Over the past two years or so, I've been VERY picky with those I surround myself with. I've carefully selected networking events, did what I like to call a "friend cleanse" and have truly practiced the whole "who you surround yourself with says a lot about who you are" philosophy, and what I found has been incredible!
I swapped the negative nay-sayers with people who tell me I change the world, and the unmotivated moochers with incredible entrepreneurs and leaders their fields and in doing so, I've had the chance to surround myself with like minded women who are here to kick ass and take names later - case in point, Evi Simjan.
When Evi and I first met, it was girl crush at first sight. Not only did we have similarities in the music and sense of humor departments, but I admired her drive to create a product that encompassed what every busy woman needed - a shoe that was as comfortable as it was beautiful! Keep reading to see how she tackles everyday challenges, draws inspiration for new designs and to find out what's next for the Evi Simjan brand!
Honestly Unfiltered: How did the idea behind the Evi Simjan brand come about?
Evi Simjan: I love shoes, always have. I have been wearing heels for as long as I can remember. The only thing that used to matter was how they looked, and the higher the better. After moving to Chicago and having to carry a bag with 2 to 3 shoe options at all times, I decided there had to be a better way. Why were heels so uncomfortable? My mission became to design a high fashion, comfortable shoe that women can wear all day.
HU: What was the most challenging part of starting the business?
ES: Getting out of my own way, quieting that little voice in the back of my mind that kept telling me not to do it…because what if I fail? We all have dreams, and this was one of mine, and if it fails, what next? The fashion world is a difficult place to be, so getting past the fears was the most challenging part.
HU: What’s one of the biggest unexpected challenges you were faced with when starting your business?
ES: Manufacturing, finding someone that would create the product that I had designed. I had made some changes to my lasts to make them comfortable, they are very different from what was out on the market. I kept hearing “this is not how it’s been done” because I wanted to change the way women wear shoes.
Photo by: Yesi Flores
HU: Tell us a bit about your design process. How do you start? Where do you draw inspiration from?
ES: I am not someone that can just sit down and say “today I am going to design” I draw my inspiration from life, things I see, people I talk too. I carry a little notebook with me to sketch or write out my thoughts. If I don’t have my notebook, I ALWAYS have my phone, so I will take pictures or write notes about what I want to create the next time I have a chance to sketch it out.
HU: What class, life event, business advice etc, do you think most helped you prepare for the challenges of being an entrepreneur?
ES: My parents were my inspiration - I come from a family of Entrepreneurs. My parents came here from the former Yugoslavia and like most immigrants, came to the US because they wanted to live the American dream. I watched my father work hard everyday of my life to build a business and create a name for himself. He learned the steel industry and the English language at the same time. My mother started her business after my brother and I were older. Both of my parents were fearless when it came to business…or at least that’s all I saw. I watched both of them defy the odds by becoming successful business owners without a college education. They taught me that the only limits are the ones you put on yourself. With hardwork, drive and determination anything is possible.
HU: Being an entrepreneur brings a new, more difficult, situation to deal to with one almost daily. What would you say has been the biggest “surprise” or unexpected scenario, you’ve come across so far?
ES: My biggest surprise has been how difficult it is to get women to try a new brand. As a new designer, I realize that it’s going to take some time for my brand to become a household name, but I also know that everyone that wears my shoes can’t get over how comfortable they are. It’s only a matter of time before I have a page in Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar.
Photo by: Yesi Flores
HU: You work full time in addition to running your own company, can you tell us what a typical day looks like for you?
ES: Everyday is different, there is nothing typical about my day. When we are working on manufacturing/production, my day usually starts at 4am with text messages, phone calls and emails from the factories in Macedonia or Italy. I work with them for a few hours before going to work at the hospital. I manage a diagnostic imaging lab from 8am to about 5 or 6pm. I go to the gym or to a pilates class. I’m home to work for a few more hours and in bed by 10pm, if I’m lucky, to start it all over again the next day.
HU: Have you ever had a day where you felt like giving up your business and if so, how did it come about and how did you overcome that fear?
ES: Right before we launched the first collection. One week before the launch I received the first shipment of shoes, all we had was the black ones! They had not finished the other colors so I was frantic. I was ready to give up, who did I think I was? I was in way over my head! But my cousin (my voice of reason) convinced me that we could launch with the black and bring the rest out later in the season. So we had the launch party as scheduled, it was all a blur to me but from what I can remember it was a fabulous event. We brought the colors out 2 months later at a pop up shop in Detroit. Everything worked out in the end, but it was not the way I envisioned it.
HU: What piece of advice would you give to other women looking to start their own company?
ES: Do the research, you can’t always be prepared for everything, but the more you know the easier it is. It’s not going to be easy, it’s not always glamorous, but it is rewarding.
HU: Where do you see Evi Simjan in the next 5 years?
ES: With the next collection, I will bring out a unisex lifestyle sneaker. In 5 years after I’ve established myself in the world of women’s shoes, I hope to create a men’s line as well.
Photo by: Yesi Flores
MORE WITH EVI SIMJAN: Favorite food? Toss up between sushi and tacos. Favorite travel destination? Florence, Italy. Guilty pleasure? Scandal. Most used app on your phone? iTunes, I can’t think without music. Favorite piece in your closet? Celine Coat. If you could go anywhere in the world that you haven’t been before, where would you go? Sad to say I haven’t been to Paris yet. Top three favorite shoe designers? Manolo Blahnik always, Azzedine Alaia and Nicholas Kirkwood right now. Top three songs on your playlist right now? It’s too hard to chose 3 songs!! But right now…anything Rihanna, Jay-Z’s whole 4:44 album, and Mary J Blige will always be on the list. You never leave home without these three things. Iphone, chapstick, mascara.