In Conversation With Marion Parke of Marion Parke footwear

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Describe your business in a few words?

Marion Parke is a female-founded and female-managed footwear company producing footwear that elevates the background of a foot and ankle surgeon to the luxury level of shoes

What made you take the leap to start your own business?

I was repeatedly being told by patients that I should do it and that led to thinking about the idea constantly.

What was your background prior to starting your own business?

I was/am a surgically trained podiatrist. I still keep up my license.

Did you always know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?

Perhaps on some level, yes. I loved earning money as a kid, setting up lemonade stands any chance I got, babysitting, applying for a job as a restaurant hostess at age 15.

Take us back to when you first launched your business, what was your marketing strategy to get the word out and did it go as planned?

The marketing was relatively simple because my story is so authentic. There is no spin or angle. The shoes are what we say they are: handcrafted in Italy at some of the best factories in the world and implementing the perspective of a foot and ankle surgeon behind the construction.

We always learn the most from our mistakes, share a time with us that you made a mistake or had a challenging time in business and what you learned from it?

There have been plenty! And instead of calling them mistakes I might call them “learning moments”. I’d say not following my gut or my initial instincts has led to a few circumstances that were challenging. In the beginning, I didn’t have any employees to really ask for feedback and input. Now that we have a knowledgeable and experienced team, I’ve made a habit of sharing my initial instincts and thoughts and working through any hesitations or concerns before deciding to move forward. I also utilize the professional network that I’ve grown over the years. I initially didn’t know or understand the value of a network. Now, I understand how meaningful and important it is.

What is the accomplishment you are the most proud of to date?

Taking that first flight to Italy and deciding to move forward with our factories and team members there. It was a huge personal and professional risk that I wouldn’t change!

When hiring for your team, what is your go-to interview question? Please share any hiring tips you can share from your experience?

I like to ask applicants if there is one thing that they are most proud of on their resume, one that they wouldn’t want anyone to miss. That almost always makes an applicant sit up a little bit straighter and show some excitement and confidence in something they’ve accomplished or worked hard for.

How has your business or industry been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic?

The dress shoe category specifically has been impacted by gathering and events being on hold and by fewer people going into their offices. There is a very casual approach to dressing, understandably so, when people stay home. 

The positive impact is that people are thinking about COMFORT more than ever and we have always had that part of our story. It’s a true part of our DNA. I suspect that after wearing sneakers for several months, when women return to their dress shoes, they aren’t going to want to wear the uncomfortable shoes that they did in the past.

What’s next for your business? What can we expect to see over the next few years?

We’re investing in both our wholesale distribution and in our direct-to-consumer channels. I feel fortunate that we have a business model designed for both. It creates a more stable business “ecosystem”, so to speak. Over the next few years, we plan to have an enhanced brand awareness and presence both at brick and mortar and online.

What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were first starting your business?

I didn’t know a thing about inventory systems. Admittedly, it didn’t even cross my mind! I was more focused on the “why” than the “how”, as they say.

How have you managed to stay grounded this year?

My husband and our children are my greatest support system. They remind me of what’s truly important in this life.

Do you believe in work/life balance? What are some of your best tips?

I think everyone has a different sense of balance and is doing the best they can. I find it helpful to literally say out loud, “I’m doing the best that I can and the best that I know how.”

What’s something our audience would be surprised to learn about you?

I was an All American field hockey player in high school!

What are your top 3 tips to stay productive each day?

  • Keep email under control. Any email that can be answered in less than 3 minutes I try to tackle right away.
  • I set an alarm on my phone 30 minutes and 15 minutes before an important call. I often lose track of time and this helps me avoid missing meetings or calls.
  • Make your bed! There is something about this task, which only takes about 2 minutes, that gives me a boost every morning.

What does being an Entreprenista mean to you?

To be brief: for me, being an Entreprenista means being a problem solver. If you can solve a problem, then that’s a business.

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