So Happy To Welcome You!
Introducing the Princesses You Thought You Knew!
Starting at the top, clockwise: Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, The Little Mermaid, Rapunzel, Beauty, Goldilocks, and Little Red Riding Hood!
A Real Life Princess With a Shoe Factory All Her Own: Aleksandra!
Interview with Aleksandra: A Real Life Cinderella with a Slipper Factory
Background: Owner of a business that sells dance shoes.
I started the company with one product, point shoes, and have grown it into a premier brand of dance shoes, dance apparel, accessories, and educational materials for dancers.
What is it like to be an entrepreneur?
There’s nothing like it. Nothing in the entire world. To me, it is the most rewarding, dynamic, fulfilling, challenging, and at the same time overwhelming career and activity in this world. But I’ve been an entrepreneur my whole life with only one job before this. So I truly am happy that I chose this path and all the great things and challenges that come along with it.
Was it always your dream to be a business owner? What was your inspiration to start up your company?
I grew up in the Soviet Union and I came to US when I was 15 years old. I came here because the Soviet Union fell apart just 2 years before that and became Russia in 1991, and I came to US in 1993. Up until 1991 everything in the Soviet Union was owned by the government. There was no such thing as entrepreneurship and did not exist as a concept. So between the ages of 14 and 15, for those 2 short years, the concept became more often. It wasn’t a Silicon Valley of Russia, because things like that don’t happen overnight, but people started opening little cafés and kiosks to slowly come out. When I came to the US, I started learning what business ownership really is. When I joined Eastern Michigan University my junior year, I started taking business and entrepreneurship classes and joined business club, that I later became the president of, which is when entrepreneurship came to my mind. So no, I didn’t grow up in a family of three generations of entrepreneurs and never had the dream of owning my own company, but once I realized what it was this sounds good maybe I should do it!
Looking at the nuts and bolts of the business world, we see the process of creating the glass slippers in Cinderella’s story but how do things such as supply, demand, inventory, etc fit into your business? What were the challenges you had to work through to start up this business?
I started the business when I was 20 years old, and to be honest, I can’t remember all of the details of the challenges because I didn’t know them. I had a mentor that coached me through the process that I didn’t learn in school. I thought from the beginning that the business world would be my project while I put myself through school, and then once I graduated, I would go and get a job in a big corporation and would be a corporate lady. So, I started with a couple of boxes of dance shoes in the corner of my college apartment. I didn’t think of having 60,000 SKUs like I do right now. I didn’t think of the marketing strategies. I didn’t think about the different categories of customers that we would have in the multiple distribution centers. And all the other things that go into creating a successful company because I didn’t know any of it at the time. So for me, it was ordering the most popular styles and sizes and putting them in the corner of my apartment and in the weekends or evenings I would go to stores. Now of course, managing 60,000 SKUs is much more challenging but with many years of experience. The big challenges back then now look very small in comparison. Something that was a challenge a year ago seems very easy to handle now. It is a growing and developing process.
You are in essence, the real life version of Cinderella with her Glass Slipper Factory, but what is it like to sell shoes to girls and women? Are they also for boys?
A majority of dancers are women so many of my customers are women and girls but we do get boys coming in as well.
When I started the business, I looked at my goal and my purpose in the life of a dancer. Over the years, I noticed dancers have almost an emotional attachment to their dance shoes, to their attire. Because dance is so beautiful, and to dancers, their shoes are a tool. Like a race-car to a driver. They love that tool passionately, and they look forward to first getting up to point shoes. They are an extension of their body that allows them to perform so eloquently and gracefully on stage. So I realized that my product and my role in a dancers life is far beyond just putting shoes on their foot; it is giving them the tools to grow professionally, to shine on stage, to grow more and do better in the classroom, to gain confidence in what they do, to be happy with their progress. I realized that we are really bringing very valuable tool to the dancer that teaches them skills that will be valuable for their life far beyond just being a dancer. Very few of our customers actually end up as professional dancers. A lot of girls dance when they are in school, but once they end up in college a lot of them drop off, and once their career starts very few of them stay with it. A few do decide to follow a professional career as a dancer. But what I love about dance is that it teaches young ladies how to succeed in all kinds of careers whether it be doctors, engineers, teachers, business owners, or great moms in life. Those skills are discipline, focus, working together, working independently, following direction, and professional presence. There have been numerous times where I walk into cocktail parties and joined a circle of ladies, when I explain my business there have been many occasions where the Vice President of a company or Executive would say “I used to dance when I was a child and every time I stop to speak in front of a board room, customers, executive team, I looked back to my posture, breathing, eye contact that I learned in dance class.” Ultimately, my role for dancers is not to sell them a shoe but to give them the tool to help them develop an individual into a professional beyond dance class.
How do you give back as a business owner?
I create jobs. My primary role as a business owner is to create jobs. As a result of my big business, being sold in 400 stores around the country, we help other small businesses. I strengthen their businesses with my great products. I speak at numerous business groups whether it be entrepreneurial groups, marketing associations, business students about my learning’s that they can use as an example for their life and their business and their careers.
SNOW WHITE AND THE HAPPY APPLE POP UP
More than 200 children, parents, and caregivers came to see Snow White and her Happy Apple Pop-up bakery on July 27th, 2015. The Princesses With A Twist book series by Dr. Amelia Case was wrapping up the Kickstarter campaign two days later, and built enough momentum to push the numbers over the edge and successfully fund Kickstarter.
Guests were treated to special apple themed treats at Vanille Chicago (2108 Clark Street) which transformed their space into the Happy Apple and contributed 10% of all of the days receipts toward the Kickstarter campaign.
Virginia Wolff Inc, provided the apple themed decor that had Snow White and all of her friends enchanted. Apple Trees and apple shaped balloons were given to anyone who stopped by for the reading of Cinderella and the Glass Slipper Factory by our very own Snow White.
One special child , who is a spokes child for St. Baldrick’s Foundation and their cancer research efforts, walked away with an advanced copy the book signed by Snow White and lots of hugs and treats. We wish her all the best!
Later in the evening after the readings were done, Vanille opened their kitchen to an exclusive VIP group of adults and kids alike that were treated to a make your own caramel apple bar and specialty cocktails featuring Stoli Gala Applik.
Guests were also treated to more apple themed tarts and pastries and Snow White took a group of Kids for a private reading. The evening ended with a thank you from Co-owner of Princesses With A Twist and Founder of All Terrain Brook Jay and Author Amelia Case.
“Princesses with a Twist,” a book series that picks up where ‘happily ever after’ leaves off, is the early-age solution to female empowerment. We have now completed our Kickstarter campaign is complete! We are fully funded!
IN THE NEWS
We’re very appreciative of those helping us spread the word on ‘Princesses with a Twist.’ Here’s a few things people are saying about us:
- Adweek (GalleyCat):
- Chicago Tribune:
- DNA Chicago:
- Huffington Post:
- I On The Scene:
- Voice of America: