1. What makes your work unique? We always try to make something different. If we can't make it different, we try to make it better. We will admit there are very few entirely original ideas; each is simply a combination of exposure and experience especially in the footwear industry. The U.S. market is so over-saturated with cheaply made footwear, using mostly low-quality materials. So our first goal when starting Zuzii was to create a classic unisex shoe style that used the highest quality materials, with minimal components (to allow them to be produced in the U.S.), while still being lightweight and flexible to allow for natural development of kids growing feet. With these principals in mind we also felt there was a big need for a kids shoe that could transition from casual to dressy. No need to have 'occasion' based shoes for kids.
2. What advice do you have for people on making that switch from struggling creative to successful business owner? Listen to your customers. A lot of times we will whip up a rough sample and post it on Instagram to get the community's feedback because as much as we love to design, we are ultimately designing for our customers. They will tell you what they like, don’t like, and want more of. Always remember to stay true to your own principals, but keep an open mind. One of the best examples was the launch of our larger sizes, although we set out to be a kids brand we could not ignore the overwhelming requests for women’s shoes. Since we launched our women’s line it has become a huge part of our business.
Also, I always have to remember the struggle never ends; each product cycle we try to improve every element, improve our production flow, and improve the customer experience.
3. Everyone hears about success stories but it's important to hear about failure too. Have you failed and if so, do you have any advice for aspiring entrepreneurs? It is impossible to have success with out failure. Every product is endless problem solving, this is a constant cycle in production.
We have discovered that if a product is meant to be, all the components will more than likely fall in to place. We have struggled and fought for ideas that were not meant to be. One thing I have learned is that if a product or style isn't working... let it go and pivot. In other words: learn from the failures and focus on your successes.
4. Let's spread the love...Who is doing great work in your circle that you would love to give shout-outs to? @Randythecobbler (www.RandytheCobbler.com) Such an awesome young shoe maker who is always so willing to share anything he knows to progress shoe making
@lennonandwolfe (www.lennonandwolfe.com) I love their gender neutral basics that are made in LA. Not to mention the owners are awesome ladies :)
5. What app or program can you not live without? ShipStation is an invaluable tool to our business! Spring is also the most efficient shopping tool. We are excited to become a part of Spring’s Kids category in the fall.
6. What are a few of your favorite albums? It's been so long since I have listened to a whole record, but here are some tracks we love: https://soundcloud.com/zuzii-2.
7. Everyone has an a-ha moment. When was yours? When we realized that no one else could make our shoes for us. We decided if we were going to do this, we needed to start a manufacturer here. Our current production uses a lot of very primitive equipment much of which has been built or modified by us as the tools for this trade are not readily available in the U.S. So each time we find another piece of equipment that will increase production, we have another a-ha moment! Our end goal is to operate a fully mechanized footwear factory in Downtown Los Angeles and then start opening our factory to others who want to start a line or need help with sample development.