CHAPTER 2: FROM IDEA TO MARKET
In my last year of NTU, where most of my peers are busy preparing their CV or applying for jobs at banks, the big 4, etc, I was spending most of my time on digital marketing and reading up on shoes.
After 6 months of bumming around, unemployed without a CV (i still do not have a CV), under the pretext of "business planning and research", i bought a ticket to Hoi An, a lovely town in Vietnam where i found out they do artisan handcrafted shoes.
First Journey Alone to Vietnam, Hoi An
With nothing but an idea and a luggage, i decided to begin my journey alone to Hoi An. It is a lovely romantic small town. I would recommend couples to consider that place as a romantic chill getaway.
I distinctly remembered the first shoe shop i entered in Hoi An, it was called Nam's shoe shop.
It was such a vivid memory because i stood outside the shop from a distance for at least 45 mins, exchanging between pacing around and smoking a cigarette due to the nervousness.
The Story of Nam, a sweet lady who runs a small shoe shop in Hoi An
Finally i took a deep breath and entered. I met Nam, herself. She was an exceptionally sweet lady and was fairly interested in my proposal of setting up a Custom Shoe business in Singapore, though it was nothing but an idea.
She taught me how to measure the feet accurately and also showed me the workshop where her shoes are made and the place where she purchased her leather.
Even though we did not work together in the end, it was this experience that cast some light into the process of shoe making for me.
The Story of the First Workshop and the First CustomMade Order
The next place i went was Ho Chi Minh city. I found a family owned workshop that would help me make shoes on a "Made To Order" basis. They too showed me how to measure the feet, and the designs they can make. I learned as best as i could in the short time i was there.
Back in Singapore, i decided to use my amateur website skills that i self-learned in NTU to create the very first CustomMade website. It was called customshoe.info (hey, dont judge, it cost me $15 bucks for the domain)
I got my brother to print color flyers at his office for me as i didn't have a lot of money and i went around Singapore and pasted them at prominent places.
2 weeks later , i got a phone call from someone interested in my shoes. Armed with my measuring tape and a stack of A4 paper, i met him and got his measurements, as best as i could.
Soon enough, more people called me up and i basically traveled around Singapore with my measuring tape and A4 papers. By more people, i actually just meant 6 people.
But hey, one of them is the CEO of Suntec city so i guess that counts as 2?
A Complete Failure
Eagerly, I emailed the workshop the orders and in a few weeks time, i got the very first batch of custom shoe. It was disappointing.
3 of them didn't even fit well and it was very embarrassing. I can't remembered the excuses i made but it was clear how inexperienced i was.
The other 3 was in "alright" condition. I lost like $300 on that first shipment.
After various communication failed (mainly emailing), I figured i had to go back to the workshop again to sort these issues out so off i went! Sadly, to no avail.
All in all, I lost another $2500 in travelling to Vietnam and the cost of more shoes before I realized i severely underestimated the product and it was not as simple as just capturing and putting orders to a workshop.
This workshop is not working. Something has to change.
That was when i bought a 3 month Visa and a one way ticket to Ho Chi Minh city to find a solution to this manufacturing and sizing issue.....
While i didnt realized it then, that one trip allowed me to discover a big solution to CustomMade.
If you enjoy this short bit of my journey, stay tuned for the next part where i threw out my bed, bought a cheap IKEA couch and invited people to my room to check out my shoes.
Also, you might also enjoy these short articles!
The Purpose of the CustomMade Journey
How I got The Idea For CustomMade
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It's been one hell/heaven of a ride building up a shoe brand that aims to simplify and personalize the shoe shopping experience for men. Wouldn't have it any other way.
While i might not be considered mega successful in society's definition, i truly enjoy the sense of fulfillment that i can only get from doing something i love. No such thing as Monday Blues!
I would love to share stories and journeys of other people who went forth and carve their own personal journeys. Be it entrepreneurs, artists, creatives or anyone who is walking his/her own CustomMade journey.
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