Back in 2007, Janan Leo had a problem. She was commuting to her full-time job in London from Muswell Hill and running for a bus or the tube in a pair of heels was just impractical. Of course, she could take along a pair of flats to change in to, but this meant carrying an extra bag or stuffing shoes into her work bag which made it bulky – it just wasn’t a convenient solution.
This is what gave her the inspiration to launch Cocorose London.
“I came up with this idea – what if you had a pair of foldable shoes that were really practical for women like myself? Stylish, so you wouldn’t feel frumpy wearing them, but also really comfortable as well,” said Leo.
Leo knew she could tap into the young professional market with her foldable shoes to suit a more modern lifestyle. Her gamble paid off – the business has now celebrated its 11th birthday, and it has been both a rewarding and challenging journey for Leo and her team.
Real Business caught up with Leo to find out more about her business story.
Knowledge is power
Leo had an advantage when she first started Cocorose – her career up until then had been focussed on new product development, predominantly in the food industry.
“It was very much like, well, what’s so different about this?” said Leo.
“It’s creating a new product from concept all the way through to launch. For me, it wasn’t scary in that way, I didn’t feel there was that barrier in terms of how do I start, how do I do this, etc.”
Leo also had a passion for shoes, but she wanted to give herself an air of credibility too, so she enrolled in a course at the London College of Fashion in shoe design, just to get the basic knowledge and know-how of footwear construction.
Products to market
Cocorose London mainly sells its products online, and although it has partnered with some boutiques, it doesn’t have a bricks and mortar store – it operates a very modern business model in that sense.
Unsurprisingly then, it was early on in the business’ lifetime when Leo decided to start selling on Amazon.
“The fact of the matter is, if you’ve got an ecommerce business, Amazon and Google are the best places in terms of where you can put your products,” explained Leo.
“Can you afford not to put your products in front of where your potential customers will be?”
Cocorose also utilises the Fulfilment by Amazon (FBA) service, which takes a lot of the hard logistics work off its shoulders. The business simply ships its stock off to an Amazon warehouse, and the orders are fulfilled by Amazon, as well as customer services being handled in the local language.
Of course, with a shoe brand, inventory can be challenging, as the business is juggling stock of each shoe design in eight different sizes.
“If we had a one size fits all item, like a scarf, I think it would be a lot easier to manage,” said Leo.
Over the next 12 months, Leo plans to continue her focus on ecommerce, while also growing the wholesale side of the businesses as well.
“We do have really lovely boutiques and stockists around the world that are very loyal, and we want to keep working with them and growing,” she said.
“Ultimately, it’s about brand awareness – just wanting to become a better-known brand. We do make amazing shoes that we absolutely love and have a huge passion for. They’re really comfortable…you don’t have to wear heels, you need shoes that you can get stuff done in!”
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