back then, I was super skeptical. I’m like, I don’t like that shit. Why am I going to put that in front of people’s faces? I don’t want to be advertised to. I’m even the girl in the dressing room that doesn’t like somebody knocking on and being like, how about these five other shirts? It’s like, I didn’t grab those five shirts. I don’t want them. But advertising has been a huge market. I mean, if it’s done correctly and it’s to the right consumer, it’s amazing how that comes full cycle. I mean, we have customers that we’ve found through Facebook and Google, not so much, Google is a little bit more of an outlier, but Facebook advertising is huge for us.
So we use that, but as time has changed and iOS and Facebook’s fight with Apple and all of that kind of, the retailers are kind of the ones suffering, because with all the restrictions and all the privacy and all the confusion with it, it does start limiting your eyeballs. And we just recently started doing mailers and I’m not a big … Again, I’m in a very traditional business of female footwear. Shoes that can be resold and kept for a lifetime. For me, waste is really not something I’m interested in. And mailers were one of those things that was a little tough for me to kind of swallow, because it’s like, oh, I don’t want to waste all that paper. Is that necessary? But again, without a retail space, how else do you get them to the people’s homes? We started doing a seasonal catalog and that’s been great.
Building a Culture Around Office Footwear
Mimi: Oh, that sounds great. Talk to me about your team. Because I feel a lot of people struggle. A lot of entrepreneurs struggle with building their team. Do you outsource, you have consultants. Do you bring people on? And then if you bring them on, making sure that the right fit, they don’t just kind of disrupt the apple cart. Do you have a team? Do you outsource? What does your team look?
Angela: Our team, it’s 13 women. It’s actually all women, which is incredible. And I’m kind of an underdog person. I’m not traditional when it comes to finding people to work on my team. My social media girl, she was working in a retail store. She has no experience. She just graduated. And she looked at me and she was like, just give me a chance. I like underdogs. I like people who have fire, who have heart, who are interested. And I think that’s really built a dynamic team. My whole team, actually, none of them had experience in everything that they’re doing now, none of them.
Mimi: And then how do they learn? They just teach themselves. You have to teach them?
Angela: A little bit of me. I mean, I built the business and I ran the business for the first three years alone. And then I had an individual who was an intern and she’s basically my right hand now. She’s incredible. But we just navigated and I think knowledge is king. I’m always … Like right now we’re reading The Culture Code as a team. But I’m all like, knowledge is king and people can learn. You just have to be there to instruct.
I definitely think it was a weight for a while, because I was doing a lot of teaching and it was a lot of weight on my shoulders to get them ramped up, to get to where they are now. But man, they are incredible. They’re incredible at what they do. They all also, because they see myself and Madison, who’s my right hand.
They see our drive. They naturally do that. They start having their own investigators and their own researchers and their own. I looked at this, I read this book, I read this article. I listen to this podcast, I’m doing this. I want to try this strategy. I consider them all strategists now. And I don’t know if that’s because they were underdogs and they weren’t given that ability in their past life to have that opportunity. But they’re incredible. They’re such hard workers.
Mimi: You obviously don’t have a lot of turnover.
Angela: No. I think the hardest one will be customer service as we get bigger. It’s a very small team right now, but customer service is my number one department, because I believe that, that is how you create a culture with your consumers is you curate and you talk to them and you create family with them. You talk to them, answer the phone.
Mimi: Do, you have an in-house customer service team. Or do you outsource that?
Mimi: Okay. But do you find, you’re able to keep up with the demand? Because I feel a lot of the times you can’t, because I think also people are expecting 24/7 response.
Angela: No, and we don’t. And we were very clear about our hours. Our hours are west coast hours and people are great. But as long as you respond, people are happy. In the world today, people just avoid, because one, they don’t want to return, they don’t want to refund and they don’t want to deal with problems. I’m like Nordstrom’s old school. At Nordstrom you’re like, I could return a tire I bought 20 decades ago. We’re the same way. If you’re not happy, the last thing I’m going to do is force you to keep something that you’re not happy with. That’s miserable. Somebody is telling me their feet are bleeding. I’m like, oh my gosh, let’s get those shoes off of you. There’s nothing more than …
Most people, they just want to be heard. They just want you to acknowledge what they’re going through. And even if you don’t have a resolve, they just want to be heard. And I think so many companies avoid that because they think it’s going to be trouble. And I think it’s actually trouble by avoiding it.
Tips For Budding Entrepreneurs
Mimi: Yeah. Well you lose them as a customer? And that customer has a voice that tells their friends. It kind of spirals. Is there anything that you would say or any advice that you would give to a budding entrepreneur that wants to start their own footwear company or any other kind of company or anything that they have a passion for, like you did with the shoes? Any advice that you would give them or tips?
Angela: I always say, ask for help, because in the beginning I thought I could do it all myself and I did for the first couple of years, but if I would’ve had help, it would have been better. I would have been smarter. There may have been things that I learned quicker that I wouldn’t have had such big dips of learning curves if I would have asked for help. And I always feel like, especially we as women, we don’t always reach out and go to our Rolodex and go, I need your help. I need you to, I’m making a phone call today. I need you to get on the horn and I need you to help me. I need this person’s contact. I need this door opened. I need this funding. I think there’s a little hesitation in there. And I think for any entrepreneur don’t ever hesitate to ask for help from anybody, even people you don’t know, send them an email. You never know if they’ll say yes.
Mimi: No. It’s so true. I think that’s one reason why … I’m working on a book that I’m launching in the fall. And I talk about why only 1.7% of female entrepreneurs ever hit a million dollars in sales and why only 5% of women ever reach the C-suites or CEO status. And that was one of the reasons. I don’t think we ask for help enough, because there’s a stats. I think it’s 75% of men have mentors. And only half of the women, only 35 or 40% of women have mentors. And it’s because we’re not asking for help. I think we’re used to just kind of doing it all ourself. And so we just-
Angela: From our mothers too. I’m not a mother yet, I’m working on that. But, I think that as a mother too, you multitask, you take care of everything. You got the kids, you’ve got the husband, you got the dogs, you’ve got this. You’re managing. You’re not used to asking for help because you have to do it all. And so I think, and I also do think that women have always, because they’re trying to be looked at as professional. They look at asking for help as a weakness. Oh, I must be weak if I’m asking for help. No, no, no, I’m going to do it all. I’m going to prove them. But it’s like, I always say, don’t try to prove yourself, ask for help. You’ve got nothing to prove, except for how resourceful you are when you ask for somebody for help and they help you get something done.
Mimi: Now, when you have asked for help from people, have you found there to be a different reaction if it was from a man or a woman? Has someone said more likely to say yes or no?
Angela: Interestingly enough, men are more receptive.
Mimi: Yeah. That’s why I brought it up. Because we had this conversation with another podcast, and she mentioned, she just brought up about how she thinks women in general should be more helpful with each other.
Angela: 100%. And I’d say it’s funny because sometimes I say yes to so many different things. And people are like, “Why are you helping that person with that?” And I was like, “Because she asked.” And you just got to give a leg up to somebody and you’ve got to pay it forward. But I do think, and that was a lot of the times, men are much more like, oh, you’ve got that. I’ll help you out with that. No problem. Let me open that door. Whereas, a woman. And I don’t know if it’s because women have had to climb and hustle and work so hard to get to where they are that they’re not necessarily ready to reach that arm down, because they’re still fighting.
Mimi: They don’t have time or they’re inundated and they’re exhausted. And they’re like, I don’t have a second to say yes to you.
Angela: Yeah. But I feel we have to change that. We have to change that conversation. We have to be like, you know what? I’m fucking exhausted, but I’m still going to answer that call and I’m still going to help her get to where she needs to. Because if I don’t, then we’re going to keep this cycle going.
Mimi: Yeah. And not be so critical of each other.
Angela: Totally. Be helpful. I mean, I see it. And when I was a waitress in college, I would look at these boys clubs, the boys clubs, the billionaire boys club, the millionaire boys club. They’d sit in there, have the coffee and talk about stocks and talk about this. I’m like, where are the women doing this? We have 20 minutes to have coffee and talk about stocks and talk about business.
Mimi: Instead we’re talking about each other.
Angela: It’s bullshit.
Mimi: You’re right. It’s going around and just helping each other out and not being competitive with each other.
Angela: Yeah. Did you read this book? Hey, did you see that article? All these little tips is, I mean, in a boys club it’s like, oh, you’ve got no experience. You worked at a golf course. You want to be a CEO of that company. No problem. I’ll get you that job.
Mimi: Right. Yeah. They help each other out. They do it smarter, not harder where we do it harder and not smarter.
Angela: Exactly. Yeah.
Mimi: It’s so true.
Angela: I talk about that a lot in my own company. And that’s why I’m having them read The Culture Code because it’s like, “Hey, hype each other up.” When you walk in this room, don’t go, oh, I wish we had another photograph. Go, Kelly, that photograph that you took the other week, incredible, good job. You’re a bad-ass. Hype each other up. There’s no embarrassment in giving each other hype.
The value of building and maintaining relationships
Mimi: It’s true. It’s true. Now, is there anything that you were, in your company that is, I don’t know, a challenge to you or something that you need to overcome?
Angela: Yeah. I mean, I think challenges will always arise in business in general. You’re never going to get over the normal day to day of the challenge. I think communication is key though. And as are all relationships. The root of all issues and problems and conflict is lack of conversation the way we speak to each other. And I think that’s something that I’m trying to get better at in my company as well.
Within the culture that we have here is how do we communicate with each other in a way that is productive and the way that is inspiring and that isn’t stagnant, that you’re not just doing the same thing day in and day out. Because I think where companies can halt is when the culture, you just keep doing the same thing day in and day out, especially as an e-commerce business, especially after going through COVID. We’ve been sitting in front of these computer screens doing the same thing over and over and over again, without that lack of connection and contact.
If I could give advice to anybody is make sure to create a culture. There has to be touch points. Touching each other and talking to each other and seeing each other outside of just the work talk, even if it’s just a little moment where you switch and you talk about people’s kids or we go for a walk or we all go get coffee together. Having those little moments where you’re human, I think is going to be a big part of the future. The next generation, they’re more invested in their lifestyle than they are in their career. I think it’s going to be one of those things that if you could balance those two and know how to make your work environment a little bit more lifestyle and a little bit more of a community, a family, I think you’ll be successful.
Mimi: I love that. I love that. Angela, this has been amazing.
Angela: Awesome. Thank you.
Mimi: Thank you for joining us on The Bad-Ass CEO. To get your copy of the top 10 tips every entrepreneur should know, go to thebadassceo.com/tips. Also, please leave a review as it helps others find us. If you have any ideas or suggestions, I would love to hear them. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. See you next week and thank you for listening.