By Julie Hayes
Most women are well-acquainted with the pain that comes along with following the latest trends in high heels. A day’s worth of walking in pumps or wedges can leave feet covered in blisters and sores. New York University students Katie Shea, 25, and Susan Levitt, 25, loved wearing their strappy heels to work and social events, but it grew difficult for them to tolerate the wear and tear to their feet. The women, then seniors in college, worked together to come up with a creative solution to their love/hate relationship with heels. In doing so, CitySlips was born.
Influenced by existing portable and disposable shoes that women use to replace their heels, Shea and Levitt took their innovation a step further. CitySlips ballet flats not only have elastic backing and a structure that makes them easy to fold and store in purses, they also come with a small pouch that unzips into a full-sized tote, a convenient place to store heels.
To launch their innovation, Shea and Levitt utilized their network from the business school at NYU, and brainstormed their ideas with mentors and professionals. According to Levitt, being able to talk openly about their concept made all the difference in turning their idea from a smart solution to a marketable product.
“A lot of people are nervous that if they discuss their idea too openly, they are at risk for having it stolen, but putting the idea out there opens the door for discussion and brainstorming, which makes the overall product better,” said Levitt. “We feel our young age actually worked in our favor, since we had a great network to work with at NYU.”
Since their introduction in 2009, CitySlips have been successful with women around the country. They are currently sold at a variety of stores and boutiques, both in brick and mortar stores and online. Their market continues to expand day by day.
“We were students and young professionals when we started, and we weren’t sure how widespread CitySlips would be. It was exciting to figure out our demographic was bigger than we anticipated,” said Levitt. “We realized we could make this a career.”
When it comes to advice for fellow young entrepreneurs, Shea and Levitt emphasize the need to be unafraid of putting ideas out in the open. “If you have an idea, just do it,” said Levitt. “A lot of people take a lot of time and money when they’re thinking about launching an idea, but it’s about getting out there and doing it.”
“Rely on your network,” Shea added. “Believe in your idea and be confident in it.”