Footwear designer Gustavia Lui has been issued an invitation for the retail opportunity of a lifetime: the chance to pitch a supply deal to one of America’s biggest online shoe retailers, Zappos, in person. But there’s a catch. They need her to be there in six days’ time. And Lui needs help to make it happen.
Inspired by her own struggle to find attractive, well-fitting shoes, 29-year-old Lui quit her day job in January to make fashion-forward footwear for women with wide feet from sizes 10 to 14. Her company, Staavias, has gone from strength to strength ever since, selling directly to women all over the world.
The connection with Zappos was initiated when Lui approached the Amazon-owned behemoth for a supply deal earlier this year.
“They replied saying it’s a long process to go through, and I actually didn’t hear back from them for ages.”
Then last Monday, less than 24 hours after arriving in China to pick up samples for Staavias’ second collection, Lui received an extraordinary invitation. Zappos has offered to sponsor Lui to attend its vendor party in Las Vegas, plus a two-day workshop with the chief executive and his team. This will include a tour of the Zappos headquarters. She has also been offered sponsored entry into the Magic Las Vegas fashion trade show, and the chance to present her Staavias shoe line to Zappos for consideration. The whole suite of events will run from August 10 – 16.
“They said, ‘You’re going to pitch face to face, but first, we’ll teach you how to do it,’” Lui says.
This offer is a dream come true for Lui: “I was in my hotel room all by myself, and I just danced around the room.”
However, it could not have come at a worse time in terms of cashflow. If Zappos had got in touch two weeks ago, Lui says she could have “made some adjustments”, but now, Lui is fully financially committed to launching Staavias’ second collection in October.
Zappos has generously offered to sponsor her for half the cost of her accommodation, but the rest of this cost, plus flights to the US and extra baggage allowance to hold the samples she wants to show at the Magic trade fair, is beyond Lui’s reach. She has set up a Givealittle page to raise the extra $5000 she needs to cover these costs.
Lui is full of hope and confidence about taking Staavias into the US market. She loves the thrill of pushing through barriers and using her entrepreneurial skills to make Staavias a success.
“I always wanted it to move fast – I had goals, like getting stocked in x amount of stores in a certain amount of time.”
“But this is literally next week.”
Lui had hoped to take Staavias into Australia and Samoa first, but with a little help, the brand’s first extra-New Zealand market could be the US instead.