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For the love of Shoes

Published: 
Friday, December 19, 2014
Customers looking around to find a perfect fit at the opening of ShoeAholic's Port-of-Spain branch.

A profound love for shoes. An idea that maybe she should sell shoes. Support from her fiancé. That’s what led Jillan Aimable to follow her heart. So in 2007, she gave up her job in the banking sector, where she had a management position, to go full-time into the shoe business. 

Eight years later, the first-time mother-to-be is the CEO of ShoeAholics, a fast-growing trendy women’s shoe store, which offers both custom and ready-made footwear. She now has four outlets in Arima, Chaguanas, Tobago and Port-of-Spain, not to mention a huge customer base. 

Recently Aimable donated 275 pairs of shoes to women’s homes across T&T. On December 10, she hosted a special cocktail event at the Port-of-Spain branch to make the official presentations.

Taking the risk

It all started after Aimable got her first taste of shoe sales when she ran a booth at the Divali Nagar in 2007. It wasn’t that the profits were so great, but she was surprised at how many women actually bought shoes on a daily basis. Besides that, running her own business also felt so darn good for Aimable, a marketing major.

She said: “I was on vacation and I decided, why not sell some shoes? I mean I always had a thing for shoes and my colleagues would always ask me where I got them. So I thought if I could wear them, why not sell them?”

After vacation, returning to the office was anything but enjoyable or motivational. Not that Aimable did not enjoy being the assistant manager of business, but the experience at the Divali Nagar had just changed her. It was more satisfying than what she did at the bank.

“I swore I had a tabanca,” she joked.

That is when she decided it was time for her to move on and follow her passion.

Aimable, from Sangre Grande, had attended North-Eastern College, then graduated from the Anglia Ruskin University (ARU), and was a former teacher at the UWI School of Continuing Studies. But she wanted to sell shoes, and a year later, she launched fully into the shoe business. 

The move nearly wrecked her mother, a domestic worker who could not comprehend why her bright daughter, who held down a perfectly good job, would want to take such a risk.

“Mommy almost caught a fit. She felt I was leaving a pretty decent salary to jump into something that really offered no benefits nor real security. But I needed to do it,” said Aimable.

With just her previous month’s salary, she opened her first store at the Arima Dial Mall—even though she was still paying car instalments and credit card bills.

“At the time, the Arima Dial Mall was still being constructed. However, the ground and first floors were completed, so one day I went into the mall and I began asking around if there were any more booths available for rent, but everyone there kept telling me there was no space. 

“I was about to leave when something told me to just walk further down and ask the tenant to the back, so I did. But he too, said, ‘No space’. Then, this other guy turns around and says to me, ‘I have one more spot available. Tell me if you like it’. I subsequently found out that guy was the owner. Talk about God’s favour.”

The spot was actually on the second floor, which meant customers would have to climb three flight of stairs to get to the booth. 

“I thought to myself this is a major deterrent, who would want to climb three flight of stairs just to buy shoes?”

But again exercising faith, Aimable took it. Surprisingly, once her booth was officially opened, women were climbing those stairs with great ease.

Growth

“You could not stick a pin in the store because it was packed, especially on weekends. Women were just flooding in to buy shoes—to the point where tenants on the ground floor wanted to come up on the second floor. They could not understand how the second floor was receiving so much traffic, while they were paying more money to be in the so-called traffic area.”

Business began to do so well for Aimable that she soon opened the second store in Chaguanas. Again, there was a sea of customers. 

“At that opening,” she said, “we had at least 300 customers outside the door waiting. We opened at 9 am and traffic continued until 6 pm. 

“To be quite honest, when I opened that door I felt like crying because it was so overwhelming, the love and support. Customers travelled from Toco and as far as from Tobago to buy shoes. I mean that’s crazy, right?” 

Seeing the support she received from her Tobago customers, Aimable eventually opened a branch there at Lowlands Mall.

Her newest branch hit Port-of-Spain on November 28.

“God has certainly been good to me,” Aimable says with a smile.

Looking back, she believes no risk is too big if it will lead you to your destiny. 

“Just jump! Don’t think about if you are not going to make it, because you will spend all of your life wondering what could have been. Just do it!” she advised.

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