Coco Business Inspiration : Vezalez Shoes

Vezalez Shoes are for the bossbabes that are bold, sexy, and resilient. From the office to the street scene, VZ Babes aren’t afraid to let their style speak their mind. House of Coco recently stumbled across this brand and they had our inner #Girlboss dancing with joy, so much so that we had to go along to find out more…

When did you launch the brand and what was the reason behind it?
I started my journey as a custom shoe embellishment designer. One day while scrolling through a magazine, I spotted a pair of killer heels on a R&B songstress, Amerie. I was completely blown away. My first thought was WOW; I want those shoes! I I searched the designer in hopes of purchasing what I had just fell in love with. Listed for a whopping $5000 odd dollars that I simply could not afford, I was seriously disappointed. As amazing as they were, that was not a part of my reality or financial capabilities. I sat and just stared at the designer’s website and thought to myself, I know I can make those myself.

I immediately began researching and within months I found all of the supplies that I would need to create my own pair. I purchased a simple $10 pair of shoes and I went to town working with excitement. This was a DIY project that I put in place for myself that took an average of 4-5 days at a minimum of 8 hours each day.  Anytime I wore them, people would ask for a business card or wanted to know where they could purchase. I was completely under and unprepared!

This was just a hobby to say the least, I had no plans on creating a business out of it. Much to my dismay, the response that I received on social media and person-to-person left me no choice. Overnight I created a cheap website and started accepting orders. Everything was fully custom made to order by hand.  I would take your everyday plain pair of heels from the store, no more than $20 bucks and piece-by-piece hand embellish them with spikes, crystals, studs, chains and even feathers. You name it, I would do it.  I was soon known as a the “shoe embellishment” girl. Orders were rolling in faster than I could complete them. Women’s shoes, Children’s shoes and men’s shoes. I did them all.

What’s your background?
In my 3rd year in college, I moved to Florida initially to finish college at Florida Atlantic University. About a year later, as means to pay my way through college as my parents couldn’t afford it, I began working for a jewelry company as a receptionist and bartending at night on South Beach. On my downtime I took advantage and made it a point to learn every aspect of the company, plus some days I was just really bored with little to no work. I would assist in the inventory department learning how to check in jewelry that arrived from Mexico, learning quality control, tagging each piece with its pricing and description and so on.

I soon began photographing images in creative ways for the company’s website using props that were misplaced throughout the office such as rocks, stones, fossils to display an eye catching image to excite the customers shopping experience. Occasionally I would also go to the design department to assist with designing earrings, necklaces, pendants and bracelets. Everything was done by hand, stone by stone piece by piece, there were no CAD or computer programs used in this design process.

The company was known for its use of natural fossils, minerals and gemstones where no two stones are alike in any form, you can imagine the high level of imagination that one would possess.  After 4 years, I departed from the company for about a year, moving back to Pennsylvania where I am from. Returning to Florida less than a year later, I reached out to the company in hopes the receptionist or inventory position was open.  In turn, I was offered the position as assistant jewelry designer. I remember yelling out, HELL YEAH! I was overjoyed. I had no official training or education in this field, everything that I knew and understood was cultivated from watching and assisting. I went to college to study in early childhood education which I never finished. Creativity was something that came extremely natural to me, I just was unaware of my own talents.  As the years progressed, I became noticeably better in my craft and skillset as jewelry designer. I was soon promoted to head of jewelry design and department manager. The company was small, 10 employees max, 4 departments so you could imagine how far stretched we were helping in all departments.

The design department only included myself and the 2 owners. I was basically the only designer as one of the owners was far too busy traveling to do so himself, and the other was PR and HR. They both entrusted me to handle the tasks of creating new and exciting pieces all of the time with no supervision or micromanagement. I just created whatever came to mind, however I felt that day.  I lived for watching my designs come to life piece by piece. I noticed my design skill set vastly improving, my sketches becoming more clear and defined. Customers would rock my creations and give compliments to the owners on how beautiful certain pieces were and in the back of my mind i’m saying to myself Go V! Go V! But in reality, they aren’t truly mine as I work for someone else.

I became tired of glorifying someone else with my work, my talent, my ideas even though I loved my job, I mean what girl wouldn’t! Celebrities such as Brooke Burns, Patti Labelle, Demi Lovato, Kardashians, Nicki Minaj and the late Joan Rivers all dressed beautifully in designs that I fashioned for the company. Watching my designs on red carpets and numerous magazine features all made me want more for myself. My dreams were clear, my calling was clear, it all came to me so instinctively. I was convinced, I was completely wasting my talent. I had to get smart now or it would be too late.

I began doing thorough research for manufacturing companies in Europe to produce a ready-to-wear line of footwear. This was by far no easy task however I knew I no longer wanted to hand embellish shoes anymore.  In 2013 I finally found a company and set out to commence sample shoes to try my hand in this industry. Within 5 months, the sample item arrived at my door step and I was blown away by the craftsmanship. Bigger than that, I was excited.  Everything was falling into place, my dreams were coming to fruition. I continued creating samples to test the execution on different styles and materials. By January 2015 I left the jewelry company one day after work and simply never returned. I had a goal, No, a dream. I had a dream that I was not willing to give up. I was out of a day job for about 5 months after I quit. The plan was to seek better financial opportunity to fund my dreams. I have no big capital. No investors, loans or any financial assistance. I don’t come from a family of financial wealth or privileges. I come from absolutely nothing. I work every day, have bills higher than my head like a normal person but I sacrifice to make this happen and well, here we are. A dollar and a dream later, literally!

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How many people are involved in the company and what are their roles?
Being such a small independent business, I do a mostly everything myself. Thankful for family my sisters, Misha and Cash are a big help when it comes to my business ventures. They both are charged with all of the social media upkeep and as well as creative direction. They too are creative; my oldest sister Misha is great at visual artistry. She’s a great sketch artist that does not realize how good she really is.  My youngest sister Cash is the level headed one, the calm after the storm.

She too is a great artist. I love their involvement as I couldn’t do it alone. There is also my 10-year-old niece, Millania.  She also loves to think she is in charge, especially in the design process. Leave it up to her, she owns the company and I am just here to pay for everything (LOL). As adorable as that is, she actually has a very picturesque imagination for her age. She is extremely animated; I’ve used her design ideas before. I love keeping her inspired with the idea of being her own boss at a young age. I push her to be involved to maintain a certain level of independence that I was unfamiliar with at her age.

If you could start over with the business, would you do anything differently?
Simply put, No.  The lessons that I’ve learned will never come again. The experience and struggles have been nothing short of beneficial to my own fundamental education being a small business owner. These lessons were meant to be learned for whatever reason. I am only wiser due to them. My theory is wisdom is learned not through listening, but through self-experience.

What is the hardest challenge you have faced since you started the company?
The most difficult challenge would have to be inventory. Being a small independent designer and not having financial backing is hard. I sacrifice my personal pay to finance business expenses. People on the other end of the spectrum, do not necessarily understand that I work every day to finance this business. They have preset expectations because of what they see. I do what I can as much as I can to keep this business flowing smoothly. Maintaining a seamless customer experience is a vital key for me.

Tell us one fact about you that people wouldn’t know?
Most people do not know that I can sing. I love music. I am hardly comparable to Beyoncé, but I can definitely hold a little note. When I was a little girl, I wanted to be a singer. I even set out to try out for Puff Daddy’s making the band. We arrived to New York too late for auditions.  I came to the realization I am far too shy for that type of career.  Im shy in general in a sense. I guess that makes two facts when I was only supposed to give one =)

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Where do you plan on taking the brand?
My long term plan is to expand into men’s footwear and children’s footwear as well. I would love to be able to carry a full line for every type of person. For right now, stay tuned for the next small collection that is released.

To date, what has been the highlight since launching?
The biggest highlight since launching as an official ready-to-wear line would have to be being offered the opportunity to present at New York Fashion Week Spring Summer 2017. Such a major milestone for the start of my career. It’s exciting being featured in the multitude of magazines like Glamour and Vogue. It’s a sense of relief and confirmation that the potential that you think that you have, someone else does too. Its motivation.

Which city do you feel most at home in, London, Paris or New York?
Sadly, I have never been to Paris or London as of yet so by default, New York. I will make it there soon!

Three beauty products you can’t leave the house without?
Lipstick, perfume, mascara.

Style means…?
Being the best authentic you. Being your best self.  Absolutely anything you, as a person want it to be in order to make you feel your best in what you are wearing.  There are no right and wrongs when it comes to style, only preference.

Statement shoe or statement bag?
A simple black pump or nude pump. You just can’t go wrong.

If you had to, what piece of clothing from your wardrobe would you wear every day?
Tights/sweatpants or a sundress. I love being super comfortable.

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Favourite love song?
Dangerously in Love – Beyonce

Most memorable piece of advice given to you?
Everything will always be ok in the end. If it is not Ok, it is simply not the end.

Guilty pleasure?
Ice cream. Snickers ice cream to be exact.

If you could spend 24 hours in anywhere in the world, where would it be?
Egypt. I have a profound love for the ancient Egyptian history. I am highly intrigued to learn my cultures true history and roots.  Egypt is on my bucket list of places to visit as well. I would love to spend a good amount of time there just learning.

Find out more…

www.vezalez.com

@Vezalezshoes on all social media platforms

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