Starting a New Business

It is the dream of an increasing number of entrepreneurs to want to start their own brand of footwear. The BFA receives many requests for advice and guidance from these people and has put together a list of responses to some of the most frequently asked questions.


1.I have an idea for an unique product – what do I do now ?

Ask yourself – is it truly unique ?

Have you carried out research into the relevant part of the market place and identified your potential competitors, the price points and target  customers (both in terms of the public and the retail outlets) ? You will gain a lot of information by visiting footwear exhibitions – for example Moda and Pure in the UK, MICAM and  GDS in Europe.

If the answers are positive, write a short Business Plan summarising where you see the product sitting in the UK or global market and what broad financial considerations apply – your costings, retail prices, likely sales turnover in the first few years. These plans should also include how you intend to sell and market the shoes – on-line, exhibitions, direct contact with retailers etc.


2. How do I translate my idea to “real” products ?

If you have a formal footwear design background, then it is easier for you to produce the necessary detailed sketches and technical/material specifications required by factories to make accurate samples.

If you do not have this background, it will be appropriate for you to employ a freelance designer/product developer to translate your ideas into a format factories can work from.

Development work is expensive. Finished samples generally cost at least double the price of your shoes if they get into production. In addition, if you choose to use new lasts and put down moulds to make your own heels/soles this all needs to be included in the final costs of your product, ensuring your shoes are priced correctly to make a profit.


3.  Where can I get my shoes made ?

Probably not in the UK is the sad truth. There are a number of high grade mens factories, most of whom only produce their own brands. There are perhaps two other factories that can make conventional mens shoes.

There are effectively no childrens or sports manufacturers.

On ladieswear, there are maybe 1-3 small factories able to produce good quality shoes in small quantities. They do not, however, have the resources to invest in the bulk of the development process for your shoes. Generally, you must be prepared to source – and pay for – your own lasts, heels, soles and boxes. (Some factories do have a small range of lasts but bear in mind that they will not be exclusive to you).

In Europe, there are many more manufacturers of all product types but they need to be found and then convinced that your unknown brand is worth supporting. This is not easy and will involve numerous research visits to Italy, Spain, Portugal or elsewhere to identify the best source of supply for you.

The Far East is the largest producer of footwear but is generally geared to making large quantities of, mainly, shoes for the High Street. If you are lucky you can find a factory who is prepared to make high quality product with small volume, however the factory prices will reflect this. Normally, you would need experience of working with Far Eastern factories or a record of selling fairly substantial quantities before you could engage the interest of factories in China, Vietnam, India or other countries in the region.


4. How much is this going to cost ?

It is impossible to be specific as it depends on

a)      How compelling and interesting your shoes are

b)     How much pre-manufacturing development work needs to be paid for

c)      How you intend to sell – launching on-line is cheaper than showing at exhibitions for example


A rule of thumb figure might be £50,000 over 2 years to cover

a) Development, sampling and sourcing costs – a lot of it up-front

b) Research into raw materials and components and into transport and distribution

c) Showing at relevant exhibitions over say 3 seasons

d) Basic marketing and PR costs

e) Trade Mark Registration and other legal elements (duties, taxes)

f) Packaging Development


This should cover the preliminary costs, launch costs and sales and marketing for the first 18-24 months.

Against this, you will offset sales income which will reach you about 9 months after you start taking orders.

Many people starting up a business keep a “day job” to be able to fund the new venture.


5. Where can the BFA help ?

If, after reading these not entirely encouraging words, you still believe you have the product, commitment and money to make your footwear idea successful, then the BFA has a team of experts to advise on

a)      Product development

b)     Sales distribution channels

c)      Exhibitions

d)     Marketing and PR

e)      Financial advice

f)       Legal advice


As well as being able to put you in touch with others that have been through what you may be about to go through so who can give you tips and short cuts to avoid pitfalls. The BFA is always available to give sensible general advice about your project and how best to make it succeed.

Some of the services will be free, certainly in the early stages, some will need to be paid for (but at “mate’s rates”). To qualify for the services and for a range of other benefits, you will need to join the BFA at a minimum annual fee of £100.

We will certainly give you as much information as possible, even if at times it may feel like a “bucket of cold water.”

Up and coming brands are the lifeblood of the industry and as the BFA mission is to help the UK footwear sector to be vibrant and successful, you can be sure we will give you every support .


For more information contact