Behind Alexa's Rise from Bedroom Startup to Million Dollar Footwear Empire

Original article can be found here.

I was 18 years old going into my freshman year of college thinking I knew what I wanted to do with my life. Looking back now, how could anyone at the age of 18 actually know the answer to this? I will save my thoughts on college for another day. Needless to say, I was a psych major because I knew I wanted to help people.

A few years and thousands of dollars later, I was out in the real world. My first post-grad job, I was making $17.30/hr. and vividly remember adding up all my bills and loans, thinking to myself "this isn't adding up." How was I going to pay for everything and be able to save money? So I advanced to a new job and company making $25/hr. It was the easiest job ever but I was BORED. I remember thinking "is this really it?" I was not meant to be a cubicle girl for my whole life.

At this time I was 22 years old and doing bikini bodybuilding competitions. Since my job was not giving me any ounce of fulfillment or passion, I used fitness for that. I became so passionate about the bodybuilding world and knew I wanted to be more involved. I had zero experience in anything even remotely close to business, but I did have this, AN IDEA.

In an industry that is dominated by social media, I realized there was no one known for shoes. Meaning, there was no company to @ (tag) where your shoes were from! IMAGINE?! Dramatics aside, this was a big deal. Every bodybuilding competitor ALWAYS tagged where all of their products were from. That's where I came in. I created “The Shoe Fairy” and is now known as the leading name in Competition Footwear.

Now to make an extremely long story short, I took a couple hundred dollars, bought my first order of shoes to sell and created a really crappy website. I "launched" the company with Instagram and acted like people were buying. A few days later, someone actually did! I spent a lot of time on hashtags, liking and commenting on people's posts, and sending out tons of free products. Three months later, I quit my full time job and went all in on myself and building my dreams.

What inspired or motivated you to embark on your entrepreneurial journey?

I wanted more. It was almost as simple as that. I was working in a cubicle in an office and would look around and think to myself "is this really it?" I knew I was meant to create and lead. It was an instinctual feeling that kept getting louder and louder as time went on. I listened to that voice and knew I needed to follow it. The hardest part about first embarking on this journey was figuring out WHAT I wanted to actually do.

Can you share a specific obstacle or setback you encountered early on and how you overcame it?

I started my company as a retailer. I bought shoes (another brand) at wholesale cost and then retailed them on my site. I learned early on that there were only two brands that manufactured these types of clear heels and both were unfavorable quality. After about two years in business, I came to the realization that in order to achieve what my vision was for this company, I needed to design and manufacture my own heels.

Being that this is a hefty cost, I started with only one shoe. I made what I thought at the time was a high quality, amazing shoe. After 18 months, the first shipment of 1,000 heels arrived at my tiny 740 sq. ft office. We had over 400 pre orders waiting to ship. My Office Manager and I were so excited that the time was finally here. She started to print all of the shipping labels and I anxiously went to put on my first pair!

I ripped open the size 8 box and went to put on the heel that I created from scratch. It was such a proud moment. A moment that suddenly came crashing down. I couldn't fit my foot in the shoe. My foot literally wouldn't go into the shoe. I thought it must have been a mistake and was a size 6 or something. The more boxes I started to open the more I realized it wasn't a mistake. The fit was completely wrong and my foot wouldn't go into any of the shoes. Not only that, there were tons of defects!

At this point, all 400+ customers already received their tracking and shipping labels were paid for. It was a disastrous mess. We had to contact each customer individually to refund them + I eventually had to start all over from scratch and find a new manufacturer. The heels ended up in a dumpster which was disheartening. I was lucky enough to get the money wired back.

While I had to start back over, I learned so much from that past experience that I feel it really happened for a reason. My second go around led me to the manufacturers that I am still with to this day and we have an amazing WEBSITE FULL of all my own heels! It was a 3 year process to just launch 1 SHOE! I was patient, persistent and determined to figure it out.

Entrepreneurship often involves pivoting. Can you discuss a moment when you had to pivot or adapt your business model to overcome adversity or market changes?

Pivoting is pivotal in business. February 2023, I was entering my third trimester of pregnancy and ready to take my foot off the gas and enjoy the end of my pregnancy. Needless to say, it didn't happen. As I previously mentioned, I started my company buying heels wholesale and retailing them. I had roughly 25 different styles of this brand on my website for 7 years. Although I eventually launched my own shoe which turned into 2 lines, at that time I only had a handful of my own designs on the site. The majority was still the other brand.

As I was saying, I was getting ready to settle down and have a baby. I received an email from the owner of the other brand to schedule a video meeting. This was somewhat random and out of the blue and I wondered what was going on. I hopped on the call with my Ops Manager and we were told that they were cutting us off. They no longer wished to do business with us because now that my own line was growing, we were becoming competitors. At that very moment, I even had a huge restock order placed with them that they held and canceled. This meant I was about to lose 25 STYLES of shoes from my site.

There was no talking her out of it. They cut us off and that was it. This was such a proud moment for me. I quickly pivoted. I took a huge white paper and planned out a bunch of new styles I would launch to supplement what I was losing from them. I spent the end of my pregnancy on design, sampling and prepping for all the new launches that came early on in my postpartum journey. This pivotal moment was actually the push I needed to expand my own line and truly allow The Shoe Fairy to spread its own wings.

Reflecting on your journey, what message or insight would you share with other female entrepreneurs striving to make their mark in the B2B landscape?

Create an exceptional product or service first. Worry about marketing and everything else second. When you have something that is so exceptional that you actually think you are doing people a disservice by NOT telling them about it, then you don't need to worry about "selling." You won't need to fixate on how to sell it, it will come naturally and eventually, others will sell it for you and it will sell itself.

Alexa Stimpfel image

What advice would you give to aspiring female entrepreneurs looking to establish themselves in the B2B industry?

GET OUT OF YOUR BUBBLE AND SAY YES! In the beginning, say yes to everything. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Put yourself out there unapologetically. You cannot attract prospective buyers and new opportunities if no one knows what you are doing.

Failure is a part of the entrepreneurial journey. Can you share an instance where you experienced failure or made a critical mistake, and what valuable lessons did you learn from it?

I have made many macro and micro mistakes along that way, but I would love to share one that taught me a valuable lesson that I think many can relate to. If you feel like you should be firing someone, then you're right. Stop prolonging what you know needs to be done. I had an employee that was great in the beginning. But, as time went on, things began to change and she began to change. I started to feel like I was constantly walking on eggshells around her and felt bad speaking up about what needed to be done in my own business. Over time, it really bothered me and became so much more toxic than I even realized. It got to the point where I had no choice but to let her go and once that happened, I will never forget the relief that I felt. It was like the biggest weight was lifted off my chest and I realized how toxic she was making the workplace. From then on, I became very quick to fire. I learned that if your gut instinct tells you it isn't working out or that the person doesn't have your best interest at heart, listen to it.

Have you faced any gender-related challenges in the B2B industry, and how have you navigated or overcome them?

When I first wanted to start my company, one of my first hurdles was figuring out where I was going to get the shoes from. If I wanted to sell heels, I had to have heels to sell! We all have to start somewhere. I called up a wholesale company that I found on Google and was asked a series of questions. Following my responses I was told they could not do business with me because I didn't have a brick and mortar location. I knew this wasn't true because the majority of the companies that sold their products were online retailers. He made sure to follow that up with "Plus, our minimum spend is $500 per order" - in a very condescending tone. I knew what he was saying. He was saying "you're a young, inexperienced woman who doesn't even have $500 to spend." I responded back in a fake, sympathetic tone - "That's such a bummer, my first order was going to be $3000." His tone changed so fast. He made me an account and I became one of their largest retailers who they ultimately cut off because I made better heels. Karma's a b*tch.

As an entrepreneur, balancing work and personal life can be demanding. How do you maintain this balance, and what strategies or habits have helped you in this aspect?

I believe that in order to achieve great success, you must be out of balance. In order to sustain great success, you must find your balance. Balance is unique to everyone. It's even unique to myself depending on what stage of life I'm in. Balance has a new meaning now as a mother. It means I need more HELP! It also means I need to be very strategic with how I spend my time so that I can MAXIMIZE my time. I've never said "no" and turned down so much in my entire life!

While I am trying to find my new balance between business + baby, my #1 strategy is outsourcing as much as I can. I have a nanny come to my home 3x a week for 8 hours, so that I know during that allotted time, I can solely focus on work and schedule meetings and interviews. I get meals delivered so that I don't need to cook so often and can save time there. Majority of our groceries are delivered and I also have someone come clean every 3 weeks. I only drive to my warehouse 1x a week because I simply can't afford losing the hour of driving more than once a week while I have the nanny. I can get more work done by working at home on the computer.

The #1 strategy I've learned is to look at time as my most valuable resource and find ways to hack that time and maximize it. Most of the time, it comes down to getting a little extra help (and not feeling guilty about it).

How do you measure success beyond financial gains, and what impact do you aspire to create through your entrepreneurial endeavors?

Success to me is measured by happiness and freedom. I could have all the money in the world but if I wasn't happy, I would not deem myself successful. My entrepreneurial endeavors go far beyond selling heels. While I do want to create heels for women that make them feel sexy, confident and comfortable, I want to use what I've learned on this journey to inspire others to chase their dreams just as I have.

That's why I recently launched My Power - bracelets that bring strength. The purpose behind this project is to remind you that power is always in your perspective and only you hold that power. This is an outlet that is going to allow me to step into my power while empowering others to channel their power.

How did you position your B2B business in a competitive market, and what strategies did you employ to differentiate yourself from competitors?

Initially, I focused on building a community, not a following. I made sure every single person that interacted with my company, no matter what form it was in, received attention and care. Every single order received a handwritten note and every tagged picture received a like, comment, etc. I then went on to learn my customers, study the competitors and create a better product. I didn't need to create a new product, just one that was better. My customers are women, so I made heels that make sense for women. The competitor brand makes heels with narrow toe beds, no cushion, suede insoles that stain and rock hard plastic that cuts your toes. Does that make sense for women? Absolutely not! I made heels with toe beds that are the natural shape of your foot, cushioned insoles, easy to clean sparkly insoles and soft plastic. Does that make sense for women? Absolutely! I then marketed accordingly.

In an ever-evolving market, how do you incorporate innovation and technology within your B2B business model, and what role do these play in your growth strategy?

You need to roll with the times! A few years ago, it was much simpler. Now, it's ever-evolving. There are so many platforms that we utilize now that play a KEY ROLE in revenue. We utilize Klaviyo for email marketing and e-motive for SMS marketing. Not only can you set up broadcasts and campaigns within both platforms, but you can set up automated flows that go off in the background without you even having to do a thing. We utilize GoAFFPro in Shopify for our Affiliate Marketing which makes up 30% of revenue. The newest innovation that I have been hearing about and just decided to test out is Many Chat which helps with DM automation and growing contact lists.

How do you spend most of your time?

Majority of my time is spent the same way! Caring for my baby, spending time with my family, working on my businesses, working out and working on myself! It's a lot of work at all times, just in different areas.

As you reflect on your journey, what are you most proud of and why?

I am most proud of my determination. There have been so many times (and there ALWAYS will be in business) where it would be easier to give up. No matter what, I have always been relentlessly determined to figure it out, push forward and continue to grow.

Family shots of Alexa Stimpfel

Tell us a little about your family and what you do for fun?

My family is my rock in this crazy life. I am soon to be marrying my fiance and best friend. I'm so grateful to be engaged to the most loving, charismatic, supportive and the most patient person I know. I truly believe I found the person that God has meant for me. Together we have a 9 month old son. A handsome blonde hair, blue eyed crazy boy! I've gained so much in the past few years in terms of family. Not only are we now a party of 3, but we are lucky enough to have incredible, close families on both sides. This is at the top of what I feel most grateful for.

"Aspire not to have more but to be more."

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