Business 26 June 2017
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.
6 Min Read
I live the pain and stress of being black in America every day: I am a black woman, the mother of a black son, sister to black men, and aunt to my black nephews. I remember what it was like as a young girl to be afraid to go to Howard Beach for fear of being chased out. I know what it's like to walk on Liberty Avenue and be called "nigger" and being so young that I didn't understand what the word meant, I had to ask my mother. I know too well that feeling in the pit of your stomach when a police car pulls up behind you and even though you know you haven't done anything wrong you fear that your life may be in danger from what should be a simple encounter. Like all African Americans, I am tired of this burden.
African Americans have a long history of having to fight for our humanity in America. We have had to fight for freedom, we have had to fight for equality, and we have had to fight for our lives. The fight continues to go on. I have often quoted that line from the character Sophia in Alice Walker's The Color Purple, "All my life I had to fight." When I say this to my white counterparts it can sometimes be uncomfortable because it's clear that they just don't get it. They view it as melodramatic. But it's not. It's part of the black experience, and it is the part of the black experience that black people don't want.
I have often quoted that line from the character Sophia in Alice Walker's The Color Purple, "All my life I had to fight."
While I was out yesterday, passing out PPE and talking to people, a woman asked me, "What is it going to take for this to change?" I told her that I think peaceful protesting is a good start. But it's just the start. We can't elect the same people for the past 20-30 years, some in the same positions, and then talk about how nothing has changed in the past 30 years.
This injustice, inequality, and inequity will not spontaneously disappear. It will take bold, outspoken, and fearless leadership to eradicate the systemic racism in our country. We must address the violence at the hands of a police force paid to serve and protect us. We must address the recurring experience of black people being passed over for a promotion and then being asked to train the white person who was hired. We must address the inequities in contract opportunities available to black businesses who are repeatedly deemed to lack the capacity. We must address the disparity in the quality of education provided to black students. We must address the right to a living wage, health care, and sick pay.
While we like to regard the system as broken, I've come to believe the system is working exactly as it was meant to for the people who are benefiting from it. We need a new system. One that works for all of us. I am running to become the mayor of New York City because I can't assume there's another person who has the courage to do the work that needs to be done to create a fair and just city.
We can't elect the same people for the past 20-30 years, some in the same positions, and then talk about how nothing has changed in the past 30 years.
There are some things we may not be able to change in people, but at this moment I think that whether you are black, white, purple, or yellow we all should be looking internally to see what is one thing that you can do to change this dynamic. Here's where we can start:
If we want change, we need a total reform of police departments throughout this country. That is going to require taking a hard look at our requirements to become a police officer, our disciplinary procedures when civilian complaints are filed, and a review of what and how we police. No one deserves to lose their life based upon the accusation of carrying counterfeit cash. We also need to hold police officers accountable for their actions. While it is their duty to protect and serve they should not be above the law. Even at this very moment, police officers are overstepping their boundaries.
If we want change, we have to build a sense of camaraderie between the police and community. A sense of working together and creating positive experiences. We have to be honest about the fact that we haven't allowed that to happen because we have utilized our police department as a revenue-generating entity. We are more concerned with cops writing tickets than protecting and serving. Even during these moments of protest we are witness to the differences made when the police supported the protesters and stood hand in hand with them or took a knee. It resulted in less violence and more peaceful protest. People felt heard; people felt respected; people felt like they mattered.
While we like to regard the system as broken, I've come to believe the system is working exactly as it was meant to for the people who are benefiting from it. We need a new system.
If we want change, we have to be willing to clean house. And that means that some of you are going to have to step up to the plate and take roles of leadership. In my city alone, there are 35 city council seats that are term-limited in 2021. There are some that aren't termed but maybe their term should be up. Step up to the plate and run. If nothing else it will let our elected officials see that they need to stop being comfortable and do more. We don't need you out in the street taking selfies or reporting the problems to us. We need solutions. We need you in a room implementing policies that will ensure that these things don't continue to happen.
If we want change, we need to support grassroots candidates that are not in corporate pockets, who are not taking PAC money, and who really want to make a difference to their community. We need candidates that know first-hand and can relate to the experiences that many of us are going through.
We are at a pivotal moment. It is inspiring to see people from all races and backgrounds in the streets protesting, standing up for justice, and wanting to see change. We must seize this moment, but we must also be mindful that change requires more.
People often ask me why I decided to run for office? I am running for me. I am running for the little girl that was called nigger on Liberty Avenue. For the woman who has been pulled over for no reason. For my nephew who was consistently stopped during the era of stop and frisk. I am running for your son, your brother, and your nephew. I am running so that the next generation will never have to say, "All my life I had to fight." Because although we won't stop until we see justice and changes that address inequality and inequity effectively, this fight is exhausting.