Australia

How childhood friends solved a major shoe problem

Starting an online store was the result of necessity being the mother of invention for two childhood friends. Unable to find shoes that fit them, Pradhima Shyamsunder and Kuppal Palaniappan decided to take matters into their own hands.

Childhood friends Pradhima Shyamsunder and Kuppal Palaniappan may see the world from different angles due to their heights, but they do have one thing in common: both have struggled to find shoes that fit them.

Pradhima wears a size 5 and Kuppal fits an 11.

Measuring under five-foot tall, Pradhima said finding appropriate footwear can be a huge challenge.

"We resort to things like children's shoe shops or overseas shopping binges or men's shoes shops or really large department stores where the quality of shoes sometimes doesn't last very long," Pradhima told SBS.

The pair launched their online store, Soleful Shoes, last year to help other women out.

Kuppal, who is 5'9", said they only stock really small and really large sizes.

"When we launched our line of shoes many women came to us and said "Do you stock my size?" which was an average size. And unfortunately we don't stock those sizes but we are a brand about inclusion and we're really advocating for inclusion in the fashion community," Kuppal said.

"Maybe in the future we will have all sizes but for now we're sticking to 4, 4.5 - 10 and 11."


With backgrounds in finance and marketing, the pair sought advice from a strong network of mentors and friends before launching.

Kuppal built the website herself and the shoes are handmade in a friend's workshop in India.

It's an important cultural connection for the now business partners, who met when they were 10-years-old in a South Indian classical dancing class in Australia.

Kuppal said they both share a similar view that the business should have a social mission, which led to them teaming up with the organisation Dress for Success.

"Dress for Success do amazing things around providing support and empowerment to women who've been in unfortunate circumstances," Kuppal explained.

"Every time a customer purchases a shoe on our website they have the option of donating a lightly worn pair or shoes and we forward it on."

Both the women work full time in other jobs at the moment, using spare time on evenings and weekends to work on the business.

Kuppal said while that can be challenging, they're not ready to give up their day jobs just yet.

"It can be challenging but we agreed early on we wanted to take this as slow as possible, so we'll meet up on Saturdays and work on the business, after work sometimes, it's something we're so passionate about that fuels our motivation," Kuppal said.

Expansion plans are on the agenda for Soleful Shoes but for now the pair are content solving the shoe problems of their target audience.

"People are really excited about this concept and they're excited that we're interested in solving this issue," Pradhima said.

"Most people know somebody who complains about not being able to find shoes so it's definitely an issue out there. At the moment we are limited in the shoes we're offering but as we expand we will bring on new styles so people should watch out for that."

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Source: Small Business Secrets

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