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Pashion Footwear jumps over startup hurdles in heels

CAL POLY, MAGAZINE, 2017

Entrepreneurship is never a straight shot to success and Pashion Footwear CEO and founder Haley Pavone knows this all too well. 

Pavone began her startup journey as a college student at Cal Poly, swiftly taking her convertible shoe wear idea through several Cal Poly Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) programs. Since launching her startup, the young entrepreneur has tackled countless challenges, from navigating a trade war to combating deceptive advertisements, but continues to see the hardships as opportunities for growth.

“Each challenge and ‘failure’ is a learning experience that makes us that much smarter the next time around,” Pavone said. “I’ve learned just how much we can handle and survive and it’s a lot more than I would have originally thought.”

While her team hasn’t had to pivot their product beyond the scope of its original concept, she says her business has constantly evolved to accommodate outside factors.

One of these factors involved reworking the prices of her company’s products when the trade war with China caused a 10 to 15 percent hike to be placed on their footwear. Pavone explained that this happened with virtually no notice and no timeline on when the penalties will drop, but that her team pushed through by adapting as needed.

However, that wasn’t the CEO’s only financial challenge; Pashion Footwear almost went bankrupt in 2019.

Pavone says that since there is no historical data on what it should cost to make a convertible heel, the Pashion team has to “guesstimate” their costs with traditional heel costs, plus a buffer for their heels’ unique pieces. A mistake in their estimations landed them out of money four months ahead of schedule.

“This was a very scary time for our business, as we had essentially 30 days to raise over a million dollars,” the CEO said. “Luckily, I was able to keep my head down and grind through dozens of investor meetings and successfully raised the money on essentially the last day before bankruptcy.”

Getting through a high-pressure situation like that has given the now 24-year-old a taste of resiliency that is helping her get through the current economic downturn, which is affecting Pashion Footwear’s supply chains, market advances and investor funding.

And as if finances weren’t enough to tackle, Pavone has even had to deal with competitors putting out fraudulent advertisements masquerading as her company to steal website traffic and attempt to benefit from the brand loyalty and awareness her team has built for over three years.

Despite the endless complications of running a company, Pavone and her team have continued to bounce back by learning from mistakes and seeking entrepreneurial guidance.

“The main thing I’ve learned through CIE programs is that every entrepreneur and startup, with no exception, has had to navigate some kind of ‘failure’ and obstacles in the journey to becoming successful,” she said. “Being able to network with our entrepreneurs when problems arise to collaborate on solutions is extremely beneficial, even if for nothing else than to know you aren’t alone.”

From the team’s strong pursuit toward success, there is a silver lining in the struggles they have faced.

Now in 2020, Pashion Footwear’s monthly revenue has grown roughly 346 percent since the beginning of the year and Pavone has been able to keep her full-time team employed after obtaining a Paycheck Protection Program loan with guidance from the Cal Poly CIE Small Business Development Center. 

These accomplishments are keeping the Pashion team optimistic about dealing with future hindrances and celebrating the successes yet to come, like launching an entirely new line of products in July — pending any pandemic-based delays, of course.

To learn more about Pashion Footwear and keep up with their next launch, head to https://pashionfootwear.com/