Entrepreneur Jennifer Bailey and her footwear brand Calla Shoes was one of the first early-stage product businesses to secure the backing of the British Design Fund.
In just three years, Jennifer has turned an innovative idea into a profitable business that now boasts customers in more than 40 countries – and has big ambitions for growth. Here’s Jennifer’s story.
Spotting a gap in the market
Around 10million women in the UK are thought to have bunions, a condition that sees bony lumps form on the side of the feet which make it difficult to wear normal shoes.
As a long-term sufferer herself, Jennifer was frustrated by the lack of footwear choices on the high street. The shoes she could find were either frumpy or ugly, with high heels and other formal wear, simply non-existent.
Her light bulb moment came when she was planning her wedding and couldn’t find anything suitable. Jennifer saw a clear gap in the market for high-end, occasion footwear that would be both comfortable and stylish. When she was made redundant while on maternity leave, it was the push she needed to finally take the plunge and do something about it.
Innovative product design
Jennifer was convinced that with some clever adjustments and material choices, there was no reason why those with bunions couldn’t have shoes that were chic and elegant.
Calling on her existing experience in business, combined with extensive research and meetings with podiatrists, shoe designers and manufacturers – including flying out to visit factories in Portugal – Jennifer went on to found Calla shoes, releasing her first collection in 2016.
Jennifer explains: “When I was getting married, wide-fitting footwear wasn’t really a thing and any shoes I did find were ugly and completely unsuitable. It was daunting leaving my career behind, but I knew I couldn’t be the only one having this problem.
“It took two years of research and working all hours of the day and night, but the hard work has really paid off and I’m incredibly proud of what we have achieved to date. However, this is only the start! We have big plans to expand the range of products and to grow the business further, to bring beautiful footwear to even more women across the world.”
British Design Fund
Jennifer started her business using savings and a gift from her mother, along with a £15,000 loan from the government-backed Start-Up Loans Company. In 2017, Calla went on to received £75,000 seed investment and ongoing mentoring and support from British Design Fund.
Jennifer commented: “BDF has really helped me understand the journey I need to take, from where I am now to where I want to get to. They have opened doors to me, through the funding but also their networks, while helping me with strategy to grow the business.”
Damon Bonser, CEO at BDF: “Calla shoes ticked all the boxes for us, and we saw so much potential in the business. What really stood out was Jennifer’s passion and the strength of the opportunity she had spotted. There is a clear market and with Calla shoes there is now a fantastic product to meet that need.”
Looking for investment for your product business?
If you have a well-designed product that fulfils a distinct need, or solves an important problem, then get in touch. Applications for funding through the British Design Fund can be submitted here, or for more information email us using email@example.com.
If you are interested in learning more about how you can invest in future British Design Funds, then please visit https://growthinvest.com/investment-opportunities/fund/british-design-fund-2/