Entering the professional world fresh out of college, I landed in the realm of footwear at Tom's Shoes. Back then, Tom’s was this little shoe company, snugly operating out of a warehouse. As the brand scaled, a funny thing happened: while the company grew bigger, our cubicles shrank. My maiden three years there coincided with a phase of explosive growth for the company. I often joke that this stretch felt like my informal MBA.
I was right there, at the heart of it all, when we celebrated giving away our millionth pair of shoes to a child in need. Fast forward to when I wrapped up my decade-long stint at Tom’s: that number had jumped to an impressive hundred million pairs. But it wasn’t just about numbers. I got a front-row seat when 50% of the business was acquired by Bain Capital. It's one thing hearing about how companies change post-acquisition, and quite another witnessing it firsthand — especially the challenges in preserving the unique culture amidst such a shift.
My journey at Tom’s was nothing short of eclectic. Starting as the right hand to the CEO and founder, I hopped, skipped, and jumped across roles — be it HR, marketing, the giving team, or even our social entrepreneurship fund. This fund was our little pet project to identify and back the next wave of changemakers. Ending my chapter at Tom’s, I was the Chief of Staff to the executive team and also had the baton for managing our partnerships. What a ride it was!
Yet, amidst this whirlwind, a personal pain point stuck out. Despite being surrounded by shoes, finding that elusive pair — stylish, comfy, and sustainably made — was a wild goose chase. This itch, combined with my accumulated shoe wisdom, led me to a lightbulb moment: if I couldn't find it, why not create it?
My Biggest Takeaway from Tom’s
Beyond the shoe talk, Tom’s is where I cut my professional teeth. The mentorships, the sea of driven folks, and the buzzing startup energy — it was all formative. One thing stood out: the sheer power of scrappiness. When you throw in a bunch of passionate souls with a sprinkle of smarts and a shared vision, magic happens. Even if resources are scant, if you're scrappy, inventive, and lean on each other, mountains can be moved.
The Beginning of Ma’am
As I touched on earlier, the shoe bug had bitten me hard. Working in footwear, I'd often joke about the irony: hours on my feet, yet bereft of that perfect pair to carry me through. It felt like a gap in the market — a shoe designed for women, by women, that nailed both style and comfort for those endless days. The resolve was clear: if it wasn’t out there, I was going to bring it to life. It became about finding that manufacturer who got it, who could make shoes keeping in mind real, practical needs of women.
To sum up, my journey in the world of shoes has been full of twists, turns, and valuable learnings. From the heady days at Tom's to taking the plunge with my own venture, it’s been about ensuring every step counts.