“Write what you know” has long been the logic adopted by accomplished writers. And the old adage also holds true for entrepreneurs, who often launch successful companies based on niches they find where a particular market is lacking. That has certainly been the case for White Plains entrepreneur Vanessa L. Seide, who officially launched her creatively eponymous Very Lovely Soles shoe company in 2012. After working for several years at a major footwear manufacturer, Seide was laid off in the summer of 2010, and began embarking on her dream of launching a line devoted to ballet flats.
“I couldn’t find many ballet flats that I liked, and what I did like was not at the price point I could afford,” Seide recalls. “I understood certain brand names charging $500 per pair for the name, but I knew the quality level didn’t need to be at that price point. So I decided to develop a line of flats that I wanted for myself.”
She began with a small production run, just shy of 700 pairs of flats. The first local store to buy them was Love Shoes in Larchmont; they sold out quickly, with customers coming back for additional pairs. “The response was crazy,” Seide recalls. “They were selling out in November and December when flats aren’t typically sold [because of the cold weather].” She knew she was on to something.
As a self-funded operation, Very Lovely Soles is still a one-woman show at this point. Seide does everything from sketching and designing to selecting materials, liaising with manufacturers in Italy and China, inspecting and choosing samples, and merchandising the line. She has relied largely on social media and word of mouth to get the Very Lovely Soles name out there. The latter part is one of her biggest challenges. “I’m not the greatest salesperson; that’s been hard for me,” she admits.
Very Lovely Soles shoes can be found in small boutiques around Westchester (including Lola NY in White Plains, Love Shoes in Larchmont, and It’s All About Me, just over the border in Byram, CT)
The company’s growth would indicate otherwise, however; from her initial small run, she increased her 2015 production to 1,000 pairs.
With seemingly every fashion company selling flats, how does Very Lovely Soles stand out? “It’s all about comfort. We put sneaker-like foam in the flat itself,” Seide says. She also uses a two-part leather sole (as opposed to the rubber soles found in many flats), which she says gives the shoes greater longevity. The sweet-spot cost—less than high-end designers selling flats of similar quality—is another advantage, Seide says. The flats—which are available in an array of colors, prints, fabrics (including the popular cork option), and embellishments—range from $165 to $195. “But,” she says, “I don’t really look at other lines as competition, I’m just trying to do my own thing.”
For now, Seide wants to stick with a “less is more” approach. She has chosen to focus on selling her shoes online and at small boutiques in Westchester (including Lola NY in White Plains, Love Shoes in Larchmont, and It’s All About Me, just over the border in Byram, CT) rather than trying to break into the large department stores. “I don’t want to be everywhere and anywhere,” she says.
Westchester—and its style-conscious residents—has been a source of inspiration for Seide’s line. “I’m constantly watching people in Westchester and seeing what everyone is wearing, as well as going to Italy twice a year to see the trends at the materials shows,” she explains. True to her local roots, Seide says of the future: “My goal is to be the homegrown footwear designer in the area.”