During her 20 years in the U.S. Army, Natasha Stanford jumped out of airplanes, led and developed multiple teams and was responsible for administrating a multi million dollar contract.
After each deployment to Iraq or Afghanistan, Natasha would to treat herself to a luxury item. Unfortunately, the shoes that she bought may have been stylish, but they were not comfortable. She became determined to find a way to create comfortable shoes of high quality.
This determination led Natasha to enroll in Arsutoria School in Italy, where she trained in the design, pattern making and manufacturing of shoes.
We caught up with Natasha to find out more about the inspiration behind her shoe company, Norie Shoes and her entrepreneurial journey in general.
How did your tenure in the armed forces prepare you for entrepreneurship?
In the military you learn and develop multiple skills and characteristics that and also beneficial in entrepreneurship. Some of these include leadership skills, discipline and tenacity. are among them. Other things I learned during my service were the importance of networking, financial skills and the ability to discern a situation.
What has been the most rewarding thing about your entrepreneurial journey so far? What has been the most challenging?
The most rewarding thing about my journey so far is being acknowledged by some celebrities, musicians, and athletes.
The most challenging is convincing people to believe in me and my vision. People will never believe in you the way you believe in yourself.
How do you select your designs and materials?
Because I am school trained, I follow the very important trend analysis process that is published on a bi-annual basis to the fashion industry. What most designers do not know, is that access to trend information is $25,000 a year. That is technically a barrier to entry, because most designers cannot afford that expense.
This barrier allows a small designer like myself, to be in trend so that buyers will take notice and give my brand a chance because my style is similar to the larger designers they are used to supporting.
Where do you see the business in 5 years?
In five years, I plan on opening stores around the world (including an airport), and in two large retail stores.
I also see my company selling ten thousand pairs of shoes per year and becoming a household shoe brand name that is popular with celebrity designers and stylists. I would like my brand mentioned in a rap or R&B song.
In addition to all that, I will give back to the community by providing free shoes + backpacks to school age girls. My team is working on it, we don’t have the details yet.
What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs?
My advice is to go for it and buy the best website, consultant and advisor for the lowest price. For example, I spent $6,000 on a website and after it was built, the developer tried to charge me even more for something simple. I fired him and started using Shopify.
-Tony O. Lawson