In the beginning: REB Footwear
Posted on 17 November 2016
Nicole Schöfisch-Rebstock, designer and owner of REB Footwear sits down to tell us about her journey with entrepreneurship and how she built REB.
Q. Have you always wanted to be a shoe designer/entrepreneur?
A. No, in fact it was quite the opposite. I didn’t grow up knowing I would do this my whole life. I have always loved shoes but I think almost every woman would tell you that [laughs].
I went to university and got a conjoint degree in business and law. I didn’t know what I was going to do after I finished. After my second year of law school I thought, I just can’t get up and do this every day. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the degree and got a lot from it but I knew it wasn’t the career path for me. I enjoyed business much more but I couldn't think of a job that really inspired me.
I got really into fashion but as it is for most people, it was just a hobby, not something I thought I could pursue. I didn’t know how I would ever get into a fashion company with my background and I had sworn off ever having my own company because I didn’t believe I had the capability of running it and quite frankly, it terrified me.
Another year passed, by which point I had grown more confident in myself. One morning I woke up and I thought “if someone else can do this, then so can I”. I took out some paper and began sketching women’s shoes. I had never taken an art class in my life but somehow it seemed to work just fine. And from that morning I was determined I would open my own shoe company.
I think a lot of people have this misconception that all designers and the label owners were born on a path of fashion but it’s simply not true. I think that if you want something bad enough, you will make it happen.
Q. How did you begin this whole process?
A. There were two things I did early on that really helped me start the process of building the brand:
Firstly, I decided to get a job at a footwear store because I wanted to learn more about the market and see what women really wanted in a shoe. I got a job at Mi Piaci and worked there for 2 years, taking in all the information I possibly could. I felt really privileged to be part of such an extraordinary company and by the end of my time there I had learnt a lot- not only about the market, but also the product.
The second thing I did was get in contact with one of my childhood friends. She had her own sleepwear label and was full of advice on sourcing good manufacturers, which is really one of the most important aspects of starting a fashion label. She taught me how to approach the sampling process so I could begin finding my own manufacturer.
Q. Did you have many people help you along the way?
A. Yes, I had many people help me, all in different ways. When you start a business, it's impossible to know everything you need to know and you have to become comfortable networking and finding solutions to problems that you don’t fully understand.
It is amazing how many people around you have skills you are unaware of. I think the beauty of starting something like this when you are young is that your peers are often starting on their careers too and are excited to work with you in order to further both of your careers. There is a lot of energy there.
Q. What is it like running your own company at such a young age?
A. Like anything it has it’s ups and downs. Getting to do something like this as your career is a privilege and it is always exciting. Business and fashion are constantly evolving and no two days are the same so from that perspective it is great.
Being your own boss has its benefits but you have to be very disciplined or you get behind. You also get the final say on everything which sounds great at face value but often the decisions are not straight forward and need to be made quickly which can be stressful.
I think one of the most challenging things is finding the right people to help you. You have to accept that you are not an expert at everything. The challenging part is that you often don’t know what the right result looks like, hence you need to find people who do know and this can be incredibly difficult. In this sense, you really need to be a good judge of character and find someone you trust who can really step into the brand and understand its aesthetic.
Q. What are the three most valuable things you have learnt from the whole process?
A. Firstly, believe in your own ability. There were a lot of people along the way that said this was too risky, especially because I was a woman. I could accept that it was risky but I couldn’t accept that it was any riskier because I was a woman and neither should any other woman wanting to pursue entrepreneurship.
There were also people that I thought were my friends who would make unnecessary negative remarks. At some point it became very clear that these remarks were simply out of jealousy and that unfortunately not all of my friends were happy to see me succeed.
Secondly, trust your instincts. Of course it is important to do your research on things but when it comes to doing business with people you don’t know, you really have to rely on your gut feeling. It has never yet let me down.
Thirdly, don’t try to do everything yourself. We all want to achieve great things ourselves but that doesn’t mean you have to battle through everything alone. Often the best outcomes happen when you work hard as a team. I could not have built this label as successfully as I have without the people around me. Nor would it have been anywhere near as rewarding.
Q. What is one piece of advice you would give women wanting to pursue entrepreneurship?
A. Often the barriers to doing things are built in your own head. Push past those barriers and do it anyway.