Haley Pavone: Reimagining practical fashion

31 minute read


Anjana 4:37  

So Haley, it’s so great to see you again. I feel like I first met you three maybe years ago and we we were just giving you the 30 under 30 Cal Poly’s Most Influential Women award, and since then you have been on Forbes, you’ve just finished a Shark Tank episode and it’s been so great honestly just like see your success over the last couple of years as like a Cal Poly gal, and I’m like, Oh my god, it’s another Cal Poly woman doing such great things. It’s been so great to see how far you have come. 

Haley 5:09  

Thank you. Gosh, it’s crazy to think but I think you’re right. That was either. Maybe two years ago, maybe three, I think we were at that ceremony with COVID it’s like hard—


With COVID one whole year has just gone out of my mind.


Like it’s exactly, so who knows? Who knows. But now it’s been an absolutely crazy journey. And still just as crazy. It’s not getting any less crazy anytime soon. But I’m enjoying the ride for sure.

Anjana 5:34  

That’s awesome. Well, just to start out, we’d love to know, you know, where did the idea of Pashion come from? And was it your first entrepreneurial venture?

Haley 5:43  

Sure, I can dive into that a little bit. I mean, the concept for Pashion really came from just, you know, a problem that I was experiencing on a daily basis. I know that’s the stereotypical entrepreneur’s answer of who I was, you know, solving a problem, but that really was the root of it. I was a big high heel wear for my entire life. I just really love the aesthetic, they make me feel confident. I like having that extra height. But they were always super painful. And so I very much was the person that would end up barefoot at formal events, sometimes that professional events. You know, if I had to dress up to present in class, I’d end up barefoot after walking back to the dorms, like I just could not tough it out. And so this is something I was experiencing on a regular basis and was really frustrated by it. And it really came to a head for me, kind of the infamous story is I was actually at a sorority spring formal in my sophomore year of college, and, you know, had worn six inch high heels as one does, and ditch them so that I could dance on the dance floor barefoot. And unfortunately, on this particular evening, you know, all the times I’ve been barefoot in the past really caught up with me this night. One of the other young women who was present who still had her stilettos on accidentally stomped her stiletto through my foot and actually impaled me threw the heel. I know, it’s super great. It’s very, very severe. Doesn’t happen to most people. But as I was sitting there on impaling myself, I looked around and realized, you know, 80 to 90% of the other women out this thing, were also barefoot, there’s a huge pile of shoes in the corner. Basically, the only woman storing shoes was the one that it just impaled me. And in that moment, it really just smacked me in the face. What a huge issue. This is, like, everyone knows high heels hurt, I don’t think that’s a secret. And yet, there’s still very much an expectation to wear them to any social or professional event. And really, all you could do is go barefoot, lug around backup shoes or just suffer through, I guess. And so I felt really inspired in that moment that there had to be a better way. And so I dove headfirst into trying to create a convertible high heel. So that was kind of how it got started. It’s definitely my first entrepreneurial venture of this type, like something where I’m fundraising and making a product. You know, I’d run my own little side hustle businesses in high school. I definitely have always been entrepreneurially minded and was always trying to seek new opportunities and solve problems but Pashions the first, you know, real venture I’ve gone after right? And those

Anjana 8:15  

Those infamous Cal Poly hills will definitely do it for you.

Haley 8:19

Oh, yes. Oh, yes.

Sydney  8:21  

Yeah, I’ve heard the story about the impalement. And then the idea for Pashion literally struck you with the impalement. I think I was first exposed to like Pashion in your story through Cal Poly entrepreneurs. And like seeing you in the hot house and everything and like, the different like, I think some of like the earlier models, too, because you would like be displaying them at the office. But speaking of like, I guess, like the origins of Pashion footwear, and like starting out, what were some of the things like, or one thing early on, like in this entrepreneurial journey that you realized maybe like, wasn’t working, whether it was like a design or like a marketing strategy or something like that? And I guess like, what did that process of trial and error look like in the early stages of Pashion?

Haley  9:17  

Course? I mean, there’s definitely been so many, so many small changes along the way. I think actually, when I look back on my journey, I’ve been incredibly lucky in the sense that we never really pivoted our product and what we were trying to do I know most startups, you know, set out with a product that they think solving a problem and then they kind of have to change the thesis. The one thing we did really hit the nail on the head with was, hey, heels hurt. Let’s make a heel that turns to a flat, right? Like that was always the core goal. And that part of it never really changed. I’d say the two things we iterated on the most. Number one was, of course, just the product itself. You know, when we first started out, the initial design was very complicated and incorporated magnets and hydro magnetic fluid, which is this crazy substance that’s a solid if a magnet is touching it and then a liquid if a magnets removed. So the initial thought was I will put a magnet and heal, and it’ll do this whole thing, crazy complicated and way too expensive to make. Just like, yeah, it’s not going to work for the, you know, the mainstream consumer. Because something I knew when we were starting out, you know, just really intuitively was women put up with the pain and inconvenience of heels because they like the way they look. And so if our solution didn’t duplicate that look pretty seamlessly, it wasn’t really solving any problems, right? Like, if it was the funkiest looking heel of all time, no one was going to buy it, even if it worked. So definitely iterated on that to get it to a place where we thought the customer would actually like the way that it worked. And you know, it would actually be usable and producible at scale. And then I think the second thing we iterated on, that was more of a slow learning process, as we got to market was just the initial target consumer. I think, one of the biggest opportunities, but also a real challenge with this product is it has such wide appeal. You know, whenever people ask, Who are you selling to? The obvious answer is any woman that wears heels on a regular basis, and things that are uncomfortable, but that’s a gigantic market, and it’s so hard to target marketing to something that large. I mean, we have seen customers from 13 to 75, all over the world. I mean, there’s really no, you know, most businesses have that key demographic, and we just had so much appeal that it was really hard initially, to figure out where we were going to focus our limited resources, at least to start out. So I think the biggest, that was the biggest iteration, because for me being in college and my background, I initially launched thinking this is going to be huge in the college market. You know, the college women are really going to love it, the people that were struggling with being barefoot at events like me. And what we eventually found was, although they like it, it’s a little bit more expensive than the typical college budget. And also, they’re not the ones suffering the most from the problem. Most college women are wearing heels on the weekends. So it’s a Friday, Saturday night thing, they’re dealing with this two nights a week. And also, you know, they’re young, they have a little more of a tolerance for inconvenience, right? versus who we’ve realized now is our true initial target customer of, we call her the 9am to 9pm. woman, she’s 35 ish years old lives in New York, LA San Francisco, you know, a big metropolitan area, she’s wearing heels to work five days a week. And so she’s dealing with this constantly, it’s a huge pain point for her on a regular basis. It’s something that’s top of mind for her to fix almost all the time. And she has the disposable income. So our product is doing more for her total lifestyle. And so she’s the more, you know, urgent customers, like she sees this as like, Oh my gosh, I’m going to use this seven days a week, it’s totally going to change my life. Whereas the college market, it’s more of a nice to have, but they can put up with, you know, the inconvenience a couple days a week. So that was a real learning process. But that’s kind of where we’ve landed now of shifting our focus towards that slightly older, more professional market, which has been interesting for me, I am still a 25 year old CEO. And now I’m, you know, trying to figure out how to sell to people, 10 years, my senior, but it’s, it’s really working and landing well in the market, which is great.

Anjana 13:27  

I feel like that is so interesting to hear that perspective from you. Because what the rest of us see is Haley who’s been so successful, and like every single thing that you’ve done all these years, every year, I swear to God and LinkedIn, it’s like something new, and like amazing that you’ve done, you’re like, the College of businesses like Golden Girl, you know, they like talk about you like the poly reps and they do tours, they talk about you to incoming freshmen like this, but it’s so interesting to see like the various different iterations that you’ve had to go through. And I’d love for you to just kind of touch on, you know, those hardships that you face that like nobody really sees, and especially because you just mentioned, you’re a 25 year old CEO, like I’m sure there have been times when you know, your gender and your youth has come into play. And people have made comments, I’m sure, but can you describe any of those situations that you’ve been in how you’ve handled that? Oh, yeah,

Haley 14:20  

Oh yeah of course. And, you know, to your point, it’s the typical founders issue. And this is actually something I’m trying to be a lot more open with. But you know, social media, LinkedIn, it’s all a highlight reel. And there’s a lot of pressure as a founder, I think, particularly as a young founder to your point. I get comments all the time, you know, people are very disparaging about my age and about my age directly and about my gender indirectly. And so, you know, when I was starting my career, I felt a lot of pressure to really highlight this kind of perfect image of you know, I walked into meetings, knowing people already were going to be doubting me and so I felt like I had no room. To be open about mistakes, not that it couldn’t make mistakes. It’s a startup, of course we’re making mistakes. But it was very difficult for me to feel comfortable publicly talking about that. But that being said, I do think it’s important because to your point from the outside, people sit down and go, Wow, entrepreneurships a breeze, it’s just W after W and that’s so not the case, I’d say it’s like 80% grinding and stress and you know, having to deal with I call it the roller coaster of you just have these extreme highs and extreme lows, often back to back in the same day. And it’s truly a ride from start to finish. But no, I mean to, basically, in short, it’s not always as glamorous as it seems, by far, you know, I’ve had to deal with a lot of difficult circumstances that have made me grow as an individual. Some of the ones that come to mind, I mean, this could be like a two hour conversation. But, you know, we’ve almost run out of money twice, for a variety of reasons. One being, you know, we’re making something completely different. It’s never existed before. And so it’s very, very hard to forecast what things are going to cost. Like the first time we almost ran out of money. We, you know, we’re working with our suppliers saying, Hey, we have to open these production, mold assets, and we need to buy these materials and do XYZ to make this shoe, what’s that going to cost? And they gave us a quote, to the best of their knowledge, I think it was loosely, you know, the price of a typical heel plus 10%. And, you know, they’ve never made anything like it, what else are they supposed to quote. And so that’s what we fundraised for and what we were prepared for. And then you know, the reality struck that it was going to be three times more expensive than that. And suddenly you’re like, Okay, I have no money. And so I’ve had to stare down the barrel of that. And also, you know, I think a big part as well, as I mentioned, is it is really hard to raise money. As a woman, and particularly as a 25 year old woman, something I have been more vocal about on social media is the disparity in funding, I think it’s pretty well known. But I think female founded companies only received 2.8% of venture capital funding in 2019. And then that actually dropped to 2.3% in 2020. So it’s, it is just factually true that it’s a lot harder to get funded as a female entrepreneur. And then, you know, you throw in my age on the equation, and I’ve been in so many pitch meetings where I just get interrogated about my resume. And I’m standing there going, you know, I was a college student, I was a Starbucks barista, I don’t have a 10 year resume of my successes. But I have invented this shoe. And in four years, I’ve done XYZ. And I often feel like, you know, I end up having to spend 20 minutes of my 30 minute q&a time just defending myself as a founder and like, convincing them I have a right to be there, solely because of my age. And that’s, of course, very, very frustrating to have to spend so much time doing that. So it definitely has been challenging to, to raise money, you know, going through that, and kind of dealing with that side of the industry, I think, particularly selling heels, it’s also not a secret, the majority of VCs are men, and a lot of them understand the problem, but they don’t experience it. So they don’t have that urgency for a solution. So long and short. I mean, I’m not trying to complain, obviously, we figured it out and found people that have funded us, but I would say, you know, when I look at some of my male counterparts in the entrepreneurial community, and you know, I’ve been in some of their pitches and listen to their q&a is I’ve physically watched, you know, in the same pitch session, myself get the 20 minute age interrogation, and then a founder a year younger than me, age wasn’t even brought up. And he was very, you know, obviously a male. So the two are very much connected. And it’s challenging to see. So navigating, that’s been tough. And then of course, like I said, there’s so much more. I’ve had to, you know, fire people learn really hard lessons about team members. I’ve had people try to take advantage of the situation. You know, people, I think, view my age and think it’s naivete. So we’ve had issues with, you know, being charged for things that weren’t accurate and finding out we were being told things were happening that weren’t and, yeah, long and short. Again, this could be a two hour conversation, but it’s a lot of ups and downs and a lot of learnings and it’s definitely not all sunshine and roses. I’ve always been very adamant that I think, you know, the main thing a successful entrepreneur has to have is resilience, because 80% of it is difficult, and you have to be able to take that in stride and just be like, okay, I just got told no, by the ninth VC in a row. Yeah. We’re going for number 10. Like you just have to keep going until you find the people that are going to believe in you.

Anjana 19:58  

Has there ever been Yeah, it’s Exactly Has there ever been like, if you’re comfortable sharing, like a specific situation at all with a VC or you know, in one of these investor meetings that just like, kind of slapped you in the face? Like how just like, either with gender or age, something that they said, and how did you handle that? If so, because I’m sure so many other women experienced the same thing. 

Haley 20:19  

One really bad one comes to mind. I won’t share the name of the group. But I, you know, gave my 10 minute presentation, and you open up to q&a. And again, you have to understand that in these presentations, there’s a very strict time limit on your q&a. And you want to spend that time being productive, and you know, making sure people’s legitimate questions are addressed. So it was very tough when I finished this presentation. And the first question was, are you single? And then they wouldn’t get off that subject for several minutes. I was like, Oh, my gosh, oh, you know, I don’t really want to talk about that. And it’s, well, I have a son that is super interested in you. And then another guy from across the room, what about my son, and I’m just sitting there like, okay, like, the clock’s ticking. And then actually, that one got worse, when the pitch ended, I, you know, walk out, it was a pitch call. So there, this was actually the time there was a male founder younger than me there, he was two years younger than me. And, you know, they come out to announce who’s moving to the next round of the funding. And I was the only one that got cut, in spite of being the only company that actually had revenue at that point. So I was a little confused by that just fundamentally, and one of the members of the group actually came out and pulled me aside and said, You know, I want to talk to you about why we passed. I was like, okay, great to know. And he said, we just really, you know, the idea is cool, but we really just believe that a 25 year I was what 22, a 22 year old founder can’t be successful. We think the best thing you can do for yourself and for this business, is to demote yourself to head of sales and hire someone else to be the CEO of your company. And then they went on to fund a 20 year old man the same day. So that one was, that was brutal. That was tough. 

Anjana 22:17  

You know what? I feel like I have heard that story from someone at Cal Poly who mentioned that I remember hearing and was like, I cannot believe like, how would you, How would you even react to that? 

Haley 22:29  

You know, it’s one of those things where, unfortunately, someone like that clearly is already biased against me, I’m not going to change his opinion that day. And something else I’ve realized is, you know, if I fight back, what am I fighting for? I don’t want that person as my investor. Like someone with that attitude. If they don’t want me, believe me, I don’t want them. So I just kind of go, okay, you know, thanks for the feedback, and then walk out and go on to the next meeting until I find someone that isn’t as antiquated in their views. But, you know, it’s tough sometimes, for sure. But I never want to do anything that’s going to put the company in a bad place, you know, start unnecessary drama. And again, as I realized at the end of the day, I’m not going to change that person’s mind. And I don’t want to, like if someone sees my presentation, and that’s their initial reaction. I don’t want to work with them. So I’m just going to smile and move on to better things. Good riddance. Yep. Yeah, exactly. Yeah, exactly. What do I gain from giving that guy a lecture? It’s just a waste of 10 minutes of my time, so Right, right. Yeah.

Sydney 23:37  

I think too, earlier, like you touched on how, just like the success of being an entrepreneur is definitely resilience. Because I really love what you said about like, the social media feed and like LinkedIn and stuff, highlight reel, because I do think a lot of people glorify, like, the entrepreneurial path and like being your own boss, but it’s a ton of work. And those challenges Yeah, like, those challenges, you know, people don’t talk about it as often and you know, hence why we, I guess, still have this also very, like romanticized idea of being an entrepreneur. But even just like in learning more about your journey, it’s, it takes a lot, especially mentally too

Haley  24:23  

It does, and I think it’s important, you know, part of why I’ve become more open with it is, to your point, I think, particularly women founders have done other women founders a disservice by not being open about it, because then they don’t know what the reality is going in. And you know, I get asked a lot what we can do to change this environment. And the truth is the only thing that’s going to change the environment is more women getting in there and getting involved. Before those first women breaking into it. They’re going to have similar experiences to me, and I’d rather be prepared and go into it, headstrong, like ready to kick some ass and know it might happen. But know that that’s, unfortunately, what is normal, but to be prepared, you know what I mean? Like, I think there’s a lot of female founders that see the highlight reel, go into these scenarios and then are so blindsided by what it can be like sometimes that then they don’t push forward. And I think in being open and sharing these stories, people have a realistic expectation. And they can go in and say, Okay, I know what I’m diving into. But I’m going to kick ass because change needs to happen. And change is only going to happen if women go in and just keep pushing and keep fighting and make that headway. And so, you know, I think it has to be talked about. And that’s kind of what I realized, as I said, I initially was very hesitant to share it, I think, because so few people do it felt weird. I felt a lot like, you know, am I the only person experiencing this? Am I the only one struggling with this? Is it weird? Is it something about me, but the more open I’ve been, it’s been very, you know, obviously concerning, but also comforting how many other people in my situation relate to my story. And that’s kind of helped, I think, empower all of us as a collective to realize this isn’t isolated, it’s just something that’s fundamentally wrong in the system that we have to talk about, so that we can fix it.

Sydney  26:19  

We definitely want to hear too about your recent experience with Shark Tank. I know you received a lot of buzz from that. And yeah, what like, what went into preparing for that? I remember, like reading that being on Shark Tank was always like a goal, or would be really awesome to achieve. And you did it. So yeah, like, what, what was that experience like?

Haley  26:44  

Definitely, oh, it was the craziest experience in my life for sure. I mean, as I’ve talked about, I’ve watched the show pretty much my whole childhood, I think season one aired when I was 12, or 13. And I’ve watched all the way along, so grew up, you know, loving the show, loving all the sharks, holding them all in high esteem. And it was just so surreal. To be honest with you. The preparation was a crazy experience, I think I put in well over 1000 hours, like drilling my pitch drilling q&a, trying to figure out what the heck to wear, that was a whole little adventure that we went down. But just getting my ducks in a row, because I knew, you know, this was my one shot to live out this dream and wanted to make sure I was gonna be proud of myself at the end of it, of course. But again, just getting there, I can’t even really describe how surreal of an experience it is, you know, imagine a show you’ve watched for so long. And I feel like even though you always appreciate the sharks are real people. It’s kind of an abstract thought, like, it’s easy to kind of think of them as characters on a TV show that don’t really exist, right. And so to be put on set, that was already like a shock to the system of Wow, I’m actually in that room. Like imagine walking into the bachelor mansion, right? Like, it’s weird. It’s like, oh, like this place exists. And I’m in it. Strange. Oh, there’s like the fish on the wall. It’s just bizarre. So I was in there and then walk out. And you know, all of a sudden, you’re 10 feet away from all these people you’ve only ever seen on TV. And it’s a huge shock to the system, like being 10 yards away from Mark Cuban is weird, like, super, super weird. And like, oh, they’re like, well look at that. So it was it was just a nuts experience from start to finish. It’s definitely a wild ride. They drill you, they’re just as intense as they make it. Look, it’s pretty much non stop the entire time you’re in the tank. And obviously, for me, for those that have seen the show, I walked away from an offer from Kevin O’Leary. That was very, very intense and very hard for me to do. Again, being a lifetime fan of the show. You know, I was standing there in the moment, knowing that deal wasn’t right for me, like going in. I know that I really don’t want a royalty, I just don’t believe in royalties. I want to put every dollar into growing the business not paying something out. But to be standing there in that moment thinking, you know, I’ve watched the show for 12 years, I’m here with all the sharks, like I’ve dreamed about this moment, and I’m about to willingly walk out without a deal. Like that was so overwhelming and just one of the most, like emotionally trying things I’ve had to do for sure. But in the moment, it was just kind of like okay, this is the reality. This is the deal that I’ve got, and it’s not right. So, you know, it is what it is. And in retrospect 100% the right decision, no disrespect to Kevin but that deal was not going to work for me. And you know, it’s been really great to just see the reaction following the show. People have kind of rallied behind the company and stick it to the sharks mentality almost. I got a lot of really positive feedback about just sticking my ground and You know, not not taking a deal that I was very clearly not into. And it’s just been great to see that response. And it’s meant tremendous things for the business. I mean, I can’t get too specific, but we grew 100% last month over the month prior, which was super cool to see. And it’s still going. So it’s just a great opportunity to be able to get your company in front of so many people at once. I think I saw a stat that they value 10 minutes of airtime at that slot on ABC as being worth $7 million in advertising. So to be able to have that kind of exposure for free. Like that’s worth a lot more than the deal would have been so well. I’m fine. I’m fine with what happened.

Anjana 30:47  

You worked hard for that. I wouldn’t say it’s free. 

Haley Pavone 30:52

That’s true a lot of  sweat equity went into that for sure

30:57 Anjana. 

Right. Right. And I mean, again, it’s like one thing to see from our perspective to see it on TV. But when did you when you were on that stage? Did you feel fully prepared? Were there any questions that you were just like blindsided by ?

Haley Pavone  31:06  

I felt fully prepared? 100% that’s actually one of the things I’m most proud of is, you know, the sharks love to trip people up didn’t really happen to me, I you know, had an answer to everything. So my answers they didn’t love but I had the answer and it was accurate. So I was very prepared. I mean, we’re talking for months, I would just drill flashcards on like everything they could ever possibly ask. I watched every season again and wrote down what all the questions were, they’d ask people that I thought I could get asked and just went to town drilling. flashcards are forever and it was an intense strategy is probably a little overkill, but it worked. They did not stump me while I was there. And that’s, that’s like my victory I’m going to take to the end of time. So we love to hear that

Sydney  31:53  

you could tell when we watched it was like I don’t recall you tripping up at all, like

Haley Pavone

Yeah my one true claim to fame.

Anjana 32:04  

Sometimes it’s truly just like the adrenaline of being in the moment and like just like being able to like be on on what’s the tip of your toes, but like you were actually fully prepared, which is awesome. 

Haley  32:15  

And a lot of adrenaline was good too. A lot of adrenaline as well.

Anjana  32:19  

100%. One of our listeners rutum was wondering how investors reached out after the episode like, what was that process? 

Haley 32:29  

Yeah, there’s definitely been a handful of investors that have reached out, which has been great. We’re still going through a lot of those conversations, investments always take, you know, at least a month to get done. So we’re still kind of working through all those. But I am happy to say, since filming, we have raised an additional, we just closed another investment yesterday and additional 1.2 5 million in funding, all without any royalties. 

Anjana 32:50
Congratulations Haley, that’s awesome

Haley 32:59

Thank you. Okay,

Anjana 33:00  

That’s awesome. We’ve been talking so much about like resilience and pivoting your strategy over these last few years. But how I mean, COVID we have to talk about that. And you know, how has has that affected business at all? Did you have to pivot? I feel like nobody’s really wearing heels anymore. Unless, you know, people are going back to the office. But what was that like for you? When March hit last year? You know, we

Haley 33:24  

We were very lucky. I have to say all things considered, actually, I mean, I’m hesitant to say lucky, we worked really hard. But when COVID came down, we were all terrified. 100% I mean, my whole team was sitting there and had the exact same thought of high heels in a quarantine. Right? Gonna be completely irrelevant. It’s kind of this crazy thing where, you know, I joke now actually with potential investors, they always ask what’s the biggest risk in your business? The biggest risk to our business was COVID. Because as I said, one of our strengths is we have so many different value propositions to a bunch of different customers, like people buy the heels for work, for weddings for date night for bridal showers to go to Vegas for travel, like there’s so many different reasons to buy the shoes that we always thought, Hey, you know, God forbid, everyone starts working remote and offices become non existent. We can still sell weddings and travel, right? Like that’s always going to be a thing. COVID was kind of the one thing that could truly wipe out every single value proposition we have right at the same time. So that’s kind of the joke now to investors, as I said is, hey, we already survived the riskiest possible thing for this business and actually thrived. You know, we were very scared for March. And then I don’t really know, to this day, I still just knock on wood. I don’t really know why but we grew up quarter over quarter the entire year. I think we lucked out in the sense that women’s shoe sizes don’t change. I know a lot of people weren’t buying clothes because if you know, everyone’s bodies are changing a little bit and COVID and it’s like I don’t know when I can wear this out. So I don’t want to invest in it now, if it’s not gonna work for me when I can actually wear it, but shoes are kind of the one thing where the sizing is consistent. If you invest in a good pair of shoes, they’re going to last you for years. And we have very basic silhouettes that don’t go out of style. Like if you buy, you know, I have the Pearl one here. But if you buy the black Pashion II stuff, that’s, it’s you know, even if we were in a pandemic, for two years, it would still probably be on trend, and you come out right, like, it’s nothing crazy. So I think we were in a great place where our product wasn’t at risk of becoming off trend post pandemic, and so people were more comfortable investing in it. And then also just our product is no such unique eye catching value. We benefited a lot from digital advertising of something we focused on really early on was people are on their phones, more than ever, they’re at home, let’s use this opportunity to hit them with really eye catching content, like they’ve been scrolling their feed for eight hours, right? What’s something that’s going to make them stop in their tracks and Want to learn more? And so we just kind of pivoted, we didn’t pivot our marketing strategy. We were always focused on good content, but we really just doubled down on Okay, this is our time, lot of people looking at phones, how do we reach them. And that became our primary goal at the beginning of 2020. And it worked, we you know, we just caught people mid scroll and got them devices shoes when they didn’t need them. And it, it worked. And I feel very, very blessed. Again, I don’t like lucky, of course, hard work went into it from the entire team. But I think we did catch up. We hit things exactly right. So that it didn’t slow us down.

Sydney 36:42  

You have achieved so many milestones, being you know, 25 and the CEO, taking Pashion to such great heights, being in Forbes and now on Shark Tank. You know, into the outside it seems like a lot of success has been made. But what I guess like what is that vision for you? Or like what does success with Pasion mean for you?

Haley 37:09  

This is funny when people ask founders this question, because we like lofty answers. This has been coming up a lot. And to me, you know, my real vision for Pashion is that it becomes a household name across the globe, and that convertible heels become high heels. If that makes sense. Like I don’t get why you would buy a Steve Madden heel for 130. When you can buy one of our shoes for 150. And you’re getting two shoes and one you can swap heels. It’s so much more comfortable. You don’t have to be barefoot. Of course, I’m very biased in that opinion. But I just think when you look at what convertible heels bring to the table, they truly are revolutionising the women’s footwear market, I think we’ve really created our own category. You know, I get asked that a lot. It’s not, it’s not a heel, it’s not a flat, it’s kind of this whole new thing that transcends both of those categories. And I firmly believe we can build this concept into its own dominant market within the space and just kind of completely eliminate other heels. very ambitious. But that’s what success looks like is I want to be getting to a place where around the world, women are wearing Pashions, and they’re the only heels in their closet. And what’s been really cool to see actually is that’s already starting to happen. In January I did a project where I called our top six performing customers and did you know our long chats with them just to get to know them. Four out of the six told me they’d thrown away every other pair of heels they owned and they own between nine and 12 pairs of our heels now, which considering we’ve been around for a year and a half is kind of nuts. Like that’s a lot of stuff. Especially during a pandemic like these people bought like nine pairs of our heels in the quarantine. Um, but that’s what I want to see. Like I want to see women of all walks of life all over the world trying this tech out and going. Yeah, it’s just a shoe but it actually makes an impact on my day to day that’s meaningful to me and I want my closet filled with this like I want the Pashion boot. I want the ump, I want the Pashion sandal, I need 25,000 heel kits, and this is my shoe brand now. And I think that’s what success looks like for me. That’s the vision that I have for this company. 

Anjana 39:32  

We love to hear that,  which one of your successes like so far have made you the most proud.

Haley  39:40  

I think that one honestly like whenever I get you know of course it’s it is easy to say things like Shark Tank, easy to say things like you know, I’ve raised $3.5 million now, and all that stuff’s great and it makes me feel good but nothing quite beats when I get a little email Letter review came through. And it’s a five star review from a woman I’ve never met in Kentucky. And she’s saying, Hey, I’m a, you know, pharmaceutical sales rep, and I’m running back and forth between hospitals all day, and I have to pick up my kids and heels have been a huge pain point in my life. Until now, like this is actually changing my day to day, we see at least a handful of those at this point on a daily basis, which is super cool. And that’s, that’s why I want to do this. Like, that’s what gives me a success. That’s what means the most to me is the fact that people are buying these shoes. They genuinely love them. And it’s genuinely, like empowering them to take on their day. I know that’s super cheesy, but it is like, No, I think I could do that. But it can. And that’s awesome. To me, that gets me stoked.

Sydney 40:50 

And hearing that customer feedback must be like so validating and like you were saying just like empowering to help push you through to like all of those challenges that you were talking about. And making it so worth it just to hear stories. 

Haley 41:05  

it makes all the hard times worth it and it makes it a lot easier. You know, when the feedback isn’t positive, like I have now I have that little thought in my mind where if I’m in a pitch meeting, I’ve been told flat out Like, this is a bad idea. No one wants this. I’m sitting there going, you know, Janet from Idaho disagrees. Like she really wants it. So she spent $800 on her five last pairs. So like, you’re like, on the phone like, yeah, I mean, like, let me call like one of these people that’s bought in the last 30 days. Yeah, see what they think. But that makes it a lot easier to your point, you know, early on before we’d sold any shoes when people were telling me, you know, no one wants this. This is a bad idea. It was tough to not take that to heart because of course, I had some doubt like, what if people do hate it? Oh, my God. Yeah. But now it’s really nice to be at a point where anytime I hear that I just kind of sit back and go, Hmm, you know, and there’s a couple 1000 people that disagree with you. Not to say you’re wrong, but like okay.

Anjana 42:14  :

I want to touch on two more listener questions. Before we get to our last question. So Joseph P is wondering kind of along the lines of what we were just talking about, like, what does growth look like? You know, are you looking for more different styles of shoes? Are you looking for expansion outside of shoes? Is it something else>

Haley 42:46

We have a variety of ideas on the horizon. I mean, we’ve got some pretty cool things up our sleeve. As I said, I mean, our overall vision is for this to become the staple shoe for men or women around the world. And part of that is expanding the offering. We don’t have shoes that work for everyone right now, one of our biggest goals is boots for the colder climates, because that’s, that’s I think where we’re losing the most right now is, you know, people that just live in colder areas, or, you know, if we happen to hit them in the winter, or shoes aren’t super cold weather friendly. So getting that out on the markets is a priority. But some additional silhouettes, definitely more colors and heel cuts. You know, I really think the end vision is for this to become a company the size of Steve Madden a Sam Edelman, like, we want this to be an established footwear brand with a huge selection that is capable of replacing every shoe in your closet. And so that’s what we’re building towards. Obviously, international expansion is a big priority, you know, we are patent pending in 30 countries. So there’s no reason we can’t take this global other than just optimizing the logistics for it. So that’s a big initiative we have. And then as far as going past that, I mean, we have some pretty crazy ideas about different product extensions outside of footwear, and then also some additional footwear opportunities to help us hit other markets. But I’ll keep those close to the belt, we’ll have to wait and see if those ones come to fruition, but boots, for sure, expanding the line of shoes, and then bringing it across the world.

Anjana 44:00

So exciting. And I think what I loved about what you said earlier, too, is like, what makes you feel the most successful is when you’re really seeing consumer consumer behavior change, right? Like they’re throwing away all their old heels and just just wearing Pashions. And that’s an you know, you have all these other amazing successes, but they’re also kind of like, your 15 minutes of fame. And this is like a life impact. And so that’s awesome.

Sydney  45:06  

One of our other listeners Ileana is wondering, just like in general, what are some of your daily habits or like routines that you’ve incorporated in your successful entrepreneur routine?

Haley 13:19  

Oh, that’s so funny. It’s, it’s honestly such a, it’s so different day to day, depending on what’s going on. I don’t know too many habits. What I will say is the general theme is I’m an obsessive planner. Like every week, I go through and write out my whole business to do list, I write out my personal To Do List my social to do list, like I need to have everything written down. And then Google calendars my best friend, like I’m booking out when I’m eating lunch and booking out when I call my friends, like it’s a little crazy, but we’re just like, trying to schedule and plan as much as I can. Because there is so much on my plate at this early stage. You know, I get asked a lot what I do day to day as a CEO, and it’s, you know, there’s my CEO job responsibilities, but 40% of my time, it’s just doing whatever needs to get done, because we are a six person team. And if there’s something that comes up that doesn’t fall nicely into someone’s job description, it’s me. I’m just the one that ends up doing it. So, you know, it’s, it’s all over the board, but just planning tracking everything. I do like reflecting at least on a monthly basis, if not on it. I try to do daily, but I forget, but on a monthly basis. I always take a couple hours to sit back and think about what was accomplished that month. What was a struggle that month and just you know, put some thought and some energy into that and how to facilitate more of those good moments and move away from some of those bad. I do like meditating and manifesting. I tried to do it once a week. Try doesn’t always work out. Um, I do practice gratitude every morning. very cliche, but I like to start the day just thinking about three things that make me happy, gets you in the right mindset, read some positive customer reviews, just like start the day off on a good note. Yeah, I mean, that’s, you know, working out the general stuff. I think I’m not a traditional CEO in the sense. I know, most people would say they listen to podcasts, they read books, I honestly am working too much for any of that. So that’s not really part of my I know, I probably should be reading more books, but I don’t have the time. So it’s mostly a lot of just trying to have a plan, stay on top of everything as much as I can. So there’s some degree of order amongst the madness, and then try to check in with myself as much as possible to make sure you know, we’re staying true to what I want, and trying to learn from mistakes and capitalize on wins. gratitude.

Anjana  47:07

Or like, yeah, so, so important for success. So I love that you said that.

Haley 47:26

It’s just getting your headspace, right? Yes. Like, I know, manifestation is kind of this, you know, whatever connotation to it. But the way I view it is, you’re not going to get what you want in life unless you’ve asked for it. And so, like, just manifesting to me, as I get my headspace in the right place, where I’m asking for what I want, and like, I believe that I can get it and that makes it a lot easier to put it out there. Because I’ve learned that you know, if all manifesting is, again, it’s just asking for what you want. And I think people don’t realize that the amount of times I’ve thought, Hey, I really want to meet, you know, XYZ partner at XYZ, VC. I just started asking people, like, Hey, does anyone know anyone at this firm? And someone always does. And I think the only reason people don’t get those connections is they don’t ask. And so that’s kind of how I see manifestation taking physical form is just talk yourself into thinking you can have things enough that you’re competent to ask people for it. And then it’s a small world, someone will get you there. Yeah,

Anjana 48:11  

That’s amazing. But it’s funny because like, you know how I say like, you always have something really cool on LinkedIn every, like, every couple months, and my mom has been following you since my freshman year. And she’s always like, we should get Haley on the podcast. I was like, well, then you write really busy after after her Shark Tank episode. I

don’t know if she wants to do it. But

Haley 48:30

All it takes is asking. You know, I think people don’t realize that. But I think the world can be a lot simpler than we try to make it out to me. And one of the simplest things, which is like the core non hippie dippie part of manifestation is you can only get something if you ask for it. Right? Because otherwise, no one knows you want it?

Sydney  48:44

Yeah. And more often than not, people are pretty willing and open to answering questions

Haley  48:50
Yeah, 100% the vast majority of people in the world are very nice. So just like you know, use that route to be bold, and ask for what you want and see what happens. Worst case, they say no, then just ask someone else. Yeah.

Anjana 51:05

Something you said early on is, you know, this is kind of a, especially with investing and VCs and all that this is kind of a area where it’s really hard to be a young woman right out of college, to, you know, to start a company, like it’s not generally told to us like, especially if you’re a monka, especially a Cal Poly, it’s like you have your three, four parts that you can take all in the same direction, I guess, where How can we reimagine the entrepreneurship space and in the investment space to be a place where young people, especially in young women feel comfortable going out and like pursuing their dreams. And just like trying, you know, even if it’s not my first entrepreneurial idea doesn’t work, like just putting themselves out there and trying, because you’re doing that, you know, you’re doing, you’re sharing your stories to make people feel more comfortable. So

Haley 18:58  

Exactly, no, I think to that point. And this is kind of what I hinted on earlier, it’s about normalizing it. Like the reason it’s so hard to be a young female entrepreneur in the capital raising world right now is because there’s barely any of us, like, there’s not that many. So if there were more, right, it’s kind of like the law of statistics. If there were more young women trying, then more would be successful. And every successful entrepreneur then gets a seat on that funding side of it, right? Like, that’s kind of the cycle of, you know, whoever makes it as an entrepreneur goes on to become a VC in their second life and invest in new entrepreneurs. So I think we’re at this really critical point where in the past, only men were expected to be entrepreneurs. And now we’re in a situation where most of the investors are older men, and they like to invest in other older men. And so how do we shift that dynamic? It takes more young women saying, No, I’m gonna do it like I get the odds are against me, but the only way to flip those odds is to do it yourself. So you have to get in there and fight for it. And it’s going to be tough. And I think that’s, that’s one of the things I think we as a society struggle with is everyone wants a quick fix. Everyone wants to just magically, you know, it’s 50/50 on female versus male investing. I think the realism in me is that’s not possible, not in a way, that’s fair. And in a way, that’s actually making a difference. The, it’s gonna take time, but if we want to be in a position, 10-15 years from now, we’re investing in women is 505/0. It starts with women, having the balls to be like, I’m gonna go in there, and it might suck, but I’m gonna figure it out. And that’s the only thing that makes change is you just have to do it and flip that narrative. And yes, it will take time, but we have the power to lay the foundation for that future today, but only if we choose to go after it. So that’s kind of the way I think about it is I’m reimagining a world where it is 50/50 and things are equal. That world is probably 15-20 years from now, which is unfortunate, but like, that’s the way things happen and a fair natural sequence. But it starts today, with hopefully, you know, my goal is women hear my story and think, yeah, I can do that. Like, shoot, let’s go for it and make some change, you know. And so that’s that kind of I guess, where I’m at, ultimately I want more women to feel like they can try this and find success with it in spite of the odds, and I hope my story proves that.