Lessons learnt from a failed custom shoe start-up

Business is Boring is a weekly podcast series presented by The Spinoff in association with Callaghan Innovation. Host Simon Pound speaks with innovators and commentators focused on the future of New Zealand. This week he talks to Jodie Fox, co-founder of Shoes of Prey.

For many years, this week’s podcast guest executed every move from the big start-up scale-up playbook.

She and her co-founders came up with an innovative new idea and worked out how to do something that had never been accomplished before – they created the technology and systems to allow people to customise shoes in pretty much any way imaginable, and have a one of a kind shoe made and sent to you within two weeks.

They were profitable from very early on having found a customer that loved the ability to make their dream shoe. They then attracted top tier investors and partnered with some of the world’s top retailers like Nordstrom to grow from a niche product to mass market.

They followed every sensible step: customer research, pilots, and testing. They built the infrastructure to make the leap to mass-market, attracting AU$35 million of funding, winning awards. and making something completely new happen.

Then, it didn’t happen. Maybe they offered too much choice or maybe it was too new to understand; whatever the reason, the mass market visited and didn’t buy. They tried to pivot, but couldn’t make the economies of scale work and decided to pull the plug.

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This week is a different kind of chat. This week, the chat is about when “success” means closing, when to listen to the signs, and other hard-learned lessons.

Our guest, co-founder of Shoes of Prey Jodie Fox, is with us at the link below to talk about her journey and a new book that shares her story, Reboot: Probably More Than You Ever Wanted to Know about Starting a Global Business.

Either download this episode (right click and save)have a listen below or via Spotify, subscribe through iTunes (RSS feed).


Environmental Innovation is the focus for this year’s C-Prize challenge – Callaghan Innovation is asking innovators to develop tech solutions with the power to change environmental outcomes. Business advice, mentoring and R&D expertise will support finalists to turn their concepts into reality. Follow the C-Prize journey.


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