Posted: Fri 24th Feb 2023
Calla’s founder talks about joining GS1 UK as a member, the importance of getting GS1 barcodes from the start and key lessons she learned from starting a brand loved by thousands of customers around the world.
Calla Shoes is the brainchild of owner Jennifer Bailey, a bunion sufferer of the last 20 years and a serial hunter of stylish shoes to wear for special occasions.
Having suffered from bunions for most of her life, Jennifer understood the pain of not being able to find shoes that fit better than most.
After developing the Calla concept in 2015, Jennifer spent a year putting all her research, manufacturing and website build requirements in place before incorporating the business in 2016.
Since then, she has turned her innovative idea into a profitable business that now boasts customers in more than 60 countries.
The lightbulb moment
When planning her wedding in Lucca, Italy, Jennifer found herself spending hours and hours searching online to find the perfect shoes.
After unsuccessfully trawling through eight pages of Google results, she eventually gave up and, out of sheer frustration, decided she would create her own solution; a shoe brand that accommodated women with bunions without sacrificing style and elegance.
While she had the inspiration, with a full-time job and busy personal life to juggle, she lacked the time, connections, and knowledge to get her idea off the ground.
It is often said that when one door closes, another opens, and this was certainly the case for Jennifer. While on maternity leave, she was unfortunately made redundant.
However, this setback allowed her to re-evaluate what was important in life and gave her the time, and motivation, to take the plunge and push her ideas forward.
Fast forward five years and Calla Shoes are now worn by thousands of women worldwide.
Taking the plunge
As all founders know, there are typically a whole host of lessons to be learnt and challenges to overcome when building a brand. Jennifer says one of the key things she has learnt is the importance of not putting too much pressure on herself when it came to developing timelines, especially for things that were out of her direct control such as the physical manufacturing process.
Putting this learning into action has helped her embrace the concept of failure and redefine success in line with her own metrics.
She believes constantly pushing forwards by working towards consistent marginal gains is the key to achieving your goals, an approach that has allowed her to go from selling one pair of shoes a day to more than 30 in space of just a few years.
Building the brand
Jennifer was confident that her concept offered something unique so knew she needed to create a personality for her brand that radiated style and sophistication, clearly differentiating it from the orthopaedic shoe companies that currently occupied this space.
Taking the time to carefully research and understand what her customers actually wanted was an instrumental part of the brand-building process. To do this, Jennifer began building an online community before she had even launched her first products.
She then conducted careful research to understand who her audience was and identify the best platform for reaching them. In her case, this proved to be Instagram which allowed her to share initial designs with potential customers and involve them in the early stages of product development.
Joining GS1 UK
One particularly useful piece of advice Jennifer received early on was the importance of getting the barcodes for her shoeboxes right from the start.
“I have always believed in using the best tools your business can afford at each stage of your journey,” she said, “so, after researching my options, I knew that joining GS1 UK was my best option."
The benefits of becoming a GS1 UK member extend far beyond barcodes and Jennifer has been able to take advantage of additional support and networking opportunities that have helped her grow her business, “thanks to the initiative between GS1 UK and Enterprise Nation, I got a really exciting opportunity to pitch to a buyer of John Lewis” she said. “I applied and got shortlisted which was invaluable.”
“The great thing about GS1 barcodes is that they are globally recognised which has really helped me sell overseas” she added. “This has meant that my barcodes are something I have never had to worry about. My GS1 UK membership has taken away a lot of the administrative stress that you really don’t need when running a business as I can be confident that things are ticking along without me having to get too involved.
"My advice to others starting out on their business journey is to make sure you take the time to ensure you have the right fundamentals in place before you enter the fulfilment stage.”
Head over to GS1 UK for more information!
Be sure to also become an Enterprise Nation member for free.