Posted: Tue 29th May 2018
Janan Leo is the founder of Cocorose London and the inventor of foldable shoes for women that are worn by high profile figures including Pippa Middleton.
Founded in 2007, the brand is now sold all around the world and Amazon is key part of Janan's sales strategy.
How did you come up with the idea for your business?
As a young professional working and living in London, my daily commute was a never-ending challenge and commuting in uncomfortable and impractical footwear just added to the burden of my journey.
Speaking with friends, colleagues and strangers on the Tube (yes, honestly!), I realised that I was not the only one struggling to find appropriate footwear that would offer me a practical and stylish answer to commuting within a metropolitan, fast-paced lifestyle.
I loved wearing heels but quite frankly, commuting in them was just not worth the hassle so I decided to do something about it and set out to find a solution.
Having unsuccessfully scoured the market for a solution to my commuting problem, in 2007, I founded Cocorose London and invented my foldable footwear concept to help make my busy lifestyle just that little bit easier and ultimately, to help myself and other women feel great, look great and just get stuff done.
I started with a foldable ballerina concept and as the brand evolved and developed, I continued to push the boundaries of footwear design and created further industry-first styles such as foldable loafers, espadrilles, trainers and even boots.
Today, Cocorose London continues to pioneer this space with a unique product and a real focus on quality, comfort, design and customer service.
— Cocorose London (@cocoroselondon) May 18, 2018
What start-up challenges did you have to overcome?
Starting out, I had a number of challenges that I had to cross, the first being that I had to actually design and create a foldable shoe.
With my background in new product development (not fashion related), I went on to design my new product and create my first prototype.
I approached over 100 shoe factories all over the world to help me get my concept to market but received negative replies from all of them.
Coupled with this setback was the fact that even industry professionals told me very clearly that it was impossible to create and retail a foldable shoe.
However, I persevered and not long after, a small factory took a risk on me and together, we worked on my collection and launched online in early 2008.
I was still working my full time job and I continued this for the next couple of years, to enable the best opportunity and start for the business. I needed to support myself financially but also, to invest in Cocorose during those early days so it was important that I kept my stable job.
When Cocorose launched, social media didn't exist in the way it does today, so growing brand awareness was a little more challenging.
I used to try and beat the early morning rush hour at my local Tube station so that I could hand out flyers and just try to get my concept in front of my core customer group.
Over the weekends, I would take a stall at Brick Lane market in East London so I could chat with potential customers, show and demonstrate my new concept and sell some shoes!
Despite these little challenges, the business has grown and today, we continue to focus on creating incredible shoes for women and building a beautiful, honest and transparent, international brand.
What successes have you achieved?
We've shown our seasonal collections at key trade shows internationally and have sold to hundreds of thousands of customers, both online and in beautiful stores all around the world.
We built up sales in Asia, Europe, the Middle East and Australia, working with agents, distributors and key stockists from independent boutiques to department stores.
Over the years, we've received phenomenal press coverage internationally including Vogue, Grazia, the Wall Street Journal, Sunday Times and BBC and in the summer of 2015, I also invited as one of four entrepreneurs to join then prime minister David Cameron on a trip to the Milan Expo to help champion British businesses.
Cocorose has collaborated with iconic British brands including the British Academy of Film and Television Arts since 2010 and The Royal Ballet since 2012 and I am honoured to continue to design exclusive collections with each of these prestigious organisations.
Having spent years growing our business through wholesale and a more traditional distribution approach, our focus has adapted to grow our own retail business via a multi-channel approach and our next big business goal is preparing the business for external funding.
Why did you decide to sell your products on Amazon?
Where will our potential customers be and how can we put our products in front of them? How can we make it easier and more convenient for them to find us and shop for our shoes?By working with Amazon, we're able to put our products in front of potential customers.
We've also learned that the Amazon shopper is different to our website shopper, so we can reach new customers through Amazon, which helps to drive more brand awareness and sales.Internationalisation through Amazon's platforms also offers a great way to test markets and grow in new territories.
And we've been focused on learning how to adopt the right type of product listing and sponsored posts, as getting these right can present enormous opportunities for sales.**
What benefits does being on Amazon bring your business?**As well as increased exposure and sales, there are some other 'hidden' benefits. As I mentioned, our Amazon and website customer is different so through Amazon, we've been able to reach new customers and get a better understanding of a broader cross section of 'Cocorosers'.
This deeper understanding helps us to learn more about who our customers are, their expectations, shopping behaviours, product and price selection.
From a more operational perspective, Amazon offers a very efficient logistics solution that makes it extremely easy for an ecommerce brand to grow.**
What's your advice for making a success of selling on Amazon?**We've spent a lot of time on our product listing and getting it correct in terms of parent/child relationships, descriptions, options etc so that our core catalogue is as Amazon friendly as it can be. We'd recommend putting together a relatively good budget for sponsored posts and make sure you do your homework on the right keywords so you spend your money in the right places.
If you're able to put your stock into Amazon's warehouses, then you can take advantage of Fufilment by Amazon (FBA), which is brilliant because you (almost) don't need to worry about the logistics and operational side of fulfilment.
There seems to be more and more shoppers who filter through Prime so do make sure you're Prime eligible by ensuring your product is in FBA, otherwise Prime shoppers will automatically filter out your items.
And finally, try to collect as many positive reviews as you can. Amazon's algorithms will promote items with more positive reviews which in turn ensures that more customers find your products.
Attend the free Amazon Academy in London on 5 June to learn how to use the power of the internet and technology to grow your company, boost export sales and improve the customer experience.