Mastra Ma’: Emanuela Loppo
Mastra Ma’ is a luxury shoe collection that offers comfortable, reasonably priced footwear
Name of founder: Emanuela Loppo
Location: London, UK
Date launched: First luxury shoe collection launched in December 2019
Number of employees: 1
Age of founder: 45
What university, if any, did you attend? Tor Vergata University, Rome, Italy
Mastra Ma’ offers luxury footwear at reasonable prices. Founder Emanuela Loppo discusses the process of launching an exclusive shoe collection, including how a lunchtime conversation inspired the idea!
Tell us what your business does:
Mastra Ma’ luxury shoes is a slow fashion startup focused on women with a busy lifestyle, who work, travel and juggle many things at once. By offering striking and unique footwear designs along with uncompromising comfort, Mastra Ma’ is re-interpreting the traditional professional dress code.
Where did the idea of your business come from?
A few years ago, when I was working for a global financial institution in London, my sister Elena passed by my office to have lunch together. While waiting for me, she noticed that most ladies were dressed very elegantly, but their shoes didn’t look as beautiful as the rest of the outfit… including mine!
This is when I first realised that working women did not have a wide choice when it came to elegant and comfortable footwear, which is also aesthetically appropriate for a professional environment.
How did you know there was a market for it?
As a potential customer, I have always struggled to find luxury shoes at a reasonable price. There are many stunning but prohibitively expensive designer shoes, which sometimes may not be worn for the entire day in the office.
This is understandable, considering that not all of them have memory foam paddings and platforms, which instead are some of the skilfully concealed key features of all Mastra Ma’ heels.
Comfort, unique and elegant style – and, most importantly – a business model that allows us to offer top-quality footwear at mid-range prices are the qualities that set us apart from other market players.
What were you doing before starting up?
I worked for several corporations for most of my life. As a new graduate, I started in the CFO office of a multinational consumer products corporate. I then moved to consulting for a short period of time and finally worked for a U.S. investment bank in London for about 16 years.
It was while working in banking that I started training in shoemaking at the London College of Fashion on weekends. After a couple of years of planning, I decided to leave my job to dedicate all my energy and efforts to Mastra Ma’.
Have you always wanted to run your own business?
Actually, no I didn’t. I studied Economics at university, because I wanted to work in investment banking. Of course, a lot of hard work went into my education, but I was also extremely lucky to be able to accomplish my dream.
It was only after a long time in banking that I started to seek a completely new challenge, where I could build a company out of nothing. And I knew this would be in the creative field, as I quite enjoy the arts in general.
How did you raise the money?
Luckily, I didn’t need funding. I was able to save enough money during my investment banking years to start the business with a small, exclusive luxury collection.
Describe your business model and how you make money.
We predominantly focus on direct to consumer channels. Our proprietary online platform and curated events at corporate offices are driving our sales at the moment.
However, we are also discussing marketing a smaller part of our inventory in partnership with selected luxury boutiques. Through a thoughtful allocation across these distribution channels, we are able to contain pricing and win clients.
What challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them?
Starting a new company from scratch and within an industry that I barely knew could only be full of challenges.
From trying to understand how the fashion business works (for example: the production process, the lead time before new collections are stocked with retailers, the relevant players in marketing, PR, media outlets, etc.) to finding trustworthy business partners.
The mere thought that all of that was critical to even begin my venture was overwhelming. Therefore, I decided not to think about it and tackle each step at a time, learning along the way.
I designed the first collection in a few weeks, after which the next obvious thing was to find a shoe factory to realise it. I found my technical partners by screening businesses listed in the Italian Yellow Pages and Chamber of Commerce and then cold calling those that met my requirements.
Since I didn’t have any track record within the retail business, I had to overcome their initial skepticism by being very prepared and honest about every aspect of my project, including forecasts and projections. I think that was critical to earn their trust. This has been my approach to forging all relationships that have helped Mastra Ma’ be where it is today.
What was your first big breakthrough?
Organising the initial corporate marketing events through our professional network developed over the years was critical to getting us started. These were very successful and have put us in direct contact with our target market customers.
We are also very focused on strengthening our online presence as it will be key to keep our retail prices down while building a scalable business.
What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?
Strike the right balance on everything. For example, do your own research, but do not over analyse, as you may be investing precious time on something you find out to be irrelevant (or no longer relevant).
Be cautious, but don’t be afraid, otherwise you may never take action or may not enjoy the journey. Delegate or outsource to experts, but know enough details to be able to assess the quality of others’ deliverables… and so on.
Where do you want to be in five years’ time?
I would still like to be Mastra Ma’s CEO, hopefully having grown it to a bigger business, including the offer of a wider range of products, like handbags.
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