Anyone who has ever ended up behind a cash register in the exasperating world of retail has had a moment where they thought they could do their boss’s job better than they could. Salone Monet is one of the few people who actually put in the work and proved herself tight. While working in a D.C. shoe store, the sales associate-turned-CEO turned a post-graduate gig into a thriving enterprise.
HelloBeautiful caught up with Monet at this season’s Black Accessory Designers Alliance Event where she revealed the exact moment she decided to go into business for herself.
“We only sold one color nude but my manager kept insisting that we needed to be offering these heels to every woman, and I’m like we live in D.C.! There’s women of all colors, specifically women of color, who work, live, and shop here and yet we’re missing out on a significant market!”
Realizing she could fill that void, Monet, despite never having opened a business, had enough natural insight to avoid sharing her observations with the company that would soon become her competitor. “I didn’t say anything I just thought it to myself and I went home and started working on a business plan. I didn’t even know how to make a business plan. I downloaded a draft online and just started filling in the blanks.”
Monet also sought out the help of a veteran in the business who gave her a key piece of advice. “From there I found a mentor and they were like ‘Start making prototypes. You’re not a business until you have prototypes. It doesn’t matter if you have a business plan or not. So I started on the prototypes but that took a long time.”
Part of the reason Monet had difficulty producing a prototype was because the industry considered her concept to be unproven.
“Because I was a woman of color with this idea about selling shoes to other women of color and I had never sold shoes, a lot of factories did not want to take a risk on me. I’ve had a factory tell me that they weren’t gonna make me any more samples– literally fire me — because they didn’t think that there was a market in it. They didn’t understand the concept of nude heels for women of color and they didn’t think that I would meet their minimum order quantity. So it took a really long time to convince a factory and find suppliers that were interested in my company and interested in taking the risk.”
After attempting to work with companies in Asia and Africa, Monet ultimately found the perfect fit in Italy. The budding business woman was particularly impressed by the fact that the factory she chose was a family operation that relied on ingenuity and passion to turn a profit instead of crowded and unsafe working conditions. After finally getting a prototype, a version of the high-end shoe Monet commissioned to be assembled by the artisans would soon make its way onto the royal soles of Queen Bey herself, thanks to Monet’s networking savvy.
“Starting out, I used the people that were accessible to me,” she shared. “I have been extremely thoughtful about how I form my advisory board.”
Currently that board includes Brandice Daniel and the other women behind the fashion disrupting force of Harlem’s Fashion Row.
“I went to a Harlem’s Fashion Row event — and shout out to Harlem’s Fashion Row — I always mention them because without them I definitely would not have gotten that opportunity. It’s a great example of how when Black people are put in decision making positions and are given the platform we change things. Things happen you know, opportunities take shape. So when I went to this event and Zerina Akers who is Beyoncé’s stylist was there.”
While some might have immediately starting spewing their best elevator pitch, Monet seized the opportunity to find out the best way to present her product to Akers.
“I talked to her after our panel and I said ‘How do you prefer brands to get in front of you? How do you like to work? How do you like to be aware of new and emerging brands?’ And she said through email so I emailed her and she responded and I could not believe it! She requested two shoes and that’s how the story began.”
This chapter might have ended in Mrs. Carter sitting court side sporting Salone Monet but we have a feeling there’s more than a few pages still on the way.
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