What is the story behind your company?
I originally wanted to be a shoe designer making custom, handmade shoes. I took a 5-day class in San Francisco with a London-based accessory school, Prescott and Mackay, to learn how to hand make a pair of women’s pumps. After taking the class, I realized that it wasn’t feasible to hand make custom shoes for women because the materials are extremely difficult to find and sometimes very costly.
Then I met the owner of JGoods, a customization company that hand paints sneakers, at the Collegiate Entrepreneurs Organization National Conference in Chicago in 2008. This sparked my interest and I wanted to know if there were hand painted shoes for women. I looked everywhere and only found a few different options that targeted very specific styles of women.
Since I’ve always painted, I wanted to try painting a pair of women’s pumps. I instantly fell in love and so did all my friends and family. So in 2009, I decided to start Musa by doing custom pairs of shoes and I have now expanded into creating my own line of Musa Signature Looks.
What makes your company unique in its industry?
In the footwear industry, painting on shoes is a fairly new concept. There are quite a few options for men and women that want hand painted sneakers but hand painted women’s dress shoes are scarce. And the few companies that provide hand painted women’s shoes were extremely specific in who they marketed their shoes to. The shoes are pretty specific in the sense that you could only wear them for certain occasions.
I wanted Musa to provide women with the option to wear their shoes for any occasion and with any outfit. They are unique enough to help women stand out from the crowd but not too crazy were they can only wear them for certain occasions.
Future plans for the company?
In the future, I’d love to open a studio space that is half workspace and half showroom where I display my Musa Signature Looks. I’d also like to bring on other artists to provide clients with different perspectives and aesthetics to choose from in the Musa designs.
I’d also like to have extra space in the studio for other independent artist to come in to use. Not all artists can afford their own studio to work in so I’d like to have space available for them to book so they can come in for an hour, two hours, or however long they need. I’d also like to allow them to sell their artwork in the showroom part of the studio as well. I know it can be difficult as you start out and I’d love to be able to help artists of all kinds get their foot in the door.
What was the start-up budget?
My start-up budget was about $8,000. The bulk of that was spent on the actual shoes that I had manufactured for Musa.
Founder’s Name and Age
Mallory Musante, 22
Help Musa Shoes out by answering their questions!
My main challenge is gaining brand recognition in the footwear/fashion industry. It can be a very difficult industry to get into and to gain the trust of customers. People are skeptical of new brands. They are worried that the shoes won’t fit, the paint will come off, the shoes will be uncomfortable and any other concern you may have when purchasing a pair of shoes. I’m working really hard to try to overcome these concerns and to gain their trust as a new brand.
It is also difficult to gain brand recognition because of my limited budget. I have to be extremely selective in my marketing strategies, as all start-ups and companies have to be. I don’t have unlimited funds so I have to thoroughly evaluate which options are the best for Musa. This also means I need to be a little more creative in my marketing approach to get the most bang for my buck.
Another challenge I have is that I am the only person running the company. I don’t have a partner or any employees. I take care of all the operations behind Musa, which can be very time-consuming and at times overwhelming. I do have a great mentor and support from friends and family, but all the operations still fall on my shoulders. Because of my limited budget, I can’t hire anyone to help me at this time. I am able to manage it all right now but I hope to be able to bring on some help in the future.