It is a common story for many entrepreneurs featured in SWAAY: she has a full-time job (often in finance), she has an idea, she pulls double duty working her day job and her evening side hustle, until one day something pushes her out of the nest to turn that once-sidelined passion into a full-fledged business. Such is the background of Sarah Caplan. After launching her shoe brand Footzyfolds, Caplan became the captain of the e-commerce division of the parent company of KidsShoes.com, which specializes in manufacturing high-end kids’ shoes for retail stores, and has pivoted to expand into the online shopping market.
E-commerce is the new norm, and it has been a rough year for retail. 2017 will likely see an unprecedented amount of store closings, including Macy’s, JCPenney, and Bebe, which expects to close all stores by the end of May this year. Retail has the stubborn problem of high start up and fixed costs. Rent and inventory make it nearly impossible to compete with the convenience of online shopping. Amazon is a testament to the now-ubiquitous process of exclusively shopping online. With over 100,000 unique visitors per month and plans to scale up internationally, KidsShoes.com is riding the rising tide of the online retail monolith.
Sarah Caplan Courtesy of Sarah Caplan
Although Caplan’s background in entrepreneurship is impressive, her ingenuity is best illustrated by the development of her app KidsSizing, which she created for KidsShoes. Seeking a strategy to differentiate KidsShoes.com from the competition (think Zappos) proved to be a challenge.
Without the possibility to undercut the sales prices of similar e-commerce shoe companies, KidsShoes.com had to create a market opportunity from elsewhere. Like many light-bulb ideas, Sarah’s inspiration came from a personal frustration: kids shoe sizes were different for every brand. She saw an opportunity in this common predicament and capitalized on it.
“In order to be able to be different from the retails that we were selling our brands to, I had to come up with a concept of what is going to separate us and how can we be different if we are selling the same shoes to Nordstrom and Bloomingdale’s and all the places that get the brands that we have on our website.”
Her experience with her then one-year-old was exhausting: trying on countless pairs of shoes, buying several, then returning most of them, coupled with the ever-changing size of her child’s shoes. And proper-fitting shoes for children is an important and finer detail that is often overlooked. Short and long term damage to the feet can result from ill-fitting shoes, and children usually can’t tell if their shoes bother them.
“I came home and ordered him three more pairs of shoes because I got his size, and they came in the mail but none of them fit.”
After they went back to return the shoes, the store said that the sizes change and vary between brands. It’s a common problem for clothing in general; at one store you are a medium, while at another you’re a small. It exemplifies a challenge for online shopping: you never know precisely what you are going to get. In the world of kid’s shoes, Caplan says that “getting your kid’s foot measured means absolutely nothing. It’s all about how the shoe is made.”
“How are parents ever shopping online for their kids if all the shoes are made differently?” poses Caplan.
This problem needed to be mitigated, and a solution for KidsShoes would put them ahead of their competitors in terms of customer convenience. With her background in project management and ability to communicate in the tech world, Caplan collaborated with developers to develop the app KidSizing. Simply place your child’s foot on your iPad or iPhone, and it’ll generate a correct size for every brand that KidsShoes.com carries, ensuring you get the correct fit each time. The project proved to be the right move, and Sarah is adamant that her skills in project management and implementation are integral for the success of the app, and recommends it as a skill for every other facet of people’s lives.
Picture Courtesy of KidsShoes
Though there already were similar sizing apps, what separates KidSizing from those apps is that the app is linked directly to the manufacturer – KidsShoes.com itself.
“Everybody can have an idea,” Caplan explains. “It’s how you get it off the ground, and it’s how you implement it and bring it to market.”
In addition to KidSizing, Sarah also identified another market gap in children’s shoes – fast fashion. KidsShoes launched their own kids’ shoes brand, Sydney Jordyn, in order to keep up with the latest fashions in kids wear and “come up with the latest items in fashion for kids, very quickly.” Sydney Jordyn is well on its way to becoming the first stop on the web for the freshest styles for children’s footwear.
The combination of being the manufacturer of an exclusive app and of a kids’ shoe brand has been fruitful for the nine-month-old company. In an age of rapidly changing markets and evolving customer taste, companies have to adapt quickly, and with purpose. KidsShoes.com wedged themselves in a crowded e-commerce market, but carved a niche within it by rolling out a smart marketing campaign and solid implementation.
Women in the workplace have always experienced a certain degree of discrimination from male colleagues, and according to new studies, it appears that it is becoming even more difficult for women to get acclimated to modern day work environments, in wake of the #MeToo Movement.
In a recent study conducted by LeanIn.org, in partnership with SurveyMonkey, 60% of male managers confessed to feeling uncomfortable engaging in social situations with women in and outside of the workplace. This includes interactions such as mentorships, meetings, and basic work activities. This statistic comes as a shocking 32% rise from 2018.
What appears the be the crux of the matter is that men are afraid of being accused of sexual harassment. While it is impossible to discredit this fear as incidents of wrongful accusations have taken place, the extent to which it has burgeoned is unacceptable. The #MeToo movement was never a movement against men, but an empowering opportunity for women to speak up about their experiences as victims of sexual harassment. Not only were women supporting one another in sharing to the public that these incidents do occur, and are often swept under the rug, but offered men insight into behaviors and conversations that are typically deemed unwelcomed and unwarranted.
Restricting interaction with women in the workplace is not a solution, but a mere attempt at deflecting from the core issue. Resorting to isolation and exclusion relays the message that if men can't treat women how they want, then they rather not deal with them at all. Educating both men and women on what behaviors are unacceptable while also creating a work environment where men and women are held accountable for their actions would be the ideal scenario. However, the impact of denying women opportunities of mentorship and productive one-on-one meetings hinders growth within their careers and professional networks.
Women, particularly women of color, have always had far fewer opportunities for mentorship which makes it impossible to achieve growth within their careers without them. If women are given limited opportunities to network in and outside of a work environment, then men must limit those opportunities amongst each other, as well. At the most basic level, men should be approaching female colleagues as they would approach their male colleagues. Striving to achieve gender equality within the workplace is essential towards creating a safer environment.
While restricted communication and interaction may diminish the possibility of men being wrongfully accused of sexual harassment, it creates a hostile
environment that perpetuates women-shaming and victim-blaming. Creating distance between men and women only prompts women to believe that male colleagues who avoid them will look away from or entirely discredit sexual harassment they experience from other men in the workplace. This creates an unsafe working environment for both parties where the problem at hand is not solved, but overlooked.
According to LeanIn's study, only 85% of women said they feel safe on the job, a 5% drop from 2018. In the report, Jillesa Gebhardt wrote, "Media coverage that is intended to hold aggressors accountable also seems to create a sense of threat, and people don't seem to feel like aggressors are held accountable." Unfortunately, only 16% of workers believed that harassers holding high positions are held accountable for their actions which inevitably puts victims in difficult, and quite possibly dangerous, situations. 50% of workers also believe that there are more repercussions for the victims than harassers when speaking up.
In a research poll conducted by Edison Research in 2018, 30% of women agreed that their employers did not handle harassment situations properly while 53% percent of men agreed that they did. Often times, male harassers hold a significant amount of power within their careers that gives them a sense of security and freedom to go forward with sexual misconduct. This can be seen in cases such as that of Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby and R. Kelly. Men in power seemingly have little to no fear that they will face punishment for their actions.
Source-Alex Brandon, AP
Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook executive and founder of LeanIn.org., believes that in order for there to be positive changes within work environments, more women should be in higher positions. In an interview with CNBC's Julia Boorstin, Sandberg stated, "you know where the least sexual harassment is? Organizations that have more women in senior leadership roles. And so, we need to mentor women, we need to sponsor women, we need to have one-on-one conversations with them that get them promoted." Fortunately, the number of women in leadership positions are slowly increasing which means the prospect of gender equality and safer work environments are looking up.
Despite these concerning statistics, Sandberg does not believe that movements such as the Times Up and Me Too movements, have been responsible for the hardship women have been experiencing in the workplace. "I don't believe they've had negative implications. I believe they're overwhelmingly positive. Because half of women have been sexually harassed. But the thing is it is not enough. It is really important not to harass anyone. But that's pretty basic. We also need to not be ignored," she stated. While men may be feeling uncomfortable, putting an unrealistic amount of distance between themselves and female coworkers is more harmful to all parties than it is beneficial. Men cannot avoid working with women and vice versa. Creating such a hostile environment is also detrimental to any business as productivity and communication will significantly decrease.
The fear or being wrongfully accused of sexual harassment is a legitimate fear that deserves recognition and understanding. However, restricting interactions with women in the workplace is not a sensible solution as it can have negatively impact a woman's career. Companies are in need of proper training and resources to help both men and women understand what is appropriate workplace behavior. Refraining from physical interactions, commenting on physical appearance, making lewd or sexist jokes and inquiring about personal information are also beneficial steps towards respecting your colleagues' personal space. There is still much work to be done in order to create safe work environments, but with more and more women speaking up and taking on higher positions, women can feel safer and hopefully have less contributions to make to the #MeToo movement.