These Founders Introduced A Women-Focused Platform To The Multibillion-Dollar Sneaker Market, Here’s How
Women’s sneakers have become a highly profitable business, outpacing the men’s and kids’ segments, with increased sales in recent years by 37%. As women swap their stilettos for something flat and comfortable, sales of high heels have dropped 11 percent. This upward trend for women’s sneakers is largely fuelled by the current state of our culture – the use of technologies such as Fitbit that encourages daily active movement, the shift in workplace standards as more employees work remotely and offices now largely embrace casual dress code as well as the popularity of streetwear culture.
Expected to reach $95.14 billion by 2025, sneakers are more profitable than ever, with women’s sneakers comprising over 40% of these sales. However, despite representing nearly half of the multibillion-dollar industry, few e-commerce sites cater to the unique needs and user experience that female consumers require.
A new sneaker e-commerce platform designed by and for women, Common Ace is utilizing intelligent design to disrupt the online marketplace for the demographic they understand best. The site is a solution to the excessive amount of time spent searching the internet to source sneakers from individual e-commerce sites due to the limited variety of options currently available to women. With a more targeted approach to the usual model of online shopping, the newly launched platform is a curated marketplace connecting retailers and consumers through content and commerce. For Founders, Romy Samuel and Sophia Chang, Common Ace is an online destination where a woman’s user experience is considered first.
While there are other sneaker platforms on the market, where Common Ace differs is its design as a one stop shop. A typical user experience when browsing many e-commerce sites is to have a ton of tabs open or scrolling endlessly to find what is needed. These websites, as Chang describes “They are either really nice and fancy with a great UI, but not the best selection of sneakers or those that have amazing releases but not a user friendly experience with ads blocking.”
An avid art, design and streetwear community leader/advisor worldwide, Chang most notably designed her own collection with Puma. For her, the idea for Common Ace was simply to solve the frustrations she was all too familiar with, “I was tired of being on female streetwear sneaker panels and talking about the problems instead of actively resolving it,” she says. Samuel is a sneaker collector with strong ties to the global streetwear community and currently works for a top sneaker retailer. Common Ace is about bringing something fresh to the intersection of technology and streetwear. She describes, “Technology and street are already merging on so many levels. You’re seeing it through design and socially, you’re seeing it through the art itself that’s being made and curated. It’s definitely happening in the world of streetwear. And it’s exciting. What I foresee is that it’s just going to get bigger and things are just going to get even more digitally oriented.”
Here Chang and Samuel share advice for new founders hoping to follow in their footsteps and how to launch a business in uncertain times.
Lean into your history
Business ideas are often born from the experiences closest to you. For both founders, thinking back to their formative years and leaning into their earliest influences have helped shape the culture and vision of Common Ace. Growing up in Queens, Chang was inspired by the diversity of the world outside her doorstep. “In elementary school, there were kids of all colors and all backgrounds, bringing all sorts of interesting foods from home for lunch and then going to visit my friends’ homes was always an experience,” she says, “It’s really shaped my approach to how I work. I’ve always been very adamant about being able to connect dots and having the ability to use creativity, art and design to shape a more diverse and more inclusive future in all of the projects that I work on.”
Samuel, who was born in Melbourne, Australia, learned the art of entrepreneurship from her father. “He was probably one of the biggest menswear suppliers or men’s shirt supplies in Australia in the 70s to the 90s. So I was surrounded by fashion and manufacturing my whole life,” she recalls, “He would buy me the latest sneakers that he would find on his business trips to Asia and India and Europe.”
Know Thy Customer
The voice of women consumers is more prominent than ever. With a variety of plus-sized fashions to choose from and the emergence of makeup brands offering a wider range of shades, businesses are beginning to understand the ROI of delivering exactly what their consumers ask for. “I’m sure all women do this where we can’t figure out what color we want, so we buy two or more. Maybe we’ll return it or we don’t end up returning it and then we try to sell it online. It’s just an endless cycle when it comes to the psyche of the female consumer,” Chang says, “I think it’s time to celebrate that and honor that and make sure that we’re creating a platform that really speaks to that type of user.”
Fund Your Own Vision
A big part of how the founders brought their vision to life is bringing deep industry insights to the table. Samuel worked in tech, the “Silicon Valley” of the Middle East for years, while Chang’s expertise in the marketing and advertising space helped her collect usable skills over the years. This knowledge source helps them make decisions in regards to user interface, user design, what people respond to and the psychology between online retail and consumers.
Using less than $10 thousand in startup capital to build the platform, their most valuable investment has been leveraging the network they’ve built up over the years. “We’ve had so many amazing friends that have been willing to step forward. We’ve had former Nike folks and people who are prominent in the financial capital raising space,” Chang says, “And it’s been just so heartwarming and reassuring to know that people are willing to do this work pro bono and just be a part of this movement because it’s a breath of fresh air; especially now during quarantine where everything is so up in the air.”
Stay the Course
During difficult times, it can feel like the right thing to do to press pause but for Samuel and Chang they chose to march forward into launching Common Ace during the Covid-19 pandemic. “There’s never been a better time to launch a digital product in this day and age. The market’s always notoriously known to bounce back after any sort of downturn. And what better time to introduce a new medium, something exciting, something fresh, literally fresh air for the industry and to go full steam at it,” Samuel declares.
Photo Source: Common Ace