Shoes are an easy way to accessorize an outfit that can have transformative elements to both your wardrobe and how you feel while wearing it. But do you really need to make a choice between appearance and comfort? Sanida Carroll ’09 did not think so and worked to make high-quality, affordable and comfortable shoes a reality. This is her story.
Tell us how you developed your shoe line and what is unique about it.
After traveling the world’s airports as a management consultant for many years, I realized the need for comfortable, high-quality, sophisticated-looking shoes for professional women. Shoes like that were hard to find at a reasonable price point, so I decided to make them available! Three things make Sanida Carroll shoes special: First, they are made of luxury leather, handmade with elegant designs. Sanida Carroll shoes are made in the same Italian factories that produce for high-end designer brands. Second, the shoes are practical. They are built for all-day comfort, versatile use, in styles that never go out of fashion. And, to maintain the disruptive price point for these beautiful shoes - and practical for your wallet – Sanida Carroll shoes are sold exclusively online (check below for a special offer). Finally, the shoes are philanthropic. We have partnered with Soles4Souls, a global not-for-profit institution dedicated to fighting the devastating impact and perpetuation of poverty through the distribution of shoes and clothing. For every pair we sell, we donate a new pair of shoes to a person in need.
What has been your biggest “A-Ha!” moment to date? How did it change your business?
The process of making shoes is laboratorial – first you come up with the design, then realize it through the prototype, then with the final details you get the shoe samples before production. When I received my shoe samples, I asked some friends to test them out. Once my friends tried on the shoes and naturally said “oh it’s so comfortable, I LOVE them” I knew I was going after something big. That was my A-ha! moment, which encouraged me to move forward and make the Sanida Carroll brand shoes happen.
How have the classes you participated in at Columbia Business School shaped your business/management approach?
I don’t think it’s any one class, but the cumulative effect of all the classes. I used a little bit from my negotiations class, a bit from marketing, a bit from strategy, accounting, finance etc. As an entrepreneur, I have to make the most out of limited resources, so I wear a lot of hats. The Columbia MBA provided me with a broad toolkit from which to choose.
The Columbia Alumni Connection: How have you used it and how do you stay involved?
Well first of all, I met my husband at Columbia Business School and he’s been behind me every step of the way. Besides that, some of the very first orders I received, after announcing the launch to various lists of friends, came from my Columbia Business School classmates. Even those living abroad ordered pairs, and have been kind enough to offer testimonials and referrals. I’ve also sought advice and connections through my Columbia classmates and alumni. Many of them have started companies themselves and been over many of the same hurdles I’ve been facing, so their lessons learned have saved me time and frustration.
What advice would you give to a graduating Columbia student with entrepreneurial aspirations?
Firstly, entrepreneurial life is a bit of a roller coaster, with lots of ups and downs, and definitely not for the faint of heart. Make sure that you’re ready before you jump into it. Once you have made your decision, be sure to surround yourself with entrepreneurially-minded people and don’t let others discourage you. Secondly, having a great idea is a small part of the path to success. Execution and determination is most of the challenge. Finally, make sure you have financial resources and backup plan(s) prepared for the worst case scenario as you might have to modify your business idea / model several times before you find the perfect formulation.
Steve Gilman '15
“To organize a robust community, sometimes you have to put walls around it,” says Steve Gilman ‘15 about his company, Block Party Suites.