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Jodie Fox: Don’t let expertise get in the way of a good idea

Jodie Fox founder of Shoes of Prey

It has been five years. The small online shoe retailer that began operations in a one-bedroom apartment in Sydney is now a globally celebrated multimillion-dollar fashion brand. Yet its co-founder Jodie Fox clearly remembers every single word in the email that made her catch her breath half a decade ago.

It was the year 2010 and Fox was pitching the revolutionary business idea that was Shoes of Prey to potential suppliers. An email soon arrived from one of them who said she agreed to the terms and looked forward to doing business together. The supplier then went on to generously offer Fox a forecast – Shoes of Prey would be out of business within three months.

Her foreboding was based on Shoes of Prey’s concept of giving customers the creative freedom to design and purchase their own bespoke pair of shoes online, and then have it delivered right to their doorstep. As far as the supplier was concerned it was unconventional and unviable. But what she failed to consider were Fox’s indomitable spirit and wariness in believing everything she’s told even if it’s by a voice of authority.

“It’s bound to happen on your journey especially when you’re doing something disruptive,” Fox said.

That didn’t change the fact that she was facing a tough situation. She had a great team and a great idea but none of them knew how to make a pair of shoes. And here was a person with decades of experience in the industry telling them that Shoes of Prey would fall flat.

“But here’s the thing. When you come to a juncture like this, you need to ask yourself a question. Is that person right or is he or she letting expertise get in the way of a good idea?”

Fox’s answer to that crucial question saw Shoes of Prey breaking even in two months and raking in multi-million dollar revenue within two years. She strode into this year with five global offices, 75 staff and a nomination by Smart Company as one of eight Australian entrepreneurs to watch. Yet Fox carries that dark prediction with her not only because it was way off but also because she is keenly aware of how easily a good idea can be crushed even before it has a chance to test its wings.

“We as adults develop great expertise and this is really important in helping us narrow down all our options so we can make good decisions,” she said. “But sometimes we dismiss things too quickly. The next time you shut down your own or someone else’s idea, take five minutes to ask yourself whether you’re letting your expertise get in the way of a good idea.”

That was one of the first of many entrepreneurial rules to which Fox still holds firm. Here are the rest:

Have a little belief in yourself. You know how to add and subtract. Have that tiny bit of faith that you won’t put yourself in the gutter.

Fail fast. If you have an opportunity to do something and if it’s not going to work, why not find out fast? Put yourself in it and then get hold of the next thing if that doesn’t work because you will find something that does.

Surround yourself with emotional support. It’s lonely when you’re doing something new and you’re the only one who carries the passion for it. You’ll make tough decisions that impact someone else, and your emotional support are the people you go home to who know you’re a good person who made a good business decision. They’ll help you walk into work stronger the next day. This support is of enormous importance.

Make a decision and see what happens. Don’t spend all your time planning. If you have an idea, talk to someone about it. Take that step into making something happen. Do it today.

Believe passionately in what you’re doing because the highs are high and the lows are excruciating. The only thing that will keep you moving is passion and belief. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you shouldn’t have an emotional investment in what you’re doing because they’re wrong.

Never use technology for the sake of using technology. Remember that technology is a tipping point today where all you need to do is decide on the ultimate solution for your customer and find your way there. If you do that, you’ll always have a product that is seamless and truly speaks to the soul of the problem that you’re trying to solve for your target audience.


Image Credit: Shoes of Prey




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