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Jodie Fox of Shoes of Prey

Studio Visit

21st March, 2014
Lucy Feagins
Friday 21st March 2014

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Sydney entrepreneur and founder of Shoes of Prey, Jodie Fox at her Surry Hills  headquarters.  Photo - Phu Tang.

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No shortage of colour in the media / samples room at Shoes of Prey headquarters!  Photo - Phu Tang.

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Jodie's moodboards at Shoes of Prey.  Photo - Phu Tang.

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Inspiring quotes on display at Shoes of Prey headquarters.  Photo - Phu Tang.

If you follow TDF on Instagram, you might have noticed recently that I have had the incredible good fortune of being nominated for this year’s Instyle Magazine / AUDI Women of Style Awards.  I find this amazing and quite UNBELIEVABLE!  The world really is crazy sometimes.

As someone who works for myself, primarily from a tiny little home office, the most wonderful thing about being part of these awards has been the opportunity to meet a bunch of entrepreneurial and seriously inspiring business women and fellow nominees. Today’s interviewee is one such woman, nominated in the Women of Style 2014 business category, who I met just a couple of weeks ago. There are high achievers, and then there is Jodie Fox.  This girl is nothing short of remarkable.

Jodie is originally Lismore, in the far north east corner of NSW. She moved to Sydney in 2007.  She originally trained as a banking and finance lawyer, and also spent time working in the advertising industry before launching her own business.  Jodie is now 31, and alongside two other business partners, she heads up not one but TWO inspired online retail start ups, both of which are seriously killing it!  I'm not quite sure how she's managed to fit a university degree, three major career changes, and the launch of two hugely successful businesses in to her relatively small number of years on the planet.  Clearly, this is a girl who knows how to get things done!

Jodie is Co-Founder and Chief Creative Officer of Shoes of Prey, a website which allows its customers to design their very own unique pair of shoes, selecting everything from the shape, style, heel height and embellishments, and over 100 diffferent fabric, leather and colour options. It’s a concept Jodie developed after seeking out her own custom made shoes during overseas trips in her twenties.

Partnering with two former Google employees who she met whilst studying law, Mike Knapp and Michael Fox, Jodie launched Shoes of Prey in 2009.  Just 5 years on, and now based from an expansive, light filled headquarters in Sydney’s Surry Hills, Shoes of Prey has taken significant investment into the company, and has grown to become a multimillion dollar business which employs just under 50 staff!  All the shoes are manufactured to the highest quality standards overseas, and shipped directly to customers all over the world.

Jodie's other business, Sneaking Duck is a little more recent, having launched in 2011.  Similar in concept to the idea for Shoes of Prey, Sneaking Duck allows customers to select from a wide variety of spectacle frames which are then made to order, with prescription lenses, and shipped directly to customers.

Aside from building a thriving business, Jodie and her business partners have been very intent on creating a workplace that is a joy to work in, and to deal with. During my recent visit to Shoes of Prey HQ, I was introduced to so many cheerful and passionate staff who simply LOVE being part of this exciting, fast growing company. One team member was proudly introduced as chief 'Customer Happiness Wonderperson'!  (I am not kidding).

Aside from her awe-inspiring success in the business world, what struck me most when I first met Jodie was her disarming openness and generous spirit.  She is so warm, chatty and friendly, always keen to share advice and wisdom with others - and she has a smile that just lights up the room!  I feel very lucky to have had the opportunity to meet Jodie and get a little first hand peek into her amazing and very busy world. I'm hoping her incredible optimism, determination and ruthless efficiency rubs off a little on me...!

Tell us a little bit about your background – what did you originally study and what path led you to what you’re doing today?

I'm a banking and finance lawyer by trade. During school I was really immersed in the arts - specifically, performance art. I'd auditioned to dance and been successful, but I realised as I prepared to leave high school that I just did not understand how the world worked and I wanted to understand it so that I could create something in it.

I went on to practice law for a couple of years post university, before jumping across into advertising. I'd hoped this would be the industry to bridge my creative and academic sides. However, designing my own shoes had started to bubble away in the background...

You’re one of the brains behind two of Australia’s most inspiring and successful creative start-up businesses in recent years – Sneaking Duck, specialising in affordable optical eyeware and Shoes of Prey, allowing customers to create their very own bespoke pair of shoes online. Have you always had this entrepreneurial instinct, and did you ever imagine you’d be running the two successful businesses you’re running now?

I do think that the entrepreneurial instinct has always been there. Most certainly the fierce independence part – I recall telling my mother I was ready to move out of home (and into the cubby house!) at 8 years old – which of course didn't eventuate!

As for imagining the businesses I am apart of now – I hoped that this would happen, but I knew the statistics going in. I think it has been an incredibly positive start, and we have a long an exciting adventure ahead of us to make Shoes of Prey and Sneaking Duck everything we believe they can be.

Shoes of Prey is your most recent venture – an ingenious service that allows women to customise their very own pair of shoes, from the style right down to the material and colour. How did the concept for this project come about, how long was it in development for, and how did you bring this concept to reality in the early days?

In founding Shoes of Prey I was solving a problem of my own – I'd always liked shoes, but I never loved them because I couldn't find exactly what I was looking for. Either it wasn't quite the right colour, there was an embellishment I didn't like, not quite the right heel height. Anyway, when I was travelling, in the same way that you find someone who will make a custom suit for you, I found someone with whom I could commission shoe designs.

My shoe collection became really exciting, and my girlfriends asked me where I was getting my footwear. When I explained, they asked me to create shoes for them too. Concurrently, my two business partners Mike and Michael were at Google and becoming really excited about the opportunities in online retail. They just needed an idea. We all came together and Shoes of Prey was born.

We were in development for a very apt nine months before launching Shoes of Prey. In terms of bringing it to a reality, we focussed on one step at a time – What would the experience look like? Who might be our competitors? Would people like the idea? Were there suppliers out there who would work with us? What would we call it?

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Shoes of Prey samples.  Photo - Phu Tang.
Can you give us a little insight into the inner workings of Shoes of Prey? How is your office structured, how many people do you employ, and are you still each very involved in the design process day-to-day?

I absolutely love the team here at Shoes of Prey. We have just shy of 50 people in our offices around the globe working towards making beautiful shoes for you. We're headquartered in Surry Hills, Sydney and do all of our design, communications and technology work here. Our making is done by our China team who carefully construct your designs and send them to your waiting feet.

As a company we value making each other and anyone in contact with us smile. It's about real long term happiness, knowing that work should be life enhancing – not a necessary evil.

My role as Chief Creative Officer is to guide the vision of the product and brand. This does keep me across the design process on a day-to-day basis, but not at the grass-roots level – we've just become too big for that. And, we now have a great team on board. As a recent article in Huffington Post said 'I like to joke that the founder's job description is to do everything that we haven't hired someone better to do yet.'

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The Shoes of Prey team deep in discussion at their Surry Hills headquarters.  Photo - Phu Tang.
What does a typical day at work involve for you?

My alarm goes off 30 minutes before I actually have to get out of bed, I love snoozing. It makes me feel like I am sneaking in some bonus sleep! When my first alarm goes off my little lilac british short hair cat rushes in to say good morning which I just adore. Between pats and alarms I'm normally doing my first pass of emails for the day on my iPhone.

I grab breakfast when I hit my desk, which is normally a homemade vegetable juice and some homemade muesli (honestly it's the best - want the recipe??), while I'm opening the office up and taking my second pass of emails.

The day can be spent in any number of ways including:

Meeting with editors about new stories, shoes and colours
Meetings with stylists for upcoming shows and shoots
Meeting with designers for upcoming collaborations
Sketching
Pitching stories
Creating mood boards
Researching colours, patterns, materials, shapes
Drawing and testing patterns
Meetings with staff
Speaking at events
Photo shoots
Emailing
Studying for whatever learning I've committed to for that particular quarter
We do lunch as a whole team, so that falls somewhere in the middle of the day, as does the occasional coffee or gelato trip.

When I get home I love to cook something – even when I get home late. It's my way of transitioning from work to home for the day. It's normally followed by some yoga and occasionally TV (right now I am loving House of Cards and looking forward to the next season of Game of Thrones!), before curling up and getting ready to do it all again.

I love my days. I'm so happy that I get to give this answer to what my everyday is.

Can you list for us 5 resources across any media that you turn to regularly for creative inspiration?

Adobe Kuler iPhone app
Procreate iPad app
Instagram – I follow some incredible artists and stylists
Ted.com
And I love spending time in galleries.

Which other local artists, designers or creative people are you liking at the moment?

Artist Adam Cullen, designers Anna Plunkett and Luke Sales of Romance Was Born, Carla Zampatti, Bianca Spender, Kym Ellery and Peter Pilotto.

What is your proudest career achievement to date?

Finding confidence and my voice in my work.

What would be your dream project?

A shoe jewel collaboration with either bespoke jeweller Siobhan Way or colourful gem house Bvlgari.

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Samples on Jodie's desk. Photo - Phu Tang.
What are you looking forward to?

Today I am looking forward to spending this evening with the team here at Shoes of Prey, building our big vision. Tomorrow it's hanging out with Lucy at Instyle's Women of Style nominee celebration, then next month it's a trip to a deserted island in Thailand and end of year it's seeing Shoes of Prey step up into being a medium sized business.

SYDNEY QUESTIONS

Your favourite Sydney neighbourhood and why?

Surry Hills because it's where I live and I love it! It's leafy, gritty, hipster and full of great food.

Where and what was the last great meal you ate in Sydney?

Does gelato count as a meal? I'm sure it does. Gelato Messina on Crown street, salted caramel all the way.

Where would we find you on a typical Saturday morning?

Once I finally pry myself from bed, probably at Kitchen by Mike with friends.

Sydney’s best kept secret?

The Bar at the end of the wharf at Sydney Theatre Company. Absolutely stunning.

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Living the dream!  Photo - Phu Tang.

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