The Scoop on Monica Ferguson and Becca Brown of @thesolemates
As a woman who only started wearing high heels after graduating from college, I had to teach myself how to wear heels the right way. Once I did learn, I realized that there were a lot of difficulties that came with wearing heels! I didn’t want to have to give up feeling powerful and confident within my wardrobe though… because that’s what heels do (at least for me)! It’s been a struggle for me since the beginning.
Then, I discovered Solemates! Solemates, a company started by Monica Ferguson and Becca Brown, has solved all of my problems when it comes to heels! These lovely ladies were able to send me some of their products to try and I recommend every single item for you to try as well! They have a multitude of amazing products! (One of my personal favorites was the Blister Blocker because wearing heels can hurt.)
Their spotlight product would certainly be the High Heeler! Forget about getting stuck in the grass at an outdoor event ever again because this easy to use product is absolutely life changing for any high heel wearer! Check out how it looks on me:
There’s no way I’m getting stuck in the grass ever again with this on my heel!
Q&A WITH MONICA FERGUSON AND BECCA BROWN
I had the opportunity to talk with Monica and Becca about their company, the double edged sword that is wearing high heels, and what it’s like to be an entrepreneur. Check it out!
You are the founders of Solemates! Can you tell our readers what Solemates is and how you first started the company?
BECCA: Solemates is a brand of women’s shoe solutions and accessories! Our flagship product is the High Heeler, a heel cap that prevents the heel from sinking into grass and getting stuck in cracks. It works by increasing the surface area on the base of the heel which dissipates the pressure and prevents the heel from sinking or getting stuck.
The Solemates High Heeler was born out of personal necessity. We were tired of ruining our shoes. Day after day in New York City, weekends spent at weddings, and other outdoor events, etc., our shoes were getting eaten by the cobblestones, subway grates, and sinking into grass! It was so annoying ruining all of those shoes, and since there was no solution (other than to wear flats or wedges), we decided to invent one.
MONICA: Once we established our presence in the market with the heel caps, we recognized the void in the market for other shoe care products – products that we would actually want to use on our shoes; products that we would feel good about buying, etc.
Shoe care has always been a man’s game – and not even a young man’s game. It’s been marketed and created to men who own the same few pairs of shoes for decades. When it came to women’s shoe care there seemed to be no brands on the market addressing us in an authentic way. Literally, every brand designed for a “woman” seemed to be a man’s brand that had been slapped with a pink ribbon with the words “FOR HER”.
We decided that the experience of caring for our shoes should mirror, if not match, the experience of buying and owning them. We wanted to be excited about shoe care and excited to treat our shoes with beautifully packaged, non-toxic and natural products.
What were you both up to before starting Solemates?
MONICA: Becca and I had actually met on our first day of analyst training at Goldman Sachs, right out of college. We worked in different groups, but were friends. We both ended up attending Columbia Business School together. It was here where we first planted the seeds for Solemates. We both went back to Goldman after Business School, but ultimately resigned to launch Solemates.
Wearing high heels sometimes seems like a double edged sword. Heels can make you feel powerful and great, but heels can also be a pain. Do you think your products help ease the struggle?
BECCA: Absolutely! That’s precisely why we created Solemates. It’s no secret that women have a special relationship with high heels. They make us taller, longer, and leaner; they exude confidence and sexiness. We love them and the way they make us look. But these benefits come at a high cost…
MONICA: We’ve all been there. You’re at an outdoor wedding, dressed to the nines when all of a sudden your heels sink into the grass. You’re walking down the street in your favorite stilettos, when all of a sudden your heel gets stuck in a sidewalk crack or city grate. It’s so beyond annoying, totally embarrassing, and not to mention super expensive ruining all of those shoes. We were sick of it, so we created the solution to a universal problem. We created Solemates to bridge this gap between the fashion and function of high heels.
You have multiple products. What is the overall vision for your company and how do you plan on expanding from here?
MONICA: World domination, one heel cap at a time! With the extension of our product line (shoe care & shoe solutions for women), our mission is to enhance the relationship and improve the experience that women have wearing their shoes – from high heels, to boots, flats, and sneakers. We want all women to feel their best in their shoes, and each of our products addresses specific issues that most women have with their shoes (blisters, discomfort, weather damage, etc.).
Just recently, you were both on Shark Tank! What was that experience like and how did you prepare for it?
MONICA: Being a part of Shark Tank was a very unique and unusual experience. It was really fun and a once-in-a-lifetime experience that we will always value. It was like nothing we have ever done before!
Having watched the shows for several seasons, we felt as though we had an understanding as to what it was like. Being a part of the cast versus being a part of the viewing audience is a drastically different.
BECCA: The producers do a great job of preparing the entrepreneurs over the course of several months. We had weekly calls where we reviewed the pitch, the offer, etc. The producers work with an incredible team of art directors who make it their personal mission to create the best possible set for each presenting company. We were blown away by their creativity and professionalism. We asked them to create a grass plot so that we could have the Sharks try out the product; they did an amazing job and what they created was absolutely beautiful!
The Q&A part of Shark Tank is always crazy, but yours seemed more chaotic than usual. Was it difficult to handle all of that insanity?
MONICA: It was chaotic, but we tried to maintain our composure throughout our time in the Tank. We knew we were completely prepared; we knew our business inside and out. What we were not prepared for the level of chaos that met us upon the start of the Q&A, but I think we acclimated decently.
BECCA: When each of the Sharks were speaking at once, it got particularly hectic, but we tried our best to stay focused, and address each question, while trying to guide the conversation (or at least, not get derailed by the Sharks interrogating). We were really excited to be there, and that excitement helped us maintain our composure. A piece of advice that someone had given us was to remind ourselves while we were there, that “there is no place I’d rather be.”. That definitely helped!
Any female entrepreneur has had her fair share of backlash. How have you handled that sort of thing?
BECCA: I try not to dwell on these types of experiences but they definitely have happened. Early on when we were first getting started, and trying to identify potential manufacturers, we did encounter some resistance from some people. Mostly because mechanical engineering and injection molding manufacturing are fields dominated by men. In some cases, those men just didn’t take us seriously, or patronized us when we presented them with our concept. The reality is, anyone who treated us that way, actually helped to make our process of filtration easier, and it became clearer who was and was not a good fit.
Do you consider yourselves as women breaking the glass ceiling? Why or why not?
MONICA: No. I feel very fortunate to have never had to think about whether I was breaking a barrier, mostly because I haven’t had to break any barriers. I don’t think Becca or I consider ourselves “women entrepreneurs”, we consider ourselves “entrepreneurs”. For every bit of resistance we may have experienced for being women, there have likely been benefits too. We’re grateful for those who came before us, and we respect them by not making ourselves false-martyrs.
BECCA: We were both fortunate to have strong female role models at our previous jobs at Goldman Sachs. Sure there has been resistance along the way, especially when we ventured out to launch Solemates, but I think that’s part of the journey of any entrepreneur. You have to be willing to overcome obstacles and almost thrive in adversity to keep moving forward. I feel fortunate to be able to look to other successful female entrepreneurs such as Sara Blakely from Spanx, who have really made an impact and helped to blaze the trail for other women entrepreneurs.
Can you tell us a fun fact or two about yourselves that we might not expect to hear?
MONICA: I question the authenticity of the 1969 moon landing.
BECCA: I am an avid track motorcycle rider.
What advice would you give to future women entrepreneurs?
MONICA: Being an entrepreneur is an endless Epistemological challenge; you don’t know what you don’t know. Growing a business is a moving target and in order to constantly be growing, you have to constantly be learning. In a large company, tools for advancement are at your disposal (at least, they were for me at Goldman Sachs). Out in the “wild”, tools have to be self-taught and resources creatively leveraged. You’re always seeking out the next new tools and skill sets to increase efficiency and growth.
Do you have any final thoughts that you want to inspire our readers with?
BECCA: I feel incredibly fortunate to have been born in this country, where entrepreneurship is the source of our growth and prosperity. I am extremely grateful for the opportunities that we have been able to pursue and for the support we have received along the way. For any aspiring entrepreneurs with ideas for products or companies, go for it. Get organized, make a plan, and try to execute. Don’t be hasty, and make sure you’ve done all your research about what it will take to get your idea off the ground, but you have to try. You only miss the shots you don’t take.