I had the chance to have lunch with a great storyteller and even greater online retailer, Felipe Servin. He told me an unforgettable story of his journey to the top of retail disruption that I would love to share.
“I hated shoes. Hated everything about them,” Felipe chuckles. “I grew up in Leon, Mexico – the shoe manufacturing capital of the world. Everyone there lived and breathed shoes. My father. My uncles. My girlfriend. My cousins. My neighbors. Everybody! Growing up, I said it over and over – I would never work in the shoe industry. Not ever.”
Fate is a funny thing. Felipe is now the Founder and CEO of ‘Yo Amo Los Zapatos,’ also known as ‘Shoe Lovers,’ a social community and retail outlet for shoe enthusiasts around the world.
As it happens, Felipe’s roundabout journey to the world of shoes started with tech. At age 7, his father gave him a computer, and Felipe learned to love programming. His constant curiosity around solving problems programmatically became his way of interacting with and improving his world.
He attended university early, and while there, the eager Felipe started working at an internship with a government agency. His task? To create technology to measure social impact. It’s a hard thing to measure – how do you know if you should invest in schools, highways, prisons or hospitals? Infrastructure decisions were generally made after-hours over rounds of whiskey, but within 2 years, Felipe had developed a model that forever put a dent in the good old boys’ club. Felipe had pulled together data around diseases, robberies, birth rates, and more to inform the decision-making process. Based on his accomplishments, he won a scholarship to study in the UK.
It was there in Europe that Felipe became interested in global marketplace systems. He began to explore macro trends to better understand product popularity and lifecycles. After some initial investigation, he realized that there were no quality models that could properly digest social attitudes and passions toward a product.
“The entire fashion industry was working off of incomplete, inefficient sets of data. In fact, they still are,” Felipe said. “This was the start. This is where our model, which is the heart of our current company, emerged. We actually measure the attitude consumers hold toward a product. This information helps us forecast the new, ‘in’ fashion. Imagine what you can do with this information. It is powerful.”
During his time in London, Felipe says he was fanatically focused on developing a system that could measure current trends and get product to market quickly. In his words, he “skipped parties and turned into a total geek.” His final research showed that pictures, comments, and events online could all be measured to understand consumer product affinity. He discovered pictures were the fastest viral element, but of all the kinds of pictures online, the most viral of all were puppies babies, and…
“I couldn’t believe it. It was this mythical, bigger-than-life moment that brought my entire family story and heritage right back to me.” Felipe smiled as he recounted this part. “I had to go back to my father and tell him I was going to be working with shoes.”
Since then, Felipe has built a powerful shoe-loving community, with over 35 million members and growing at a mind-boggling 1.5 million members a month.
Shoe Lovers works with fashion brands to provide fashion-forward footwear to high heel lovers, all based on algorithms of consumer affinity. Felipe built the community to be the layer between the providers/brands and the consumers, but the secret sauce is the last mile human touch and curation that provides context and story to the sale of product.
Understanding the relationship our consumers have with shoes is key to our success,” a thoughtful Felipe continues. “There is a chemical reaction when a consumer sees a product they love, and shoes are one of the only items of apparel that is size agnostic – no matter what body size or shape you are, you can express yourself with your shoes. We eliminate the noise and make it easy for our community to purchase and share their experience. They love us for that. This is the future of retail, and we are here with the most viral product, the most tightly-knit community in the world.”
“I do think it was fate,” he says. “I knew I never wanted to look at shoes again, and here I am. We’ve built a massive shoe-loving community using tools that no one else is using, and I’m happy that fate had a surprise in store for me.
We at the GRIN couldn’t be happier for Felipe and shoe lovers everywhere.
Visit Felipe’s company at http://www.shoelovers.co