When we think of a womans closet there is one stereotype that seems to live on, women love clothes and they love shoes. While that might not hold true for all women it is safe to saw that there is nothing wrong with a little variety. It is through that love of variety that makes one shoe company, O’Couture, such a big hit among women.

When you might need more than one pair of shoes to match a variety of outfits, O’Couture feels that you should be able to make one pair of shoes work with as much as possible. Using an interchangeable ornament, all you need is one pair of shoes with a few ornaments and they will fit nearly any style of outfit.

Launched by two innovative women, Sebnem Eler Acar and Zehra Balkan Buyukuncu, their business is not only bringing the ballet flat back into style but they’ve completely renovated it.

Tell us a little about O’Couture.

One pair, endless style: That’s O’Couture. Based in Irvine, Calif., O’Couture – whose name pays homage to its Orange County roots – came about not only from the founders’ own entrepreneurial spirit, but also from their desire to make their mark in the fashion world with a stylish shoe line that wouldn’t break the bank for increasingly budget-conscious consumers. Each pair of O-Couture shoes is made with top-quality Italian leather and features interchangeable ornaments that cut down on consumption of natural resources and the release of environmental pollutants by allowing women to do more with less – in other words, buying fewer pairs of shoes without sacrificing style.

What inspired it?

The idea for O’Couture came about from a personal need combined with a passion. As a shoe lover, I have always had a closet packed with pairs and pairs of shoes. Not only was I spending a fortune on shoes, but also I was feeling bad about all the resources that I single handedly seemed to be consuming all in the name of looking good. I basically needed versatile stylish shoes. That need and a passion for entrepreneurship fueled the desire to create O’Couture ballet Flats with interchangeable ornaments. In the fall of 2009, I combined forces with Zehra Balkan Buyukuncu, my fellow fashionista with an MBA, and traveled to Europe to set up the production arrangements. Not only are they great for women on a budget, but they’re also easy on the environment, because women can do much more with less – reducing their carbon footprint, as it were (pun intended), without compromising style. With one pair of shoes and a boxful of ornaments, women can express their own unique style every time they step out the door, and that’s just the way we like it. Hence our motto: one pair, endless style.

How many shoes/styles do you offer?

There are two ballet flats styles: Laguna Ballet Flats and Newport Ballet Flats, which feature elastic back. Currently, the shoes are offered in four colors: Black, brown, ivory and light grey. There are numerous handcrafted ornament styles that are made from tulle, ribbons, crystals, beads, etc that are sourced from all over the world.

What makes them unique?

They are great quality all leather shoes at a much affordable price point than designer brands. Also, the interchangeability feature allows women to do more with less without spending a fortune on a collection of shoes to match their outfits. With O’Couture they buy one pair and can interchange the ornaments any time for any occasion.

Also, as a company who takes social responsibility seriously we made sure the manufacturing facility followed Europe’s strict fair employment and environmental protection standard.

We are a company founded by two women who did not let the fact that they were industry outsiders and had no prior footwear industry experience to stop them from following their dream. We are passionate and ambitious enough to undertake this enormous entrepreneurial journey. In fact, we take women entrepreneurship so seriously that we provide opportunities for women: Our ornaments are handcrafted by women who work from the comfort of their homes so they can earn an income while still caring for their families.

What separates you from the competition?

· Great quality at a much affordable price point

· Interchangeability of ornaments provide for versatility of style

· O’Couture’s social responsibility as explained above.

What are some goals you hope to accomplish over the next year or so?

We would like to build a solid customer base which we already have started by engaging social media. O’Couture now has a worldwide following on Facebook with over 500 fans and growing everyday.

Currently, the ballet flats and the interchangeable ornaments are available online at www.ocouture.us

We are actively looking for retail partners who are willing to carry our product. At the moment, we are looking into engaging with independent local boutiques and small to medium size fashion retailer chains. We believe that exclusive, limited-production interchangeable ornaments will attract a loyal following of customers who will come back for more – keeping the retailers’ client base engaged. Product samples are available upon request for retailers interested in carrying the O’Couture line.

Have you always had an interest in shoe fashion? What lead the two of you to consider this form of business?

My partner Zehra and I have always shared a common love for shoes. As women, we understand fashion and we certainly understand shoes. We started off as industry outsiders. When we decided to pursue our entrepreneurial journey we had no prior industry experience. However, with a true entrepreneurial spirit, we did not let that be a showstopper. We worked and studied hard to learn all there is about shoes and shoe manufacturing. We networked extensively with industry insiders and entrepreneurs and shared their experiences. As we learned more, we became more and more self-confident and continued on with our journey.

What are some lessons that your business has taught you?

· Be courageous, fear always stops me from living up to my true potential.

· My personal network is my most valuable asset.

· Biggest risk is not taking any.

Any tips you’d like to offer fellow entrepreneurs that are just getting started?

Tap your personal network. You will be surprised as to how much you can leverage your connections. Use online networking tools like LinkedIn, which is an invaluable source. You can join related industry groups on LinkedIn to connect with industry insiders who are willing to help you. Post discussion topics on group forums. That will help you connect with experienced professionals.

Also, don’t be afraid. If you believe that you have a great idea, go for it. It is about the journey no matter what the outcome is. Besides, you will never know what opportunities will come your way once you put yourself and your idea out there. It beats regretting not following your dream. Always remember to take risks that you can bear the consequences of negative outcomes.

Be prepared for a slow start. There is no such thing as overnight success. Even if there is, it always happens to someone else’s friend. Trust me, not you.