“We Needed to Be Naive and Arrogant”
How naivety and arrogance can help build world-changing businesses
Blackbird Ventures host weekly AMAs over on The Sunrise. Tune in Thursdays from 1pm AEST to take part or sign up to be notified via email.
Chris Duell For quite a lot of people early into their startup, there’s a huge push to just “get it out there” and worry about making it pretty later. But given the awards, and the core of your business is quite design related, how much of a priority is design to you and your team in everything related to the company?
Jodie Fox I’m not sure if you saw our site early on but if you did… You can confidently say that we pushed to get it out there and made it pretty later ;)
As we shift to focus on our brand and product (shoes) more, design is taking a much more important role in our business. I think this can only really happen when you shift from survival mode into a place where financially you can take a more long term view of the business.
This is general advice though and really also depends on what you’re selling and why.
Samantha Wong In hindsight, do you think it was a good idea to start Sneaking Duck so early in Shoes of Prey’s journey? Was it a distraction or did you still learn valuable lessons?
Jodie Fox Oh the gift of hindsight. First let me say that I love Sneaking Duck! When we started it we were fairly warned and it became true… That splitting your focus like this doesn’t allow you to build 2 successful businesses. Something has to give. This in itself was a valuable lesson.
Amanda Miller What have been the greatest challenges in building a team and what are your top tips for doing this well?
Jodie Fox Honestly the challenges I have seen are innumerable. From making sure the hires are right not only for the role but also the culture, to ensuring you understand the dynamics you value and want to create at your company… Then putting architecture around it.
The one that is really top of mind for me at the moment is communication — You can provide all the information in the world, but it will not be communicated until you share the information in a way that is digestible to your team. This is super critical in ensuring team unity on vision, which is so important to having people operate seamlessly with one another.
Samantha Wong Your founding team was super strong on tech, branding and operations but none of you had shoe manufacturing experience. Most startups in the beginning of their life have a big blind spot somewhere — what tips do you have for other founders on how to overcome that?
Jodie Fox It’s interesting… I am not sure that we would have started Shoes of Prey if we’d had shoe manufacturing experience. We needed to be naive, determined and a touch arrogant to make this happen. I think that all founders looking to do something totally different (i.e. disrupt) need these qualities in some measure. But, the other thing that we did was a huge amount of research and trying stuff to see what worked. We didn’t just Google it, we travelled and spent significant time on the ground physically learning as much as we could to figure the problem out.
Joel Connolly Starting life as a lawyer and pivoting seems to be a familiar story. If you had your time over would you skip that part of your life or do you think it was a valuable experience?
Jodie Fox Hey Joel, life can take a million possible paths so to say I’d change it would be to throw away where I am today…
What I believe in is living life with your heart first — Do what you love. You’ll have a much better chance at being successful in something you actually like — Whether that’s what you choose to study or a field you choose to work in. And it’s insane to sabotage yourself at the outset by not pursuing what you love because you can bet that there is someone in the world who is doing the thing you love and making a great living from it. There’s no reason you shouldn’t try.
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