“The biggest advice that I can share with other women trying to follow their passion, is to be persistent.” – Mor Koren, founder of M Shoe Design
IOS: You came to the US from Israel at a young age, without any support system of family or friends here – pretty gutsy shoes.
Yes, that story could be a whole interview in itself. The short version is, a business man with strong connections and experience in the music industry saw me sing in a bar in Israel and offered me a record deal if I came to Los Angeles, which I did. But once I got there, I realized he was trying to have me sign my life away literally. So my even gutsier move was when I walked away without knowing anyone in L.A. I had no car, phone, job or any friends – only a few dollars in my pocket.
IOS: Why choose shoes as the medium to express your art? Why not fashion, song, painting?
I do dabble in other forms of art such as music and painting and actually paid my own way through college by singing in pubs and bars in Israel, but I had been feeling an abundance and overflow of ideas for a long time when it comes to my shoe business and that’s how I knew that this is my main passion. I felt there was a void in the market for fashion-forward and fresh shoes that are ready-to-wear and multipurpose.
IOS: What was your educational and career background?
I’ve been a designer my whole life. I’ve always held a pencil in my hand and doodled since I was a little girl. I majored in music in high school, then I studied design for a year in private school and then I studied art and design in college. I’ve designed everything from graphic design to web design and fashion. I’ve worked for Seychelles Footwear, BC Footwear and a subsidiary of Warner Bros as a lead designer.
IOS: Do you consider yourself an artist or a shoe designer first? Tell us why.
Great question. I believe I have to be both in order to succeed. I have to be a designer in order to create shoes that are marketable and also meet safety standards, but I also must be able to bring art skills into my designs so that my collection stands out from other brands. Usually a shoe is either so unique that you can only wear it once or it’s totally boring. This is actually my niche – I take great care in designing styles that are unique so that “my girl” feels she’s getting a fashion-forward and fresh shoe, but at the same time she knows that she can wear M Shoes multiple times in a variety of scenarios. This is what makes a shoe a valuable asset in a girl’s closet.
IOS: What mistakes have you made?
I prefer to think of the trials and errors as learning experiences. One very surprising learning experience was attempting to produce my shoes in the USA, which didn’t go well. This was a huge disappointment to me as my vision was to not go abroad, for patriotic, quality, and green issues.
IOS: What are the challenges you have faced while growing your business?
Starting a new shoe company comes with many challenges. One of the biggest challenges was that no one wants to work with a new face. One time I walked into a supplier’s office, who didn’t even ask me what I was looking for and turned me away as soon as I walked in the door. It was also a huge challenge to find a factory willing to make my samples. It is also hard to sell to retailers who don’t know the brand and a challenge to find reps that are willing to work with you!
Another huge challenge is making sure you can fund the operations, and fund it for long enough, as it takes a very long time to recoup your investment. This is a crucial point where many new designers fail.
IOS: Did you have any mentors or experience in this industry?
They are more along the lines of advisors rather than mentors. And I think it’s important to have different advisors for different aspects of the business.
IOS: What advice would you give to someone considering a similar career in your shoes?
I would say consider well before you go into it. Make sure you know what it takes and then ask yourself if you have what it takes. It’s always harder than you even imagine so you have to be really serious about it, otherwise it’s a shame to start something and not finish it.
Also very important – make sure you have a good support system. It can make or break you. I could never have been able to do this if my husband weren’t as supportive and helpful as he is, especially with a new baby on board. My husband is the first person I turn to when I need a second opinion or any help with business decisions, even sometimes when I design.
IOS: What are you most of proud of today?
In my personal life – having a happy marriage with an amazing and supportive husband and being a mother. I am proud of successfully juggling motherhood and being a business woman.
In my professional life – launching my first collection of my own company, not a small effort let me tell you! I am proud when I hear the outstanding reactions from retailers in the industry.
IOS: Many first-time women entrepreneurs get involved in every area from design to concept of their product given their innate passion and perfectionist gene. What “shoes” do you wear juggling life as a mom and shoe designer?
This is so true, I have worn so many shoes to get my company to the next level. The biggest realization I had is that I now have to be an all-around business woman and not “just” a designer. As a business woman I have to face the many challenges of manufacturing the shoes, maintaining and being on top of quality control. I do all of the accounting, a huge portion of my time and energy is going towards creating sales. I drive all of the PR, I manage all of the trade shows, I take care of all the legal aspects as I have a patent pending and a copyright as well as legal issues that have to do with importing the shoes and more!
IOS: What are the favorite shoes which you like to wear?
I love tall heels, the taller the better. I love the posture it creates when I walk in high heels and I love how the foot, ankle and leg look in it, so feminine and sexy. Yet most importantly, the design has to be amazing.
IOS: Would you say you delegate well? If so, what do you delegate as an entrepreneur?
It’s always so tricky to be objective regarding oneself, but I do think that I delegate well. I feel it’s important for a CEO to be in close touch with all of the core responsibilities that make the company run successfully, but it’s also essential to know how to delegate in order to be successful at the same time. The bigger and more successful you get, the more you have to delegate. In my opinion the trick to delegating is to find people whom you can trust, and they are very few. I am very lucky to have found a couple of people who really believe in me and I feel comfortable delegating to.
IOS: Mor, are you a perfectionist?
What gave it away?! Perfectionism is another double-edged sword that needs to be handled with care.
IOS: How do you find your muse? Your inspiration?
A great variety of sources. My mind is never in “neutral” and I’m always taking mental design notes. I design not just at my desk or computer but even when I’m taking a shower, washing dishes, even when I sleep. I am influenced by nature, art, fashion, media anything which can spark an idea in me, anything from a flower to a part in a car’s engine.
IOS: Describe the kind of woman who would wear your shoes? What does she look like? What is her personality?
The M Shoe Design collection is designed for the self-made, modern woman, who maintains the delicate balance between her femininity and her hard-earned independence. M Shoes are designed for the girl who has a fashion forward and confident spirit: the woman who claims her style and radiates “I M!“. She is independent and proud, yet understated and feminine. Her sense of fashion is influenced by a wide variety of sources mixed with her own flair.
The “M” Girl falls in love when she sees a unique shoe, a new curve, shape and color combination. M Shoes are a perfect fit for her and attract her attention whether she’s passing a store window walking down the street, or browsing online.
The “M” Girl appreciates and looks for quality products and immaculate execution. She likes dressing up, yet she looks chic and timeless. She is sure of herself and her styling choices, yet has nothing to prove. She’s daring and loves to try new things, sometime provocative and flirtatious, yet always sophisticated.
IOS: Tell us about your logo? What do you want it to say about your brand?
I created the M Shoe Design logo with a lot of thought and attention to detail and I have been getting amazing reactions to it. People seem to really connect with the logo and comment on it almost as much as on the shoes themselves! I set out to design a logo that communicates a sophisticated and fashion forward brand. I wanted it to reflect that our brand is more than just about shoes, it’s about a lifestyle, a feeling that our girl has when wearing and walking in our shoes, a sense of self-expression and uniqueness, confidence and femininity. Also I wanted it to represent a high-end quality product.
IOS: What advice would you share with the In Our Shoes women who want to follow a career they are passionate about?
The biggest advice that I can share with other women trying to follow their passion, is to be persistent. Remember that story of the supplier who wouldn’t give me the time of day? Well, when I showed up for the third time at the trade show and walked into his booth again, months afterwards, he finally believed that I was serious and not only was he willing to speak to me but he also introduced me to his boss! This is just one example of many that I had to go through to get to where I am today.
IOS: What would you be doing if you weren’t designing a shoe retail line?
I would have loved to be a full-time mom! This is actually a surprise to me! But as far as other career avenues I would still be a designer, even if a different product. It’s what I love to do. My music and singing has also always been a great passion of mine. I was actually pretty successful with it at the time. Unfortunately it has to take a back seat these days but I’m sure I will go back to it at some point. I really miss it but right now I don’t want to spread myself too thin.
IOS: Choose six words that represent you.
Loyal. Hard working. Perfectionist. Artistic. Ambitious. Fun.
IOS: Share one surprising fact that many would not know about the creation of shoes.
The amount of components that go into a shoe is truly surprising.
IOS: Have you considered partnering with companies which have complementary products in the future? Such as shoe accessories? Foot Care?
I would love to partner with other companies and am actually on the lookout.
IOS: Why did you choose In Our Shoes as the platform for your interview?
I love the concept of sharing our journeys, experiences, lessons, challenges and success as women entrepreneurs and young women professionals. Inspiring other women out there who are out to pursue their passion and make their dreams a reality and to be inspired by them.
IOS: Would you be willing to give away a pair of your shoes to a smart driven woman in our village community?
IOS: How would you like people to stay tuned with M Shoe Design?
Our Facebook page www.facebook.com/MShoeDesign, as it gets updated the most frequently and is linked to our Twitter, Instagram and official website. Also we post sneak peeks and other content that is exclusive.