Shoes are a weakness for women, and TBH we’ve lost count on the number of pairs we own in our closet. From heels to flats, sandals and more, we aren’t ever satisfied. Just in case you’re thinking boys don’t pay heed to their shoes, we’ll inform you that they’re no less when it comes to loving footwear. And it is this shoe obsession of the youth that Sumedha Chaudhry decided to exploit when she started Pebbles. For all of you who aren’t familiar with the brand, Pebbles is an exclusive handcrafted shoe label with a unique take on everything. Right from the design of the shoe to its marketing strategy, this is one label to keep an eye on.
Painting was always a hobby for Sumedha, and the smart businesswoman that she is, she turned this passion of hers into a unique business idea. Starting out by selling her hand-crafted and painted designs in college, Sumedha saw an overwhelming response to her creations and decided it was finally time to do it on a larger scale. Looking into comfort, design and style, the work at Pebbles is not just distinct in its own right but also personalised and creatively motivated.
Personalisation is big today in most creative businesses. From personalised accessories and t-shirts to kurtis and lehengas, the youth know exactly what they want. Sumedha took this in her stride and decided to personalise shoes for her consumers. Whether it is the Batman logo or abstract prints, the brand does it all.
The young entrepreneur is reaching out to all you college-goers with her unconventional brand marketing strategy. And now, Pebbles is also part of Wishberry, India’s most successful crowdfunding platform. Don’t you already want to know more? Ditto! Which is why we spoke to the master-mind of this off-centered brand itself. Read on…
WM: Tell us what got you to start Pebbles. Also, why the name Pebbles?
SC: I designed a pair of shoes for myself and when I went out wearing it, people liked it and asked me where they can get it from. That’s when I realised that this can turn into something huge. So I started providing hand-painted shoes in my MBA college, only to try out the market and I received a good response.
There is no such grand story behind the name ‘Pebbles’. When we decided to start the hand-painted shoes business in college, we started looking out for a good enough name. ‘Pebbles’ made sense somehow as shoes, path, pebbles are all connected. Also, this name is not specifically restricted to shoes, just so expansion won’t be a problem in the future.
WM: Why did you choose shoes as your canvas? Have you ever thought of using other accessories as your canvas?
SC: I was always inclined toward painting and creativity. I thought painting on shoes might be challenging so I started painting a pair for myself. We aim to make Pebbles a unique platform just like the stuff we provide. You won’t find it anywhere! Yes, we would try out other accessories as well but only after making sure that the benchmark is maintained.
WM: What designs do you personally enjoy creating when it comes to shoes?
SC: I love colours. I like to make colourful shoes for two reasons: Firstly, it is fun to make as there are so many colours and there’s a lot to experiment with. Secondly, shoes can add such zing to a normal shirt or a plain dress.
WM: You make shoes from scratch. Give us an insight on the process, everything from sourcing raw material to design inspiration and more.
SC: After a lot of research, we planned to make shoes in-house because we were not ready to compromise on quality. So we decided to acquire the raw material and then our employees handcraft the shoes. Also, this helps us to try out new shapes in shoes.
WM: Who are your consumers. Also what kind of feedback have you received?
SC: This is an interesting fact. Ideally, our consumers are college students and the young generation who have just started working and who like to add a classy, creative touch to their look. But lately, we are getting a good response from middle-aged women as they are having fun matching our unique sneakers with their suits or dresses. Our designs are creative yet subtle so people are not reluctant to try it out.
WM: Do you personalise shoes; and how do you go about it? Also, is there a patent design you can talk about?
SC: Yes, we customise and personalise shoes too. The process starts with knowing what kind of design the person wants, and also their personality. Then, using our expertise, we refine the design and show a blueprint to the customer. Once the blueprint is finalised, we make the pair of shoes and send it across to them. All our designs are unique and made solely by us. There are no patent designs as such but yes, we are in the process of getting design patents as it takes a lot of time to come up with designs with various colours.
WM: Shoe making and painting has now become a popular business. How do manage to stay different from the rest in this design space?
SC: Hand-painted shoes are still unique in their own way, that’s the beauty of creativity. We are making sure that our designs are balanced in terms of creativity and colours. Our shoes are creative, but at the same time they can be carried off and worn every day. Women don’t hesitate to wear our shoes with any outfit and men don’t feel that our shoes are too loud for them either.
WM: Tell us a little about your marketing strategy.
SC: We started Pebbles in college, so we knew we had to keep that part of the venture alive. Therefore, we are building a network in colleges. We hire students as marketing and sales executives in various colleges and they promote and market Pebbles. They enjoy doing this because they get a glimpse of how businesses run, and also receive recognition in their college for doing something different. Then again, the one basic and important motivation is, they get a remuneration of sorts.
WM: Talk to us about associating with Wishberry; how beneficial has it been to your business module?
SC: Wishberry provided us with a platform where we can showcase our work among so many other creative projects. People are getting to know Pebbles through the video, and are understanding our whole process. Crowdfunding always helps a business in pre-orders, marketing, and of course fundraising.
WM: Since yours is a startup, what do you think will work for you when selling to e-commerce websites or retail outlets?
SC: We are starting our own website and are in the process of brand building. We will also be expanding to other e-commerce websites in a few months.
WM: What’s the best part of your working day?
SC: You see, when you are following your passion, the work becomes fun and the whole day is fruitful. I need to manage many things but I still enjoy painting the shoes by myself. I don’t get a chance to do so that often now because we now have trained artists for that. But still, whenever I get a chance, I do paint shoes. I also enjoy working on new designs. Brainstorming on the colours, designs, patterns, and making a shoe out of it is something that gives me satisfaction.
WM: Who do you visualise wearing your shoes?
SC: I want to make designs that can be worn by both teenagers as well as adults. This vision came from the response our customers gave us as we got them from college students and also from the likes of a mother of two.
WM: What are your future plans…
SC: We see Pebbles as a handcrafted platform where artists can experiment with any category and come up with a unique product. We want to make a research lab for artists where they can feel free to experiment with their creativity. Also, we would like to build a huge network in colleges and give back something to society by adding value to the student’s experience and help them understand their interests. In the process, they get a chance to work on designs, branding, marketing campaign, and selling products in their college market. So with Pebbles, they develop a sense of understanding of the business and by the time they sit for interviews, they have already figured out what they want to do.