When babies begin to stand on their own and walk their parents can’t help but feel a little excited or even anxious. It is not only an important milestone in their child’s development, it also means the time has come to find that perfect pair of shoes that they can comfortably walk in.
Chalese, Jenny, and Maia were three moms who suffered from that very same problem. As their children began to walk they knew that they’d need to start shopping around. After a long local and internet search, they were simply left with much to be desired. Rather than give up, Chalese and Jenny decided to tackle the problem head on. In 2007 they were finally able to launch their own one-stop online shoe shop for kids, TinySoles, which offers the superior products and service they were looking for themselves.
Tell us a little about TinySoles.
TinySoles is a shoe store dedicated to providing the most complete selection of stylish, comfortable shoes for babies, infants, toddlers and kids. We specialize in age appropriate footwear and offer the best collection of flexible, soft sole shoes for little feet. TinySoles was started by three mothers on a SOLE search for quality, development appropriate footwear for our infants. Unable to find anything suitable in our local area and frustrated with talking to “customer specialists” with no real life experience with their products, we decided to bridge the gap and created TinySoles.
We personally test all of our shoe brands on our own kids first and if we don’t love them, we won’t sell them. Not only do we care about what you put on your child’s feet, we want to provide you with a hassle-free shopping experience with superior customer service. As parents, we know your time is precious. Our goal is to keep your children’s feet happy, comfortable and stylish while making shopping a pleasurable experience. We aim to be your one-stop shoe source for baby, infant, toddler and kid shoes. We are constantly searching for the best new products available to provide our customers with the greatest selection of quality footwear. Our store prides itself on being a mother-friendly and supportive workplace. When you call to speak with one of our knowledgeable staff, you might hear the happy sound of tiny voices in the background.
What inspired the three of you to launch your business?
Having children of our own we were really concerned with the lack of age appropriate footwear available in our area. After reading numerous accounts about the importance of starting children off on the “Right Foot”, we were disappointed in the way that no one seemed to tackle the job of giving parents options that were all pre-tested for their children. In our perfect store there would be no footwear available that were not appropriate for optimum foot health and development and there would be plenty of styles to choose from. We could not seem to find that store so we created TinySoles. We wanted real customer service oriented to busy Parents, Grandparents and of course friends with a shoe fetish. We make sure our children try out all the brands that we are constantly on the look out for and the ones that are suggested to us by other parents and customers before we will sell them. We also make sure our customers are getting the best value with our low prices and free same day shipping on orders over $20.00.
So basically our aim was to create exactly the kind of store we would want to shop at.
We offer about 2,000 different products if you are including all the styles.
Some of the top customer picks are:
For the Infant, baby shoe soft sole category:
- Robeez Originals for newborns to early walkers
- pedipeds Originals are a must for crawlers to early walkers, there are so many styles that we have many parents addicted to them and have to have multiple pairs.
- Rileyroos, Smaller by See Kai Run and Umi also do really popular soft soled shoes that have added rubber patches to the sole for better traction.
For the early to confident walkers:
- See Kai Run is a really popular choice, they are a great Northwest Company with a very urban feel to their designs. We love them because they are built perfectly with a growing toddlers foot in mind.
Great picks for outdoor and rough play:
- KEEN is hands down the most durable outdoor shoe and sandal. We have customers looking for the KEEN Newport which is a water sandal that was made famous for adults and now is made for kids, in the middle of December. They have a great selection especially appropriate for kids over 2. They dabble in the infants as well and are noticing that they could build them well for that age.(with some coaxing).
- Teva is also well known and extremely popular for summer water fun.
- Kamik is the must have winter snowboot.
For Fashion in the toddler to kid shoes category the most popular brands are:
- Pedipeds Flex, which is a rubber soled expansion of their soft soled line.
- Umi, which is an extremely well made and detailed line of shoes.
- Eleven, which is the sister company of See Kai Run, with light weight and really comfortable fashion forward designs.
The most sought after Accessories are:
- Country Kids Tights
How has your business evolved since it first launched in 2007?
We started with just a couple of products on a shoestring budget with two of us and our little boys running around, shipping and answering the phones and managing the website. To now the thousands of products we can offer with a lot more help and customer service.
What goals would you like to see TinySoles accomplish in the next 3 to 5 years?
We would like to find a larger warehouse in our area and concentrate on optimizing our sites navigation. We really designed it for ease of use but have found with adding so many products there are few things we need to do to make it easier to search for specific things.
How did each of you first meet? How long did you know each other before that fateful moment when you decided to start a business together?
Chalese and I met when I was 10 and she was 13. We were taking a class together but did not become close friends until 5 years later. We both met Maia through her mother, who is a good friend of my husband, a couple months before we had our babies. She was originally with TinySoles but after a couple months realized she had other obligations. So Chalese and I had known each other 18 years before we started.
What are some of the benefits that come with running a business as a partnership, rather than solo. What is the downside?
Well, you each bring to the table a desire to do certain things. This helps to decide who does what. I do not think we could have or would have wanted to do it on our own. There is just too much work to undertake something so new to either one of you. Neither of us had owned a retail store before or worked retail.
Downside, Everything is personal! You have to really be able to work through things since you are working with your best friend 7 days a week.
As entrepreneurs, how do each of you manage to balance your time between family and business?
Balance, what balance?? Just kidding. We are still working on that one. We have just started sleeping at night instead of working all night.
What are some of the lessons your business has taught you?
That every day there is something new to learn. Having a business is a little like having another child. It is constantly changing and growing.
Do you have any tips that you’d like to offer fellow mompreneurs that are just getting started?
Get good professional advice from accountants and lawyers about business structure and copyrights.
Remember you can always find work to do, but your child is only 2… 3… 4 once. Don’t miss out on that relationship!