Four Winning Ways to Stay on Solid Ground During Tough Times

Chandra Palmer pursued her passion for fashion with the launch of Los Angeles-based Artyce Custom Footwear in 2004. From sizes 5 through 13 and in narrow to wide widths, the company sells personalized flats, boots, sandals, pumps, and platforms in silk, satin, leather, and exotic skins including stingray and python in 25 shoe styles, 55 colors and patterns, and 62 types of material and decorative selections that includes feathers and Swarovski crystals. In 2008, Artyce Footwear grossed $400,000 despite the economic recession and projects revenues of $700,000 for 2009.

Here are Palmer’s tips for navigating tough times:

Be an original. “Every market has taken a hit because of the recession. This is why you don’t follow the normal path. I created a footwear collection and business that was based on a concept (build your own shoes) not just a product. The last year and a half has been our most successful time ever because we never followed the path of what everyone else is doing.”

Learn by doing. Instead of paying $35,000 for fashion school, Palmer decided to shape her own education by tackling entry-level jobs in fashion manufacturing and sales, attending trade shows, peppering industry players with questions, and keeping a close watch on footwear trends.

Tell your story. “We never hired a publicist because who knows our products better than we do?” she says. “Our goal is to be the No. 1 provider of custom bridal footwear in the world.  We have been clear on our direction.”  And it has paid off. Last year, Palmer was a B.E. Next Award nominee at the Black Enterprise Small Business Awards.

Give back. The company selects three girls from local high school entrepreneurship programs and lets them and ten friends design their own prom shoes. “I work with and talk to the girls about opening their own businesses,” she says. “They have the shoe and the experience and it teaches them about something they may want to go into when they go to college.”

For more information on Artyce Custom Footwear, check out the October 2009 issue of Black Enterprise.