What do you get when you combine creativity, a strong work ethic, determination, solid business skills and a passion for shoes? Ellen Simes, the founder of If The Shoe Doesn’t Fit, the new auction site for shoe lovers. Ellen is a classic Gemini; a talkative, outgoing multi-tasker who enjoys a busy life, not to mention a uniquely rich and diverse career.
She started and ran several successful businesses, has served as a consultant for many organizations — including 22 years as a Dale Carnegie Trainer — spent years working as a licensed healthcare professional and balanced her experiences with the practice of several holistic healing modalities. And she did it all while wearing a great pair of heels! Yes, she is an admitted shoe addict — high heels, boots, flats, even Uggs! Ellen took her shoe addiction and found a way to turn it into an opportunity.
She was continually frustrated buying shoes that felt so comfortable on a carpeted store floor, only to wear them in the “real world” and suffer pain after just a few minutes. Her closet was overflowing with once-worn and even never-worn shoes.
After trying to sell some shoes on eBay she realized that even her education did not make it easier for her to navigate their confusing fee system, which ultimately left her with minimal profits when something sold. She decided there had to be a better way.
Ellen identified the need for a targeted niche site that would allow shoe lovers to sell, swap and shop for shoes and shoe accessories. It had to be a done in a simple, affordable way that would work for both buyers and sellers. Ellen started If The Shoe Doesn’t Fit, the auction site for shoe lovers.
Ellen’s mother wanted to be sure she would not go broke from her shoe addiction, so she encouraged her to get her B.S. in pharmacy from Massachusetts College of Pharmacy, a Secondary Education Teacher Certification in communications and general sciences, a certificate as an instructional designer and developer and to become a Certified Performance Technologist.
What are you working on right now?
Right now I spend almost all day every day working to make this website a success. There are three major parts to that:
1. Recruiting sellers — Without listings there is nothing for people to buy. I spend time recruiting all sizes of shoe vendors via e-mail, phone and even going to local independent shoe stores.
2. Increasing buyer traffic — I’m continually working on building traffic to the site in many ways — through blog posts, social media, contests, Twitter, marketing, press releases — you name it.
3. Learning — Wow, am I learning! I have a strong brick and mortar business background, but a lot of the Internet stuff is new for me. Every day I spend hours learning what I need to do and getting it done. Some days are more challenging than others, but with a lot of support and help I get it done!
In my “spare” time I ballroom dance and play with my three Golden Retrievers.
3 trends that excite you?
1. Individualism — I love that individual style is accepted. Even though there are style mavens and trends, etc., it’s accepted to be unique and different and just be yourself.
2. Social media and imagination — I know everyone loves social media, and I am no different. What is fun to me is the imaginative ways people put it to use. Because my experience with it is limited, I don’t know what “can’t” be done, so I will try almost anything.
3. The return of the work ethic — Yes, I am officially turning into my mother! For a while it seemed like everyone got paid a lot for doing a little while complaining all the time. The economic downturn has made people realize what it means to work — to really work again — and do a good job, so you keep the job. Guess it’s true that we all become our parents because this is what mine taught me.
How do you bring ideas to life?
“Leap and the net will appear.” Sometimes its a small jump and not a huge leap, but the point is to take action! In my life I have had a bad habit of letting “analysis paralysis” take place. I get so stuck in over-thinking that I never take any action and never do anything. So, I’ve learned that what is best for me is to act.
Just get moving. I may make a mistake, but as long as I’ve gotten started, I am in good shape.
What is one mistake you’ve made that our readers can learn from?
Trying to be perfect and not being willing to ask for help was my mistake. I used to think that asking for help was a sign of weakness. One day someone kicked me in the rear when she said, “The job of G-D is already taken, so give up being perfect!” Wow — what a realization that was. I’ve learned that it’s OK to ask for help and even to make mistakes. People are incredibly generous with their knowledge, time, energy, information, experience, etc.
And I have a lot more energy when I stopped trying to be perfect all the time.
What is one book and one tool that helps you bring ideas to life?
“Illusions” by Richard Bach is my all-time favorite book. I read it in the 80’s, and it changed my outlook on life. My favorite quote from it is, “Argue for your limitations and sure enough, they’re yours!”
I love Snagit! Use it all the time to grab screens and do annotations, etc.
What is one idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Join a network, community or forum and share ideas. Help one another. The more you help someone with their business the more others will help you with yours. It’s amazing how your areas of expertise will be exactly what someone needs — and what you need help with someone will be able to offer guidance. The more you give to others on forums and in small business groups, the more that will come back to you in many ways.
What is it about women and shoes?
Most women love shoes because of the the fact that shoe size is not dependent on weight, age, appearance, etc. Regardless of what else changes in a woman’s body she can usually feel good about slipping her feet into a pair of shoes that will fit. This generally makes shoe shopping an enjoyable and fun activity for most women.
When a woman tries on a pair of jeans and they are too tight she berates herself for the extra piece of chocolate decadence she ate the other night for dessert. But If The Shoe Doesn’t Fit, she simply lists it to sell, or swap or buys another one (on a fabulous new auction site for shoe lovers) with no guilt about the caramel pecan pie slice she had at lunch.
What would you tell a 12-year-old “you”?
BE FEARLESS! Too many times I let fear hold me back — fear of failure, fear of looking silly, fear of what others would think or say, fear of who knows what … It doesn’t matter. Just take a risk — go for it! Grab life and have a blast. No one is looking at you — and if they do — then it must be because you are pretty awesome! Oh yeah, and save your money. Skip those patent leather camouflage stilettos. They’ll hurt your feet, and you won’t have anything to wear them with!
Mario Schulzke is the Founder of ideamensch, which he started a decade ago to learn from entrepreneurs and give them a platform for their ideas.