“I’m 9ft tall and have struggled to buy shoes because I’m so tall – now I’m making close to 6 figures with my new business”
Being tall has its pros and cons that many people never experience if they are closer to average height. From a job interview to a first date, all sorts of situations become even more stressful than for the average person because of the question of finding an outfit that really suits them.
That’s exactly why London-based mum-of-two Laura Scholfield found her niche and launched a successful business that now reaches customers all over the world, all the way to Australia. Laura wondered – while brands may continue to grow and claim they are ‘inclusive’ for all body types – how true is that? They may claim to cater to all body types, but Laura felt completely left out when shopping at the big name brands.
While petite is often a clothing category for well-known retailers, larger women have struggled for years to find clothes that fit them well and even if they do, they don’t always feel good in them. This is exactly what spurred Croydon-based Laura into action.
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The 36-year-old told MyLondon: “Growing up I was always taller than everyone. Going to the school disco there was nobody like me there. You were dancing with a boy and they were about 4’10 tall. I’ve had people comment on my feet being bigger than theirs.”
Laura found it hard to enjoy being the biggest of her groups. The constant statements of “look how big you are” or “you’re so big” when she met a family member after a long time. She felt she was the only one in the world going through this – luckily for Laura, she found a community.
“Hearing these comments, you’re begging someone to say something different,” Laura explained.
“When I found an online community of other tall people, it made me realize that I wasn’t going to go through this alone. I felt like I was the only tall girl at the school, but there were others.”
Laura started a blog where she engaged with others going through a similar situation. In 2018, she launched a survey of her online community about their experiences with shoes. She got around 1000 responses saying they were having trouble finding shoes that fit them and if so, they didn’t look good.
This is what led her to create Otto+Ivy.
She said: “I’m 6ft 1 and nine foot tall. I felt the situation for tall women on the high street was getting worse and lobbied a host of retailers to they stock larger sizes, but nothing ever happened. In January 2020 after finding a warehouse and factories ready to make larger shoes, I started Otto+Ivy.
“If you have big feet as a woman, the options are limited and boring. It may seem trivial, but shopping for shoes is a big thing for women. Every time I went shopping, I looked through the windows salivating at the thought of buying a shoe but knowing that there wouldn’t be one in my size. I wanted to have this incredible experience of opening a shoebox and having a shoe that fits.
Women with larger feet can now look on Otto + Ivy and have the choice of finding a shoe that fits and looks just as good. Now, instead of having to plan ahead what they need, they have a site that caters to them with countless options.
Prior to committing full-time to Otto+Ivy and moving to Cornwall to be closer to her warehouse, Laura worked as a chain store presenter and model. As a model, she got jobs canceled because they only had shoes up to size eight. On one occasion, she did a job where she wore a size eight and was in “complete agony”.
Now people order shoes from all over the world, even Australia. Europe was a big market for her but because of Brexit she had to stop sending shoes there. His European customers always ask him for a way to send them.
She said: “The Netherlands has the biggest people in the world, but we were getting orders from there. Australia is on the other side of the world and I had a customer who bought 30 pairs in eight months. It’s an incredible feeling, but just shows how necessary it is to have wider options.”
One of Laura’s biggest accomplishments actually came before the full launch of Otto + Ivy. After a friend said he worked with Caitlyn Jenner, he asked if he could pick up some shoes to show her.
“Before I started I wrote down a list of women I’d like to wear my shoes with and Caitlyn Jenner was awesome. I drove all the way to Brighton with my husband with the shoes in our trunk. I went into her lodge and gave her a pair to try on – she immediately said she felt like Cinderella and they fit so well.
“Since then she has been photographed wearing different styles of my shoes on her outings,” she added.
Clients have also given Laura incredible praise and feedback – so much so that she often asks for their input on different styles and color combinations. She sees it as a way for customers to have some kind of ownership of their shoes and give them more information – something they’ve been looking forward to.
She said: “Having repeat customers, seeing people buying the same shoe in different colors is special. People are really engaged and I’ve never paid for advertising. It’s just snowballing with social media and people keep coming back.”
Otto + Ivy is going from strength to strength as Laura doubled its sales in 2021 and in January 2022 it had its best month yet. At present, she has been able to earn close to six figures and hopes to continue growing without losing her connection with her clients.
My name is Ayokunle (Ayo for the most part) and I’m a community reporter at MyLondon, covering community stories around London and positive human stories. I started in October 2021 and since then have covered a range of topics covering all of London.
Three stories from the past month that I’m particularly proud of are:
I was born and raised in Hackney and moved back from living in Sydney, Australia in 2020 which has been a positive but stressful (due to Covid) experience. I love London but as you can see I needed to get out after being here for so long and the gray skies.
You can reach me at [email protected]
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