A few months ago, Louise— a shoe designer and former cabin crew (for 17 years) contacted me, which has since resulted in a wonderful correspondence with this talented and dynamic woman. I, always the entrepreneur and curious inquirer, wanted to know how one goes from ‘Flight Attendant Life’ into something related, but completely new and different. Louise graciously agreed to take the time to answer a few questions about how she began her company and about her life after cabin crew.
You can find Louise’s beautifully designed shoes— specific for cabin crew, as well as a perfect choice for the business professional at www.louisemshoes.com. Hope you enjoy this article!— Kara
What made you design shoes and start your own company?
From as early as my teenage years, I have had a love for shoes. Not so much lots of shoes, it was always about the quality of the shoe and how I felt wearing it. You know the feeling when you put on that new dress and know you look fabulous in it. Italian leather shoes were always my preferred shoe choice— and to this day— I always consider a range of shoes carefully before making my final decision. I love the story behind Italian fashion houses; the designers, the materials they use, and the testing and craftsmanship to produce these beautiful shoes. The idea of hand-made shoes tells one that time is taken to produce the shoes. I love the care, the passion, and attention to detail that goes into production. Additionally, my love of travel has always been strong and a part of who I am. As a young child, I would run outside when I heard the planes flying overhead. If I was embarking (pardon the pun!) on a business, shoes and travel opportunities had to be a part of it.
Throughout my 17-year career as a flight attendant, I always wore Italian made leather shoes. I loved the feeling of confidence that wearing them gave me. I could rely on them to look good after being on my feet over long hours. As you know, the requirements for a uniform compliant shoe is quite different from a shoe you wear on your days off. Regular shoe retailers tend to stock impractical fashion shoes or those ‘not-so-attractive’ comfortable shoes. I wanted to make it easy for myself, and others, to find a fashion shoe that was comfortable and suitable for working in. Now, I travel to Europe twice a year to attend the shoe fairs in Milan and Dusseldorf. I hand select the latest designs to add to my range and liaise directly with the manufacturer to ensure the shoes meet the needs of my customers.
Did you start your company immediately after leaving the airline industry?
I had been considering ‘life after flying’ for several years before actually leaving. I loved being a flight attendant, and did not want to regret leaving. It was after making the decision to create my own business that I prepared for my next career move. To go into business without developing knowledge, skills, research and planning would have been unwise, so I returned to university. I graduated with a Bachelor of Commerce, majoring in Entrepreneurship and Marketing. This was perfect for my shoe business idea, as it gave me clarity and confidence to proceed. I would not be doing what I am doing today without having done this. Fortunately, I was able to schedule flying duties around lectures (mostly). It was during this 3-ó year period of study that I began to explore the shoe industry; sourcing shoes particularly for airline cabin crew and developing a website for my online store. As I was still flying during this period and working within my target market, I used this period to speak with, question, and gather information about shoes fellow crew were currently wearing. Were they happy with shoe choices currently available? How much do they spend? How often do they buy? Where do they prefer to purchase their shoes? It was October 2013; 5 months after completing my university degree that I retired from the airline industry.
What do you love most about what you do now?
Besides not waking to a 3 am alarm clock, what I love most is the positive feedback from my customers. That genuine excitement they have for the shoes. I get so many lovely messages from happy clients and it just reinforces why I started this in the first place…it feels amazing! Being able to help people enjoy their day is a wonderful thing. I always strived to do this on a flight and I continue to strive to improve and delight a customer’s experience in my own business. It really is a joy connecting to so many people on a daily basis. It is not only cabin crew that I connect with but also women from many professions including doctors, lawyers, lecturers, and teachers, basically all sorts of corporate women who spend long hours on their feet. As mentioned, I travel to Europe to find the shoes and visit manufacturers in Italy. Although traveling alone can be a little lonely at times, I view it as a wonderful opportunity to explore, grow, learn and meet diverse people. I always come home exhilarated inspired and exhausted. I love this about what I do now. It is not dissimilar to my cabin crew life.
What do you love the least?
Business also involves budgets and cash flow; not my forte. It is definitely the thing I least enjoy in my business. Fortunately I have a business partner who loves spreadsheets and forecasts, and although my attempts to ignore this side of the business, it is crucial that I take part in it.
What is your favorite shoe in your line?
I love something about every shoe in the Louise M line. However, without doubt, the Louise M Block Heel is the most favorite. This is the shoe I saw at the very first International Shoe Fair. I knew it would be perfect for cabin crew. I truly believe everyone should wear this shoe. It is the most popular in the cabin crew shoe range with Australian cabin crew. I have travelled extensively in this shoe.
What advice do you have for readers who are thinking of embarking on a new career (leave cabin crew life)?
- Have a plan before leaving your flying career. Although cabin crew hours can be a little crazy, you still have time to explore your options.
- Do something you absolutely love. The hours you spend in your own business are way beyond the hours you spend flying as cabin crew and are often unpaid.
- If you don’t have the necessary skills, go and learn them, or find others who can help you.
- Don’t give up. You believe in it, so keep going even in uncertain times.
Follow Louise M Shoes on Instagram @LouiseMShoes and visit the online shop by clicking here.