It’s a thrill today to introduce you to an incredible woman who is well on her way to disrupting the shoe industry. I became acquainted with Kara Mac, the creator of ShoeCandy by Kara Mac, via a Facebook Group that we’re both members of. Her company’s mission meshed so well with Natty Gal’s philosophy of living a simple, stylish and satisfying life that I reached out to her to learn more about her background and to see if she’d agree to an interview. She graciously accepted. Come meet this inspiring “Woman to Watch” in today’s post!
About Kara Mac
A native New Yorker, Kara is a veteran of the fashion industry. From her schooling at FIT she went on to specialize in knitwear for notable companies like Talbot’s and Ralph Lauren. With young children at home, Kara made up her mind to leave Manhattan life after 9/11. Her family had been living over a firehouse that lost a significant number of people that day and she decided to move back to Westchester County, the area where she had grown up.
As she made the daily commute to work by train, the inspiration for ShoeCandy was born. Kara had shoes for commuting, shoes at her desk and would often take an evening shoe with her if she had an after work event to attend. Why couldn’t one shoe work for multiple purposes?
Kara and her engineer worked on a prototype using 3D printing. Following several test rounds, they landed upon “the” design. After investigating manufacturing sites all over the world, Kara landed upon Brazil as a location that produced top quality leather goods at a workable price.
Fast forward to current day and the innovative Ms. Mac now holds two patents for her inventions and has an ever increasing product line. The collection presently has nine base footwear pieces available and a multitude of “candy” accessories. This results in literally thousands of ways to combine and customize!
An Interview with Kara Mac
In what other ways do you try to live simply, yet stylishly? Or are you a “more is more” personality at home?
If I had my way, I’d wear a pair of jeans and a t-shirt seven days a week. I don’t have to go to a professional office anymore. Instead, my boutique serves as my playground on a daily basis. You never know who will pop in so I make sure I look tidy and trendy, even if I’m in a pair of jeans and a cute top.
But if I am going to a day or evening event, meetings in NYC, sitting on a stage or going to a black tie event, I have my secret weapon. One that I absolutely love, but it took a good amount of time to figure out the sizing and the system. I am a Rent the Runway Unlimited Member and have been for years. You can order up to 4 clothing pieces at a time and it’s like a rotating closet. I haven’t been seen in the same outfit twice on a social media post in years! They used to only supply fancy dresses for evening but now they’ve opened up a casual closet. I can order super cute jeans with fringe and prints and swap them out whenever I want!
EDITOR’S NOTE: Check out this post detailing my experience with Rent the Runway.
Your career prior to the ShoeCandy launch armed you with considerable experience in the garment industry, albeit with a focus on knitwear not leather goods and design as opposed to business operations. How was that advantageous or not when launching ShoeCandy?
Definitely advantageous. Although I was not working on footwear, I was working on piece goods and garments, I knew the ins and outs of operations and logistics. I used to travel around the globe- literally- about four times a year. Working in manufacturing facilities and with factory employees, making sure they were compliant and standards were up to par. This was an invaluable learning experience because, not only was it crucial with making monetary business decisions, but understanding the culture of the people I was working with to be able to communicate and relay important information.
And, along those lines, what advice would you have for women wanting to re-invent themselves mid-life but without relevant experience in the arena they’d like to pursue?
Writing a business plan, taking courses in starting your own business and networking to get people on board to your business ideas are all things you can do without background experience. There are a number of wonderful, free sources out there, for example the SBDC (Small Business Development Center), SCORE, SBA (Small Business Administration) and other local chapters of such sources wanting to help start-ups, especially minority owned businesses, which include Women Owned.
For example, my county has an organization called the Professional Women of Westchester. It was my first introduction to networking at the beginning of my entrepreneurial entrance and I’ve since been a part of their speaker panel and now members reach out to me. My absolute FAVORITE group is NAWBO (National Association of Women Business Owners). The pre-requisite is that you must be a female business owner to become a member. Something for any future business owner to stick in their back pocket!
Could you share a time or two in your life when you’ve felt incredibly satisfied and conversely, a time or two when you’ve felt a bit unsatisfied with life? When unsatisfied, what did you do to change that?
As a woman who had a terrible time trying to have a baby, from multiple miscarriages to finally birthing two healthy boys, I’d have to say that that was my most satisfying moment of my life. Especially when my girlfriends were announcing new pregnancies right and left.
Business-wise, earning my first utility patent for my heel invention was definitely the most satisfying time of my professional life. It took four years, hundreds of hours doing research and learning about patents, a ton of money and a lot of patience. I was frustrated by getting so many rejections from the examiner so I took a trip to DC with my attorney to sit in front of the patent examiner. My goal was to prove my system was different from the prior art he held against my claims. It worked and three months later, the official patent was delivered to me from the USPTO.
With such an encompassing venture underway with ShoeCandy by Kara Mac, what do you do to maintain balance in your life among all the areas that are important to you?
I am very guilty of not taking care of myself but balancing work and family is a challenging priority to me. I am a workaholic, but that’s always been my style, even when I worked for others. When you love what you do, it doesn’t really seem like work. It’s like a hobby and relaxation at the same time for me. I get to sketch, play with cool leathers and fun patterns, design new ideas for the next collection and to me, that’s fun! I despise doing the books and keeping finances in order so I outsource that to someone.
Family comes first in my book. I have a husband and two children/young men who are now both in college. My family is pretty big and include four brothers and sisters and many nieces and nephews. I have another six great nieces and nephews with more on the way.
My father, a wonderful man, passed on New Years Eve, 2018. He was the patriarch of 31. I believe God had a hand in the timing as I packed a suitcase and headed home indefinitely. I spent a week with him, including Christmas Eve and Day and stayed until the funeral was over. Any other time of the year, I wouldn’t have been able to spend two full weeks with my family.
Spiritually, I have evolved through the eyes of my parents. As a Minister of Holy Communion at my church, being part of the Catholic family is important to me. My 19 year-old volunteers and practically lives at the firehouse where I also live vicariously. I am the daughter of a former NYC Transit Cop and have the most wonderful friends in the world. They know how hard I work and MAKE me take breaks with spontaneous get-togethers and surprise events. Lucky me!
What are you most excited about regarding the future of ShoeCandy?
So this is something 99% of my acquaintances don’t know about but something I have been planning to do since day one. I have always thought my heel cover idea and execution was a disruptor in the traditional shoe industry. Retailers just want to sell a lot of shoes. “Why give the customer the benefit of purchasing one shoe but the ability to change the look of the heel whenever she wanted to?”
Now that I’ve earned two full and very strong patents for my heel cover invention, I want to be able to license this “technology” to a major shoe company. I can license to women’s, girls and men’s. And yes, I know what to do in men’s! It’s almost there. I am in talks with a number of licensing companies who see and understand my vision and believe in my invention.
About ShoeCandy by Kara Mac
The concept behind ShoeCandy by Kara Mac is simple – do more with less while remaining stylish. Customers purchase a base shoe or boot and then customize it using a variety of “candy” options: patented interchangeable heels, toe clips, snap clips and sandal straps. This allows one shoe to be styled appropriately for day to night wear or to coordinate with a variety of outfits. Hello streamlined closet and lighter suitcase!
Start with a base shoe! This is the Celebrity Sandal, available in black or silver. A perfect option for the upcoming holiday season!
Customize with a sandal strap or toe clip – there are dozens of styles and colors to choose from. For more (or alternate) customization, add a decorative heel cover. Et, voilà – you just customized your first ShoeCandy shoe!
The most recent addition to the ShoeCandy family is the Boho Boot, which launched on Kickstarter just last week. It was love at first sight for me and I was one of the first in line to purchase at the release! I love the chic, timeless look of a pointed toe and the extra detail of the patent tip is lovely. With the collection of swappable heels, it’s the only boot I’ll need this fall!
NOTE: The Kickstarter campaign runs until Tuesday, October 15th and it’s a great chance to get these boots at pre-launch pricing as well as to support a woman-owned business!
NOTE: All photos courtesy of KaraMac.com.
Additional ShoeCandy by Kara Mac Products
Take 25% off your first purchase on the ShoeCandy by Kara Mac website! Use code NattyGal at checkout. Expires September 30, 2019.
Where to Find ShoeCandy by Kara Mac
Follow ShoeCandy by Kara Mac on Instagram and Facebook to be notified of all the latest releases! And if you’re in New York, be sure to check out the boutique located at 315 Kear St, Yorktown Heights, NY 10598. Questions? Call (917) 375-4378 or email Kara@ShoeCandy.shoes.
Many, many thanks to Kara for her valuable insight! Until next time…