Take risks. Not all of them will work out but some of them will and you will learn a lot about yourself along the way.
Bhupi Singh is the founder of the Spanish Sandal Co, an e-commerce store that sells avarcas, also known as menorquinas, that launched in 2017. When Bhupi and her family relocated to Los Angeles from Barcelona, she decided to start her own company, selling high-quality leather shoes that can be dressed up or down, that are affordable and made in Spain using traditional craftsmanship. The sandals are casual but chic, embody the Spanish way of life, and match the laid-back California lifestyle. Each pair is under $100 and designed for the busy woman on the go who doesn’t want to compromise style.
Singh was born and raised in Belgium with British and Indian heritage. She has an MBA from Kellogg (Northwestern University) and a business engineering master’s from Solvay in Belgium. Prior to launching The Spanish Sandal Co, she worked in business and management consulting for 15 years. Shortly after having twins, she decided to leave the demanding hours of her job and go the entrepreneurial route when a move landed her family in Los Angeles.
In the past 10 years, Singh has lived in 7 different countries including Brussels, Argentina, Spain and more, making her life as a “digital nomad” difficult but all-the-more rewarding. This past year, her family moved from Los Angeles to Buenos Aires and she has managed to maintain and grow her business despite not being in the US, where the logistics and fulfillment is done.
Bhupi Singh is a mother of three, all of which she had in under two years. She hopes to be an inspiration to other moms who don’t know how to reenter the workforce or find a balance within their professional ambitions and their family life, as well as being a “digital entrepreneur”. She’s refocused her goals based on her lifestyle and family, and has had to redefine her career along the way.
Where did the idea for Spanish Sandal Co come from?
I became an entrepreneur shortly after I had my twins; I had been working in management consulting for a few years but with three kids under the age of 2 I could not sustain the traveling and long hours away from home. Also due to my husband’s job, we were moving a lot across Europe which limited my perspectives in the corporate world. At the time I was living in Barcelona and loved the mix of casual beachwear with European chic. I soon fell in love with the beautiful leather sandals that everyone seemed to be wearing. Shortly after we were moving to California and I immediately knew that it would be a great market for the quality comfortable sandals I had discovered in Spain. That is how the story of the Spanish Sandal Company began.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I have small kids aged 4 and 5 so my days start early. I try to wake up before they do to get a few minutes to practice gratitude and reflect on what I want to get out of my day. I do so generally walking the dog. Afterwards it’s a whirlwind to get the kids ready for school and drive them off. My work day starts around 8:30, by answering emails from customers, suppliers and partners. In the summer that can take a lot of time and I am looking to outsource some of it. Then I try to carve out some time for a quick yoga session or cycling on my Peloton bike. And then back to work; the core of my day is spent on more strategic activities like planning marketing campaigns or talking to customers to see how we can improve our value proposition. At 3 pm I pick up my kids. From 5 to 7:30 pm I have a nanny who plays and does various activities with the kids so I can work a little longer. I generally still do some work once the kids are asleep but only during peak season.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I believe in trying a lot of things and “failing fast”; I set a general direction but don´t overthink things to move quickly towards execution. By putting ideas into action quickly and then course correcting as I go I can continuously improve ideas and discard concepts or ideas that sounded good on paper but quickly fail in “real life”.
What’s one trend that excites you?
Even though it has been going on for a while, the digital revolution is allowing moves and behaviors that were unthinkable even a decade ago. Technology has democratized information and access. Today anyone with an idea and some grit can achieve anything thanks to technology and I like that. I started my business 2.5 years ago when I moved to the US. Last year I moved from California to Buenos Aires in Argentina and managed to triple my sales. Today I run my business from Buenos Aires and frankly it is easier than I thought. I do face issues and complexities from being so far away from my market like hiring and managing people with the knowledge I need. But it is incredible to think that one can now manage a business in multiple geographies remotely from any part of the world and be successful.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Carving out time during the day to get a 30 minute cycle workout or yoga session. I have noticed that I make decisions more quickly after having cleared my head. This is a major advantage of being a solopreneur working from home. I can work out when I find it most useful.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Dare to dream big and don’t be afraid to voice your dreams; even though your dreams may sound ridiculous to some, you never know who might hear them and help you along the way.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
I love the “pain” of working out; I love to feel my muscles aching when I work out because then I know change is happening. People think I am crazy. But to me it is about loving the journey, whether it is working out, starting a business or even raising kids.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Taking risks; testing new ideas, trying new approaches; a lot of them will not work out but some of them will. Not only can some of these ideas pay out big time but you will learn a lot about yourself along the way by being more vulnerable and getting out of your comfort zone
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Fashion is a highly competitive market and as a small business I have found my edge to be 1. offering high quality sandals at affordable prices and 2. offering outstanding customer service. Big retailers cannot do those two things as they have very high overhead and just don’t care as much about the individual customer. The former is achievable because I have a very lean structure. For the latter I strive to really be super responsive on email and social media while going beyond customers’ expectation in terms of service; basically offering a high end service for quality shoes that cost less than $100. And with social media, good reviews spread quickly.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
Before starting the Spanish Sandal co, I had started another business in Spain. I had to shut it down after 2 months as we were moving to the US and I had not yet reached a stage where I could manage it remotely. I had put a lot of energy and time in the launch preparation so shutting it down so quickly was frustrating. However, it gave me the confidence that I had what it takes to start a business and get that first customer so when I started the Spanish Sandal co, it was a lot quicker.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Long term rental of baby gear equipment. Equipment for newborn babies (bassinet stroller, car seat, crib) become obsolete within 6 to 9 months and generally are in impeccable condition as small babies don’t really get dirty. It would be great if there were a service out there that would rent out high end baby gear. Not only would consumer end up paying less but it would also benefit the environment.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I just bought a pair of shoes from another young shoe company that is very successful. I wanted to go through the customer journey, find out what the hype was all about and what lessons I could apply to my business. It was a good purchase!
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
Having an online business that I run remotely means that I rely a lot on technology to run my business efficiently from the Shopify platform to Google suite to Skype to a variety of apps. I recently discovered an app called Crazyegg which allows to experience the online customer journey through actual recording and snapshots of your customer’s visit on your website and found that very useful.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
I recently read “How to Win Friends & Influence People” by Dale Carnegie. I am not a natural born networker so the tips and tricks in the book are very useful when meeting new people whether in a professional or personal context.
What is your favorite quote?
“You don’t succeed in spite of your obstacles, you succeed because of them”.
When I started my business I was storing my inventory in my garage. When we moved to Argentina less than a year after starting the business, I could either quit or transfer all the inventory to a distribution center. It felt a little early to move to a distribution center but ultimately that is what allowed me to triple my revenues that year and has allowed me to continue growing even though I live far away from the market I am serving.
- Carve out some time during a long workday to clear your head; like working out or taking a long walk. Not only will you feel more energized, but it will also help you make better decisions.
- Take risks. Not all of them will work out but some of them will and you will learn a lot about yourself along the way.
- Understand your edge as a small business and ride that edge
- Read “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie. It will help you connect more easily with others both professionally and personally.