This is a story about Katie Shea and Susie Levitt, two NYU undergraduates studying Marketing and Finance who loved wearing high heels — but hated the way their feet felt after walking around New York City in them all day. So, in 2008, they put there heads together and created CitySlips — ballet flats that fold up and fit into a little purse women can easily carry with them — allowing them to change into comfy shoes at any point in their busy day.
Cut to six years later. Shea and Levitt’s and little ballet shoes are selling at Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, Macy’s and Bed Bath & Beyond, and have been featured on ABC’s “The View,” “The Today Show” on NBC, QVC, and in numerous magazines, including “Cosmo,” “New York” and “Brides.” Oh, and they surpassed $1 million in sales their first year.
Not too shabby, right? So how’d they do it?
Well, it started as a college project — something they made and marketed to their friends and some of the sororities on campus. But then, after placing highly in several business plan competitions, the pair gave an interview about CitySlips to the New York Daily News.
Levitt explains what happened next in an interview with NYU’s HerCampus.com:
We kind of did it a little bit backwards. We interviewed with The New York Daily News, in February 2009, regarding students taking a different route after graduation – you know turning down the corporate, investment banking jobs, and not going after those kinds of jobs – and Katie and I were a perfect fit for two young students that were doing something different.
So we were interviewed by a writer from the New York Daily News, and she said she would keep in touch and then a couple of months passed and we still never heard from her… And then on June 1, we woke up to tons of calls, tons of emails from our friends saying, “You guys are the centerfold feature of The New York Daily News!” And within 24 hours, Forbes wrote about us, New York Magazine wrote about us, and the idea just got out there in a matter of a couple of hours!
We were just so surprised, and at that time we barely were ready to launch! We didn’t have our website finished. We didn’t have a logo. We had like 400 pounds of shoes delivered to the states a couple days before, so we were really not ready, but it pushed us to start from there.
We decided to start calling up a couple boutiques and telling them that we were featured in this magazine and that we were featured in this news article, and we think our item would be great for your store. Then we started to target national resellers, like Neiman Marcus, Macy’s, Dillard’s, and those were some of the first accounts that we got that really represented the brand and the product nationwide.
Just one more inspiring example of how a great idea, a creative partnership and taking full advantage of one’s opportunities can launch a business sky-high. When asked what advice they’d give to budding entrepreneurs, these two successful executives told Under30CEO.com: “Just do it. The website might never be perfect. The prototype might never be perfect. The logo might never be perfect. Just start today… momentum will allow you to fix the mistake post-launch.”