Beautiful shoes will take you to beautiful places. At least that's what shoe-holics tell themselves when they want to buy a new pair of shoes. But Elle Chan, the young woman behind Meilleur Shoes, is determined to make that statement true. Meilleur is a brand that aims to empower community artisans. They partner up with different communities and selected artisans who are trained under a livelihood program, and gives them the opportunity to have a stable income so they can chase their dreams and go to beautiful places. Get to know the young entrepreneur behind this stylish footwear brand who never forgets to give back as she shared with us how she started Meilleur.
How it started. "I went to a province before and I saw how tough life was for the residents because they didn't have a stable source of income. I was able to interact with a few members of the community and they told me that no matter how hard they worked, they still lacked the funds to send their children to school, give their families a better life, and contribute to their community. I wanted to help them, but I didn't want to give them something that is only short term. So I had an idea. Why not create a livelihood program for them to develop new set of skills, or enhance their current skills so they can improve their way of living? We went from one house to another, and invited people to sign up for the program. While they were hesitant at first, once they understood the partnership, they soon welcomed the idea. Now, they make shoes at the comfort of their own homes."
Why Meilleur Shoes? "I personally love shoes to bits. I understand how important shoes are because it can either make or break your outfit. However, whenever I go out and buy a pair, I saw the need to create better ones because whenever I wear a new pair of shoes, I usually get blisters and my feet suffer after long hours of walking and standing. Plus, some of the shoes that I got weren't as durable as I would like them to be. I then saw, understood, and wanted to change the current flaws of the shoe industry."
Young entrepreneur. "A lot of young entrepreneurs say that having your own business at a young age is hard. But I think the better term is challenging. Being a young entrepreneur is challenging because when you enter a business venture it’s not just about you anymore. It's about your service and the concern for others because there are now people depending on you to provide for their families. The community who signed up to become part of Meilleur's project gave me their trust and hopes because they want their kids to chase their dreams to have a better future and they want their community to become a better place to live in and that is definitely challenging for me."
Drawing inspiration. "I draw my inspiration from three things: society, family, and myself. I get inspired by people who want to provide for their families and make society a better place to live in. I draw inspiration from my parents who have been very selfless and supportive with all my dreams. Moreover, I am also self- motivated because I have an end goal in mind and I want to be able to achieve it no matter what hurdles I'd have to face.
Flying solo. Being a one man team is not hard for me. In fact it's actually fun and full of learning experience! You get to be very hands on in every aspect of the business. From designing the shoes, choosing the materials, production, and even delivery. I also do my own financial projections, costing, and analysis as well as securing and negotiating for different partnerships, distributors, and suppliers. I also create my own marketing content and collaterals.
Little challenges. "There were two types of challenges that I had to face with setting up my own business. Because I’m juggling a number of ventures, I have to be disciplined about time and that's a personal challenge that I have to deal with. Other than that, there are also external challenges that I have to face from suppliers to the market itself."
Staying original. "I keep my brand, Meilleur Shoes, different because we don’t just sell shoes, but we’re selling a message to remind people to feel empowered, and to never stop chasing their dreams. And how can you chase your dreams without a pair of shoes right?"
What’s next? All brands dream of expansion at some point in the future. My plan was to start slow, but strong online which we've already achieved. Now, we're trying to be more accessible to our market by setting up physical stores, or by becoming available in shops. After Quezon City, next is Manila, Davao, Cebu, and other cities and emerging provinces. Once the nationwide plan is rolled out, we want to go international.
To budding young entrepreneurs. "I would say that you have to take note of the three rights that you will be facing. You have to wait for the right time because when it comes to business, timing is everything. You have to eye for the right opportunity because you should not grab every opportunity that comes your way. Lastly, you have to have the right attitude and maturity. In business not everything will go according to your projections and plans so you have to handle those road blocks with maturity and the right attitude."
Know any young entrepreneurs? Leave a comment below and you just might see them on the site next week!