Shaherazad Umbreen – Founder of Shoes by Shaherazad

Trust the experts and let people do what they’re good at.

Shaherazad Umbreen is a business woman and social entrepreneur who runs Shoes by Shaherazad. She has created the world’s first #18hourheels which are a range of luxury shoes and shoellery. Through her business, she empowers women worldwide in a philanthropic partnership with GlobalGiving UK. She is based in the UK and has a business background in Customer Experience, Operations and Marketing. Shaherazad’s life ambitions are to make the world a happier place through the empowerment of women and girls and the alleviation of poverty; all whilst wearing her 18 hour heels.

Where did the idea for Shoes by Shaherazad come from?

I’ve worked in lots of different business roles all my life. I love business, I love shoes and I love empowering women, so I thought, why not find a way to combine all three things. And that’s how the idea for shoes which empower women came about. I now run where every pair of shoes sold contributes to supporting the education of a woman or girl living in poverty. I believe that we do not need miracles to change the world, we only need each other.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

For me, a typical day involves sketching new designs, working with my factory on production, following the stories of the women my shoes have empowered, talking to customers via social media and analysing web trends. My biggest and most enjoyable task though is working closely with my team to make sure they have the skills and tools they need to make our customers smile.

How do you bring ideas to life?

For me, the key to any idea is imagination. I’m never afraid of ideas which pop into my head. If you can see an idea in your mind’s eye, then you can see it through to fruition in reality. I spend a lot of time thinking through my ideas and finding as many ways as possible to make then even more exciting. I also make sure that my ideas are relevant and talk to lots of women about my thoughts before bringing new shoe designs to life.

What’s one trend that really excites you?

It has to be sustainable fashion. It’s great to see so many inventive designers finding ways to make fashion long lasting so that we can combat the “throwaway fashion” culture. It’s so important for our world and our collective future that we look after our planet … whilst still looking beautifully fashionable.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

I always take a rest when I need it. Being an entrepreneur is hard work and I have worked many excruciatingly long days. However, I always listen to my body and reward myself with a well earned rest to make sure that I’m ready to tackle each day feeling my best. Sleep also allows the mind to work on new ideas, and it’s ideas that fuel entrepreneurialism so it’s essential to rest!

What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?

My first job was in a store which sold novelty products such as “food you can eat in space”. I learned that it’s important to sell product that customers want and need; in this particular shop there wasn’t much demand (if any!) for space food.

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

I had my idea for a shoe business many years ago; if I were to start again I would have started my shoe journey earlier. It’s just about having faith in yourself and your ideas.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Trust the experts and let people do what they’re good at. My business requires expertise in web development, social media, product development, quality control and many other things. Relying on the experts means I can focus on running the business as a whole and ensures that I don’t spend unnecessary time on details which I can rely on others for.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.

For me, it’s all about finding the right export markets given the saturation of the footwear market in the UK. I have strong UK sales but I have also found that my product is very popular in many other countries. With the support of UKTI I secured a place on the “passport to export programme” which is helping me to sell overseas in ways which I could never have done alone. UKTI have been great.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

Fear of my idea failing which means it took me a long time to decide to press “go” on my business. I overcame the fear by realising that not everyone will like my ideas, but as long as enough people do, there is room for new businesses like mine.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

A drive through fish and chip shop! I would be great to be able to buy my favourite British food quickly and easily after a long, hard day at work.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

My gym membership. It’s so important to keep fit and healthy and not use work as an excuse not to work out. A little bit of exercise and often is what I’m aiming for.

What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?

I use Shopify, Google Apps and Hootsuite. I love that they’re so easy to use and they help me to schedule my work over the week. They are like a digital personal assistant! Shopify in particular offers a great platform for new businesses.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

A Path Appears” by Nicholas Kristoff and Sheryl Wudunn. It’s a book about transforming lives and creating opportunity through social enterprise. I believe that every business should have a social conscience and this book shows us how this can be possible. It’s full of rich and riveting true stories.

What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?

Karren Brady, Government Business Ambassador, @karren_brady
Queen Rania Al Abdullah of Jordan, @QueenRania
Deborah Rodriguez, Author and Women’s advocate, @debb_rod


Twitter: @18hourheels
Instagram: @18hourheels
Pinterest: ShoesbyShaherazad
Facebook: ShoesbyShaherazad
LinkedIn: Shaherazad Umbreen