It was 1994. Sandra Wilson, a young wife and mother, was downsized out of her airline job. Wishing to spend more time with her 18-month old son Robert, Sandra saw this as an opportunity to start her own home-based business. For inspiration, she looked to her son’s tiny feet.
Sandra set out to handcraft a pair of brightly colored, soft-soled leather shoes for young Robert. She was pleased to discover that the shoes seemed to improve his balance, because the soft soles allowed him to “feel” the floor while he toddled about. Sandra decided to name the shoes after her son. “Robeez” shoes were born.
Sandra began to wonder: if these high quality soft-soled shoes worked so well for Robert, perhaps other mothers around North America would find them a good product for their children’s developing feet.
So Sandra decided to hand-stitch 20 pairs of her footwear and attend the 1994 Vancouver Gift Show trade exhibition. The response? Overwhelming. The orders flooded in and she signed up 15 retailers ready to sell her product. Sandra threw herself into production. Her home’s basement became Robeez Footwear’s early headquarters and she quickly immersed herself into learning all there was to know about leather, cutting, sewing, design, sales and distribution. It was the beginning of an incredible growth story.
To keep up with the booming sales, Sandra hired her first sales representative in March 1995 and by May 1997, Robeez was online. The company moved out of Sandra’s basement in May 1999 and into their first commercial space. Since then, the company has relocated and expanded into larger premises to accommodate the rapidly expanding operations.
In August 2001, sales topped $1.2 million Canadian and doubled by the following year. Today, sales surpass the $15 million mark and continue to grow at an outstanding pace.
In 2003, Sandra established the Robeez Heart & Sole program, which donates much-needed children’s footwear to non-profit societies and charities throughout the world.
Sandra could not have predicted the phenomenal success the company has enjoyed. Today, Robeez is recognized as the world’s leading manufacturer of soft-soled leather footwear for newborns to four-year-olds. Robeez Footwear now has close to 400 employees and sells shoes in over 4,500 stores in countries throughout North America, Europe, Australia and parts of Asia.
The company carries over 70 designs of shoes and, in 2004, introduced their newest line of footwear for all-season warmth – fleece-lined Booties.
From the very first pair of shoes Sandra lovingly crafted, she did so with a caring ethic, developing a quality product that put her child first. Today, that same ethic is upheld in every pair of Robeez footwear and in all aspects of the company.
In September 2006, Robeez was acquired by the Stride Rite Corporation, visit www.strideritecorp.com