Movie lovers may be familiar with a particular scene in many films: A character wears stiletto shoes on a rough surface and, predictably, the heel breaks when she walks over a crack or sinks into mud.
Though comical in film, the situation is a reality for both casual and dedicated heel wearers when their shoes undergo even the slightest wear and tear.
Creating the product, building the brand and testing out revenue models has been five years in the making for founders Heather Bridgers and Debra Perry, but they say the hard work has paid off. Orders to date have reached about 90,000, and the Stampede promises help achieving more growth.
The pair launched the company after bonding over their love of high heels and frustration over broken ones. Bridgers is a local litigation attorney and Perry works as a software exec.
When they couldn’t find a solution to the problem, they started working on an invisible adhesive that is easily attached to the heels of shoes to protect from damage and ensure sturdiness, all without anyone noticing.
The transparent, tape-like adhesive looks like an iPhone screen protector, but has different properties.
Bridgers calls the adhesive (which is patented by Just for KiiX) the “secret sauce” of the brand, keeping the heel intact while preventing damage. The intuitive design makes it easy for folks to peel it on and off.
When they first thought up the product and considered how to make it, the women approached some people in the North Carolina State University’s Department of Textiles, who provided the feedback and mentorship they needed to assure Just for KiiX’s viability.
They then found a manufacturer in Durham and a packager in Raleigh.
The founders initially pitched the product to shoe lines and designers, hoping to land a commercialization deal. They also trained associates at department stores on how to explain and sell the product to their customers.
While training sales people at a local Nordstrom one day, Bridgers came across famous actress and “high heel fashion icon” Sarah Jessica Partner, who was visiting to promote her brand. She took to the idea quickly, and was sent home with her own pair of Just for KiiX.
But even though the solution attracted Parker and other high heel wearers, Perry and Bridgers quickly discovered that their sales strategy wasn’t working. Retail associates didn’t have time to explain the product to their customers, limiting sales opportunities.
They had to figure out a different way to tell the story of KiiX and compel women to buy a product they don’t know even exists.
E-commerce has been the biggest bet so far—there were 30,000 orders in 2016 through the Just for KiiX website and others, like Amazon and Nordstrom. KiiX cost $9.99 for two pairs.
The startup’s rising revenue from online sales could be explained by market research indicating a new trend for footwear shoppers. Industry analyst Beth Goldstein noted at a panel event in 2015 that 23 percent of online sales in the U.S. come from footwear. The largest online shoe retailer is Amazon, behind other top leaders Nordstrom, Zappos, eBay and Nike.
Just for KiiX has also seen a climb in orders from outside the U.S., spanning Italy, Canada, Mexico, Spain and the United Kingdom. This confirmed the founders’ suspicion that the problem extends to all heel wearers.
But much more awareness is needed to make KiiX a recognized brand. First, women need to realize there is a solution to their problem. That’s where their new spot in Startup Stampede will come in handy.
Bridgers and Perry believe Startup Stampede will be key to helping them create a new market and educate customers about their product. Their goal is to expand their digital footprint through social media campaigns that show the purpose of the protectors.
They also hope to create products to protect other areas of high heeled shoes, like the toe and base, as well as other types of shoes worn by both men and women.
Perry says the main goal is to get the word out “so people understand there’s a product out there to save their heels.”
The two women are proud of how hard they’ve worked, especially while having full-time day jobs. They boast national media coverage in magazines like Real Simple, Glamour and People StyleWatch.
These contribute to the startup’s “bits and pieces of success” so far, says Perry.
The founders believe Startup Stampede will help push the product forward, providing the mentorship and digital strategies they need to turn those bits into chunks and piles.