I met Heather a few years ago when we first launched our line—we were both at a selling event at PlayArts for their holiday market. I was so taken with her children’s shoes and couldn’t believe that she actually handcrafted them! Years later when we opened our showroom in Philadelphia, she attended our opening party and we made plans to meet up and talk about her shoe line, Rooted Soles. I was so excited to get to know her better, hear about her career and life as a working mom, and see inside her beautiful studio. She’s an inspiring solo-preneur balancing motherhood and ethical manufacturing here in Philadelphia. Read more about her path below.
Can you tell us about your line of shoes and accessories?
I have a small line of shoes and accessories ethically made here in Philadelphia. We focus on timeless, simple styles that are made with really lovely high-end, European leather. Everything is made to order and the customer can customize everything from the leathers to the stitching, to the finishing of the leather soles.
You recently re-branded, how did you come up with the name?
I really paired down our original name to the intention behind it, which was the connection to where we come from, our "roots" and how that ties in the relationships we've made along the way. I feel really strongly about bringing objects into our lives in a meaningful way and having a connection to the people behind those objects. I think our connections with others and the world around us is what makes our human experience worthwhile.
You mentioned you studied photography originally, how did you get started with footwear?
In undergrad I studied photography and theater, more specifically set design. I like creating a space and an experience for others. I try to do that with my footwear business as well—striving to create that neighborhood, personable feel through an online shopping experience.
Restraint and keeping true to my original goal of well-made basics. As a small business with zero seed money, I can't afford to launch several styles at once. My plan has been to launch one style and be really good at making that one style. My ultimate goal would be to offer 5 shoe styles in a range of leather and plant-based fibers and textiles. I actually have these styles sketched out and will hopefully launch them one by one, starting this fall with a sneaker design. (Fingers crossed). I think a big part of buying consciously is that we don't need a million different shoes in our closets. We need a few, versatile and well-made pieces that will last.
I used to take such pride in saying I was self-taught. When I launched the company I made only children's shoes. A soft-soled baby bootie in a desert boot style and a flexible soled desert boot that had a super soft construction. They were essentially like little slippers with a sturdy natural rubber sole. But when I launched the adult version of the boot I knew I would need back up. You can really mess up someone’s body if you don’t know what you’re doing. I've had several mentors and professionals that I've worked with throughout my career. I'm very fortunate to be currently studying under the world-renowned shoemaker, Marcell Mrsan, who lives in Savannah. I'm excited for the caliber of shoe I will be able to produce from learning from him.
The sandal workshops are so much fun and have been really popular! We've had people travel from Baltimore and New York to attend, it's really exciting. We also held our first pop-up workshop, traveling to Virginia Beach to teach. There is such a unique sense of pride and accomplishment when making something functional. I love seeing that on people faces as they try on their newly made sandals. Whats' awesome is that you don't need any experience. I've really broken down the steps so that it is so easy. Check our website www.rootedsoles.com to find out when our next workshop is!
You sell direct-to-customer through your website and pop-ups, what made you decide to skip the traditional wholesale model?
Part of my mission is to make slow fashion as accessible as possible, which isn't easy because it is so expensive to produce in the US. My prices would be at least double what they are now if I went the wholesale route. It does put me at a slight disadvantage though because people often want to try on shoes. Luckily I schedule several pop ups throughout the year, as well as a few well-picked artisan fairs. We are excited to be a part of Field & Supply in Kingston, NY this fall.
As a solo-entrepreneur how do you stay focused and organized?
I would say time management is my biggest struggle. I wear all the hats so it's extremely important for me to plan my time down to the minute. At the beginning of the week I plan out each day, and I make sure to only add a realistic amount of work. Trying to take on too much leaves you feeling like you failed each day because you didn't get it done. I love crossing things off my list and feeling accomplished at the end of the day.
Heather wears the Kamala Cross Front Dress in Jaipur Blush
What’s the hardest lesson you’ve learned in your years of being in business?
Learning to admit when your idea isn't working and being able to pivot and shift to something that does work.
How do you continue to develop your skills over time?
I never stop pushing myself to learn new things. Sometimes it's not even something in my line of work, but it keeps that part of my brain sharp. I take classes as often as I am able to.
What is your definition of success?
To have a positive impact on the world while doing something that makes you feel happy and proud.
Favorite style of shoe?
I love a good boot. They are super functional and are more versatile than people give them credit for. I love the edge they can give a flowy dress and they're super cute with jeans.
Do you have a favorite article of clothing?
Duh, my Voloshin dress! It's so feminine and perfect for the summer heat. I also have a vintage shift that is the color of orange sherbet that I adore.
What is your favorite way to spend time with your family?
Doing anything outside! I love taking them to the Wissahickon because we feel a million miles from the city, like we've entered some storybook forest.
Do you have any events coming up?
We will be part of the Field + Supply Modern Makers Craft Fair on October 11th in Kingston, NY!
Heather wears the Hanima in Sky Blue Dip Dye