Flip-Flops, Sandals, Heels: Oh, My!

Friday, April 30, 2010; 12:00 AM

Imagine this: you, working from home, designing and making great shoes, and making money. Think this is just a pipe dream, the stuff of novels?

It's actually a reality for several home-based shoe manufacturers.

The key to creating a successful home-based shoe manufacturing business is to manufacture your shoes outside of the home. The rest--including the design and marketing--you can definitely do from home. How? Read on.

Get EducatedWhile shoes may be your passion, you'll still need to run a business. There are industry trade publications, such as WSA Today and Footwear News, that will provide resources and help get you up to speed. They also offer information on industry trade shows, where you can learn more about the business of shoes.

And even if you don't want to manufacture the shoes yourself, consider taking a shoe-making class, to learn more about the process of shoe-making.

"By learning how to make shoes, you'll learn the ways to save money on shoe production, as well as materials you need to use to keep the quality high," says Sissy Puccio, a certified pedorthist (someone trained in the design, fit and function of shoes) and president of International Shoemaking Designin Cleveland, which offers shoe-making and design classes, manufacturing and consultations.

In addition to International Shoemaking Design, other places that offer shoe-making and design classes include the Shoe Collegein Jerome, Ariz., and the Jewish Community Center in Manhattan. In fact, Emily Putterman Handler's shoe-making courses at the Manhattan JCC are so popular that she will soon be taking her classes on the road to different cities, through her new business, The Cobblettes.

Kristina Kozaklearned how to make shoes by attending Putterman Handler's classes. The creator of an eponymous shoe line spent weekends in New York City in 2005 and 2006, learning design and shoe-making, and going home to Pembroke, Mass., during the week to create shoes.

Decide What Kind of Shoes You Want to MakeMany home-based shoe companies offer niche footwear. That includes Lizzie Lou Shoesof San Antonio, launched in 2009 by founder and president Sheena Edwards.

"I was a stay-at-home mom, but I was always looking for something 'extra' to do. When my cousin in India told me that she could help me produce a new product, I started thinking about different items needed on the market. Being from Texas, I wear flip-flops almost year-round. As a mother of three, I am constantly chasing a kid or running out the door, and sometimes fashion is not my priority. So the idea of creating beautiful, fun flip-flops that would be comfortable but still look great seemed the perfect fit for me."

Edwards' crystal-embellished women's flip-flops retail for $99 and up. They're known for their comfort, as well as beautiful designs. "I'm not a designer by trade, but I am continually inspired by design. Some of our shoe designs came about from admiring details on a great T-shirt or a special kind of beading," Edwards says.

Kozak decided to make funky women's heels that could be dressed up or down. "I wanted to create shoes that were investments, handmade and beautiful," notes Kozak of her shoes, which start at $275. She goes to New York City at least once a month and spends time in the leather district. The leathers, she says, often inspire her designs.

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