Launching a business is big deal even on a normal day, but as we all know these aren’t normal times. Lorraine Ng is the founder of Taffystep, a gorgeous shoe brand made with soft, breathable vegan leather material. Their goal? To provide a bit of magic with every step.
Taffystep launched very recently, not long before COVID-19 upended the landscape for small businesses all over the world. Below, Lorraine shares what it’s like to launch a business during unprecedented times and how she’s staying hopeful.
Tell us about yourself and Taffystep!
Hello! This is Lorraine, the founder of Taffystep! I come from a family that has been in the shoe industry for over 30 years, and have been a shoe lover since I was born. Taffystep is a Vancouver-based shoe brand designed for women in their 20s and 30s to wear at home, to work, and out at night. We want to empower women through providing affordable, comfortable and versatile footwear that are “Sweet for your feet”!
What inspired you to create Taffystep?
When I graduated from school and was entering the professional world I found there was a gap in the market. I wanted work-friendly shoes that were versatile enough to wear out at night but also comfortable and budget-friendly. That’s how Taffystep was born.
How has COVID-19 impacted Taffystep’s launch and growth?
This unusual situation has added an interesting challenge for our launch and growth. People are spending less and staying home. However, there’s always a silver lining. We also notice that people are more willing to shop online, even for those who would have only bought shoes in retail stores in the past.
People are also more eager to support local businesses going through this difficult time. Since we offer free shipping across Canada and all orders are shipped from our Canadian warehouse, people are more willing to support us.
The speed of the virus’ outbreak has caught all of us by surprise, particularly as small business owners. As someone who launched a business very recently since COVID-19, what’s been going through your mind?
I won’t lie – the anxiety and fear do haunt me from time to time. There are times when I feel frustrated with the situation and worried about failing and unable to reach my goals. However, I also remind myself that this isn’t forever. This is a wonderful opportunity to learn and to reflect on my contribution to the community as a small business.
I ask myself, what is something that I can do more of and help as a small business within my power? What are the operational aspects of this business I can improve on? How can I better prepare an emergency plan for my business?
As a product-based business, what changes have you had to make to Taffystep in light of COVID-19?
We have been putting in extra effort in taking extensive precautions, such as ensuring hygiene of our packaging and applying social distancing between staff. We have also become more flexible with our service by offering a STAYHOME & SAVE campaign to encourage people to practice social distancing and to help customers save more during this time.
How have you been connecting with customers during this time?
We have been making sure that we are doing our part through offering additional customer service support for our customers, as well as creating inspiring and encouraging content on our social media platforms. Since how you dress and present yourself has a big impact on how you feel, we are here for our customers and are offering hope and happiness in the midst of this difficult time.
Small businesses are definitely feeling the impact of COVID-19. How have you been taking care of your own mental health?
Meditation and finding simple things to be grateful for have been helpful for me to maintain my mental health. I also find that unplugging from social media for a designated period of time and taking a break from dealing with my business helps.
While this time has been difficult for so many entrepreneurs, there has been an outpouring of solidarity and support online in the business community. What has been giving you hope during this time?
Yes – a major media had offer free social media ads for small businesses, and we have been featured in that. Also, we had a STAYHOME & SAVE campaign. I reached out to the customer reminding them to use the discount code, and they said they would like to support us by not applying the discount.
We’re all trying to figure this thing out together as entrepreneurs. Do you have any advice or suggestions for other product-based businesses who are feeling the impact?
Just know that we are all in this together! While all this is challenging and frightening, we can try and use it as an opportunity to build our resilience and creativity. If we can get through this, we will be able to get through any challenges in the future.
What are some ways customers can support small businesses?
Shop local, spread the word about your favourite small businesses and follow them on social media!
How can people support Taffystep?
Visit us at taffystepshoes.com and follow us on Instagram and Facebook @taffystepshoes. Oh, and tell your friends about us!