Shoe Business: Stolen Riches

We are checking in with our friends in shoe-related businesses to find out how they got interested in shoes, where the journey running a niche business has taken them, and what the future holds in a post COVID-19 world. Today we are talking to Stolen Riches! Fun fact, did you know that we sell shoelaces from Stolen Riches in our museum shop?

How long has the business been around?

Stolen Riches officially launched in 2011 but my family has been manufacturing laces since 1915. Thus the reference “Since 1915” in our logo.

What is your background? How did you make your way to the world of accessories?

This is a fairly long conversation but I'll try to summarize it for you.

After building and selling a number of companies in the digital channel, I was fascinated with the idea of creating a physical product. Up until that time everything I had done was "virtual/digital" (I come from a family of entrepreneurs, on my father's side.  My great-grandfather created Christie's Biscuits of "Mr Christie you make good cookies" fame and on my mother's side, my great-grandfather started a textile company called Textile Manufacturing). After building one of the top five digital agencies in Canada, I sold out to my partners in 2008 and went traveling around the world for a year with the notion of finding my next "big idea". It was during this trip around the world that I became fascinated with the idea of colour and how it changed even the most mundane of things - i.e. the spice markets in the Grand Bazaar in Turkey, Thailand and India.

After returning to Canada I started to think about what I wanted to do next and was intrigued by companies like Happy Socks, who had built a successful global businesses around adding colour to an everyday object to get us to think differently about it. I went to boarding school (Trinity College School) where our socks were blue, grey and black. Now socks are in bright pinks, blues and reds, stripes, patterns etc. Around this time I went to Harry Rosen to buy a pair of dress laces to replace a pair that had broken and they told me to go to my local cobbler. I asked myself, why did Harry Rosen - who is in the business of selling shoes not have laces for sell? There are probably a number of reasons why but I am sure one of them was that they did not view a shoe lace as anything but utilitarian. With this I began to start to think about how one could add colour/branding to dress laces to get people to think differently about them - it also helped that my family owned a textile company and had been producing dress laces since 1915 - or as my Grandfather used to say putting laces in boots through two world wars.

You are “leading the revolt against the ordinary.” Why do you think accessories are important?

Accessories allow individuals to personalize their look. We all have a blue suit in our closet that we wear to business meetings and weddings but depending on the socks, tie, pocket square or, dare I say, laces, one could totally change the look of their outfit.

How do you source out your products? What do you focus on?

We’ve always focused on creating premium accessories made in Canada.

Who is your typical customer?

Our typical customer is probably fashion conscious enough to want to stand out from the crowd. That being said, we sell a staggeringly large amount of black and brown laces so I think quality is important to our customer as well.

Since your business is primarily online, have you been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic? Has this resulted in changes to your business?

Without getting too deep into the numbers, our business is a combination of online and through retail partners like Harry Rosen. Given people were not allowed to leave their house for most of the spring, we’ve seen a considerable decline in sales through our retail partners. But as things start to open up again, we're starting to see a return to normal.

What have you found is an effective way to market your business? Has this changed in recent months?

The quick answer is quality. But for selling a quality product we would not enjoy the amount of word of mouth marketing that we receive, Oprah wouldn’t have selected us as one of her favorite things and GQ would not have written about us.

What are your top three most popular products?

Laces, wrist wear and our leather dopp bags.

What gives you joy and satisfaction in your work?

If you love what you do it’s not work. It also helps that I get to (our used to) fly around the world and attend fashion weeks in Italy, France, UK and the US.

Thank you so much for taking the time to answer our questions! To learn more about Stolen Riches, visit their website here. Don't forget you can purchase their shoelaces in our museum shop!

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