Haley Pavone – A Charismatic, Problem-Solving Entrepreneur

Date

Summer 2024

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Haley Pavone, recognized by Forbes 30 Under 30, is the Founder and CEO of Pashion Footwear.  She’s an entrepreneur whose innovative vision transformed the fantastical convertible high-heel concept into reality. 

What prompted you to begin writing a business plan for convertible high heels in college?

I can only describe it as one of those light bulb moments people talk about. For years, I struggled with this love-hate relationship for high heels, but at my college spring formal, I looked around the room and it hit me; everyone wore painful and inconvenient heels that we knew we were going to take off. 

In the weeks that followed, I researched the industry, to understand what innovation had happened. There’d been none. As a college business student studying entrepreneurship, I recognized that there was a massive market opportunity for disruption to come in and make a product that helped alleviate these inconveniences and pain points.

How did you develop the technology and design to allow for convertible transformation?

We spent two and a half years researching, developing, engineering, and supply chain sourcing to make this possible. 

The fundamental difference between a flat and a heel is the metal sole support. I wondered if I could create a mechanism where the heel and the sole support could be removed in the same shoe. 

I brought on a team of students, one in industrial technology and another in mechanical engineering. None of us had a background in the footwear industry, which in retrospect, was a strength because we were not confined by the rules of the industry. Whenever I’ve talked to executives from the high heel world, they’re hesitant to accept this concept. They’ll say, “that’s impossible.” But if you want to innovate a space, you have to bring in outside perspectives. There’s a reason why people in that space haven’t gotten there already. True innovation should be rejected by the people in the current industry. 

We did 3D printed prototypes and took those models overseas to our manufacturing partners in Asia. They translated those designs into manufacturable footwear goods. From there, more iterating. The process took about two and a half years to get to a working mass producible product.

You were on Season 12 of Shark Tank. How did it influence your business journey?

There’s a lot of pressure when you’re in there to make a deal happen. Before you go in, set boundaries with yourself of what those hard stops are. For me, a hard stop had been a royalty, which is why I couldn’t accept Kevin O’Leary’s offer. I knew it wasn’t right for the cash flow of the business, especially in inventory-based businesses. 

I have no regrets. I saw an article that said a slot on Shark Tank from an airtime perspective is valued at about $7 million worth of marketing and we got it for free. The biggest challenge we had when launching this business was the fact that no one knew convertible heels existed. Shark Tank really put us on the map in the sense that suddenly overnight, about six or seven million US households had been exposed to the fact that this is a concept. That exposure grew our business 450% in one year.

How can we create a future where beauty isn’t synonymous with suffering?

This issue is central to the Pashion mission and user-centric design. If you’re creating a product but are not the consumer it’s intended for, there will be gaps in that product experience. 

Most of the decision makers in women’s fashion are men that are creating products for women. That’s more a function of the time, as women were not empowered to be in these roles until pathetically recently. 

The burden is placed on female consumers to suffer or numb our feet, bring backup shoes, whatever it may be, to problem solve for the products made for us. It’s a little backwards. 

The concept “beauty is pain” is representative of all of those issues in an industry historically designed for the male gaze rather than designed for the women actually wearing them. 

On the bright side, it’s created an opportunity for female businesspeople and executives to come into the industry and change that. 

What insights do you have for other women looking to start their own business?

I struggled in the early days of my career with self-doubt and imposter syndrome. I was easily swayed by people more experienced than me. What I’ve come to realize is when you’re making something new, no one has experience in it. Even though these people were more senior in their field, they weren’t more senior in the convertible high heel industry because there wasn’t one. At the end of the day, no one is more experienced to run your company than you. It’s your idea for a reason. So run with it.

Jackie Marson | Contributing Writer

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