That Shoe Lady's Story

As the name suggests, the business started with one lady with a love for shoes.

The last 10 years of That Shoe Lady has seen many ups and downs, and has been an enormous period of growth for everyone involved - this is a story of resilience. While trying to find quality designer shoes at an affordable price, and having no luck in South Africa, Jessamie discovered Jeffrey Campbell and Dr. Martens whilst browsing social media. She asked a friend that was travelling to the USA to bring back some pairs for her as samples, and as they say, the rest is history.

DIVE INTO THE ORIGINS OF

THAT SHOE LADY

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Fortunately, this story is all about the history of That Shoe Lady, so this tale doesn’t end there.

Jessamie realised that South Africans would have to go through considerable effort to get their hands on these sought-after brands and saw an opportunity to provide this service to them, registering the business in April 2014. Starting in her bedroom at her parent’s house at the age of 24 with just two pennies to rub together, That Shoe Lady started importing and selling Jeffrey Campbell and Dr. Martens shoes in small quantities to friends and friends of friends. Social media came to the rescue in the form of Facebook, expanding her reach and getting people from all over South Africa to visit her parent’s house in search of shoes.

The demand was increasing, only surpassed by Jessamie’s ambition and belief in the product she was selling, and the business started to grow. That Shoe Lady needed a website to make this fledgling business more official and scalable, and so it was that thatshoelady.com came to be. The website further increased the company’s reach, receiving orders from all around the world.

Collaborating with boutiques in Claremont, the Waterfront, Gardens, and Braamfontein, That Shoe Lady started selling on consignment. This move showed a demand in those areas, and further solidified the positioning of That Shoe Lady as a purveyor of quality shoes at a reasonable price. The move also brought the understanding that South African customers were hesitant to purchase fashion items online without a branded physical presence (not your parent’s house).

That Shoe Lady opened their first (tiny) store in Woodstock in April 2016 and hired their first official employee. The physical presence changed the game. The explosion of online and physical sales was unexpected, catalysing faster growth and expansion, including moving to a bigger store location just opposite the street, on Woodstock Lower Main Road. Realising the need for a closer relationship with her suppliers, Jessamie travelled to Hong Kong by herself (notably the first time she had ever left the country) to meet with the owner of Jeffrey Campbell International. The bold move bore fruit, and That Shoe Lady became the sole distributor for Jeffrey Campbell shoes in South Africa in 2015.

Within a year of opening that first store, That Shoe Lady had established two other stores - first in Sea Point, and later in Claremont. Perhaps a little too ambitious in retrospect, the opening of the third store showed the need to consolidate and establish best practices and management frameworks. This was a difficult time in the tale of That Shoe Lady, with a number of staff resigning and company culture at risk. To stem this tide, support staff were required to step in and help stabilise the ship and to remedy the company culture. Toward the end of 2018, That Shoe Lady began to flourish once more. Once again, social media was a hero, with the visual aspect of That Shoe Lady’s products making it a great fit for Instagram. Consumer reach increased, and That Shoe Lady was able to get in touch with its followers more frequently, gathering a following of incredible supporters.

That Shoe Lady established a warehouse in 2019, hiring a number of support staff to assist with the increased demand and administrative work. The company looked set to begin expansion once again, looking to Gauteng as its next home. Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit. The world changed in a matter of days, and That Shoe Lady was left with a website, Instagram, and a Facebook page, harking back to the early days of the business. This was a horribly difficult situation for the company - most of the team of 30 had to be laid-off until That Shoe Lady could begin trading again, as per the rules for the first few months of lockdown. The website saved the business, along with Jessamie selling off her personal collection of shoes on auction on Instagram in order to cover overheads for those first few months. Pop-Up stores were opened in order to maximise income - one in Canal Walk Mall and one in Cavendish Mall. A new store in Willowbridge shopping mall was also opened in late 2020. Despite the expansion, the company culture at the head office/warehouse was suffering. Morale was at an all-time low - COVID-19 had a huge impact on the company culture and the management structure started to collapse. Throughout 2021 and 2022 desperate measures were taken to improve the morale, but to no avail. Life was getting harder for everyone - costs of living had gone up exponentially, and the repercussions of the prolonged lockdown had a long-lasting effect.

At a peak of 7 stores nationwide (including a pop-up in Rosebank Mall, Johannesburg), That Shoe Lady was the victim of an online hack in September 2022. A large amount of capital was stolen (this was retrieved, fortunately), and That Shoe Lady lost all its social media accounts, which at this stage, had over 100k followers on each account. Social media being its main source of sales/marketing, That Shoe Lady suffered a loss of income of about 66% as soon as the accounts were lost. After consistent, but futile attempts to get the account back, That Shoe Lady had taken out loans in order to pay overheads to keep the business going until we could retrieve the lost accounts which held so much value. Eventually, in April 2023, we were forced to liquidate, and retrench all 30 employees that we had managed to sustain throughout the pandemic.

Liquidation essentially means that all assets owned by the company are seized. This was the biggest loss imaginable, and Jessamie could not picture her life without That Shoe Lady, and everything that had been built over the last 10 years. The plan was to start over, albeit with nothing, and to build the business from the bottom up again, just as Jessamie did in the early days of the business. This would include a NEW Instagram account, a NEW website, and a NEW store. As soon as the company liquidated, Jessamie began preparations for a new company with the same business concept, but learning from mistakes that were made over the years in order to refine the concept into something even better.

Small amounts of stock were bought back from the ‘old’ That Shoe Lady, and sold in order to generate capital to start a new store and a new website. A few months later Jessamie opened a new That Shoe Lady physical store in Gardens, Cape Town. With the help of some of the old TSL team, the store is now flourishing again, with a new website to be launched in early March 2024. Things are looking up for the first time in a long time - by building one brick on top of another, Jessamie hopes to build TSL up to something even better than before.

To all our beautiful supporters who have stuck with us throughout the years, That Shoe Lady appreciates you more than you know. We will continue to bring in only the most unique, beautiful, and comfortable shoes and socks to South Africa, no matter what obstacles come in the way.