Stepping Into Success

Ohio women start shoe company in NYC

Three innovative entrepreneurs from Ohio have started a new business that keeps women looking stylish while giving their feet some much-needed relief.

Sheree Coleman of Cincinnati, along with Sherrae Hayes and Alyxaundria Sanford of Cleveland, recently began a company called Sole Discretion. Selling what the industry terms as “transition shoes,” Sole Discretion's product aims to provide women with temporary relief from wearing heels all day.

“Our first shoe in our compact flat series is call Slim Goodies,” Coleman says. “This shoe is a chic ballet flat that you can wear from point A to point B.”

Made of vinyl with a rubber soles, the lightweight shoe comes with a leather clutch that expands into a tote bag.

“Slim Goodies can roll up to fit inside a clutch that you can carry with you,” Coleman says. “Then, when your feet get tired, you can take your stilettos off, slip on your Slim Goodies, unfold the inside of the clutch and place your stilettos inside the clutch that has now expanded into a tote bag.”

The clutch can also fit credit cards, a cell phone and other essentials.

The business startup is an ambitious project for three African-American women from the Midwest trying to make their way in the Big Apple.

Stressed and exhausted after walking miles in heels, the women say they came up with the idea after they moved to New York City.

“We are from Ohio, so we are used to driving everywhere,” Coleman says. “But, in NYC you have to walk everywhere, so we always carried around our flip-flops to relieve the pain of walking in heels all day.”

After talking to other women and noticing how many carried around an extra bag to hold their spare shoes, they saw a niche for an item like Slim Goodies.

“When we would try to put our flip-flops in our purses, they wouldn’t fit and we didn’t want to carry two or more bags around all day,” she says. “So, we thought we should create a shoe that is more compatible and easier to carry around. “

Although none of the women have formal design experience, they say their love of fashion helped them design a shoe that can appeal to anyone’s style.

“We all have a different fashion sense and we incorporated that into the line,” Sanford says.

Slim Goodies, which come in black, gold, silver and leopard, has had customers wear them for a variety of occasions.

“We have had customers wear them to and from work, coming home from a night out with friends or to a wedding reception,” Sanford says. “People seem to really like them because they are easy to carry around and a relief for their feet.”

The company even started a campaign called “I’m a SD Girl,” where customers can e-mail pictures of themselves wearing the shoes. Sole Discretion will then feature customers wearing their shoes on its Web site.

Slim Goodies is the first of five shoes in the compact flat series. The next shoe the company will offer will be slightly elevated, but still will be able to fold up.

“All the shoes in this series will have the same premise of being compatible and easy to carry around,” Coleman says. “However, the next shoe in the series can be worn all day and can be a substitution for heels.”

While medical research has concluded that wearing heels can cause women back, knee, hip and even posture problems, Sole Discretion hopes to keep women healthy, while not asking them to completely give up their favorite pair of heels.

As avid users of their own product, the women say using Slim Goodies has drastically helped their feet but still allow them to retain their own sense of style.

“Almost any heel can be uncomfortable, so it comes in handy to be able to switch to a comfortable shoe anytime you need to,” Hayes says. “ It also gives you a sense of freedom to not have to carry around multiple bags. It is so nice to have everything you need in one clutch.”

Slim Goodies, which costs $15 each and come with the clutch that turns into a tote bag, come in sizes five through 10. Currently the shoes are only available online, although the company hopes to be able to offer them in local retail outlets soon.

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