Welcome to the Founder Feature Series for 2019, where we chat with the founders of the 7th Cohort of The Mentor Network to learn more about them as individuals, as well as their entrepreneurial journeys. They have great wisdom and experience to share with the rest of the community and could likely use your help as well!
Today, we would like to introduce you to Zoey Chamberlain, Founder and Designer of Zoey Simone. Zoey Simone is a vegan shoe brand for the conscientious and stylish individual. Created with the conviction that cruelty-free footwear can also be a leader in contemporary design, Zoey Simone brings a modern point-of-view to ethical fashion.
Besides being accepted into Cohort 7 of The Mentor Network, Zoey is a LaunchU graduate through the Women’s Business Center, the brand has earned the certification of PETA Approved Vegan, and Zoey is currently an E-Scholars student through UMKC!
What did you do before you were the Founder of your startup?
I received a degree in Fashion Design from the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City. After college, I moved back to my hometown, Kansas City. Once back, I got a job on the womenswear design team of a local fashion brand. My focus was in technical design of imported goods. This really helped familiarize me with overseas manufacturing, which is so important to what I’m doing now!
Why this startup? A.k.a. what is your ‘why’?
My entire life, I have felt deep compassion towards animals. As I was starting my first job in the fashion industry, I was also making the switch from lifelong vegetarian to full-blown vegan. I was so disheartened by the lack of well-designed fashion that met my moral standards, shoes being my biggest struggle. Quickly, I realized the opportunity to create a compassionate brand that focused on luxurious and relevant designs.
What was your first milestone/win that let you know you were on the right track to building this business?
The first moment of reassurance I received came during my initial trip to Portugal to visit my sourcing agent and factory partner. Both have years of experience working with established designer brands and quite honestly, I felt a little out of my league! They each told me so genuinely how they believed in my project and how thankful they were to be working with me. That was such an encouraging and inspiring moment.
Why did The Mentor Network stand out to you as a positive program to be involved with?
With my young age comes a definite lack of experience; I am well aware of that! I love the opportunity to gain insight from more experienced professionals. It is also so valuable to have someone on your side, willing to connect you to other professionals – like through The Mentor Network.
What have your big wins been so far within The Mentor Network?
Marketing is one of my biggest obstacles at the moment. My mentor, Todd Fitzpatrick, has been so helpful in connecting me to industry professionals that I don’t feel like I would have connected with otherwise. I am finally starting to feel like I can soon bring my marketing up to par with my intentions.
How do you maintain sanity in this crazy, insane startup world?
Am I sane? I don’t really know! One thing I have recently noticed is how impactful a solid 8 hours of sleep can be. Ample rest equals ample productivity!
KC has so many resources and people to help entrepreneurs. What are we still missing? What gaps do you think we need to fill?
I could really use some tech Q&A sessions! Not a class, but just an opportunity for us entrepreneurs who are not so tech-savvy to get help with real-time problems we’re having on Shopify, Squarespace, Facebook Ads Manager, etc..
Regarding the KC startup ecosystem, what has been your favorite service/resource that you would like to share with other founders to take advantage of?
This is not specific to startups, but I greatly value library study rooms. Both Johnson County and Kansas City Public Libraries allow you to reserve a free room for a few hours every day! Sometimes I need a break from my home office to really focus on a project or make a video call without my cat in the frame, and I am so thankful to have these rooms available to me.
If you could go back to the day you started this journey and give yourself one piece of advice what would it be?
Goodness, I do not yet feel wise enough to be giving out advice, even to myself!
I would though like to give myself a high-five for starting. Every entrepreneur should take a moment and recognize how much courage it took to start.