Fantastic Females – Susannah Davda – The Shoe Consultant

Susannah Davda – The Shoe Consultant

Susannah grew up in an unconventional household. Her father was a vicar who made shoes for the family as a hobby. She began her career working in shoe shops as a teenager, then studied Footwear Design at university.

Susannah spent many years working for footwear brands and retailers, within the UK and internationally. During that time she acquired a diverse skillset from design, merchandising and buying to sales and retail.

Susannah set up her consultancy business in 2015, based near London. She advises shoe brands globally, and has helped lots of exciting shoe companies; from start-ups to established businesses. In June 2020 she launched her online course How to Start a Shoe Brand.

Susannah Davda – The Shoe Consultant

Susannah Davda – The Shoe Consultant

How did you balance being a mother and professional?

I launched my business at pretty much the same time as becoming pregnant. So for the first 40 weeks, work on my company had to compete with my need to nap and snack. After that, my baby and business took turns. My husband had a day off in the week which helped.

When my son was one, he started attending nursery two days a week. I revelled in those long, wonderful periods of silence and became incredibly productive. A couple of years later, we added an extra day.

Now I have a schoolboy, the little time I have with him is even more precious. I try my hardest to put my phone down and give him my focus. It’s not easy, especially if something all-consuming is happening in my business.

Susannah Davda – The Shoe Consultant

What have you sacrificed (both personally and professionally) at each stage of your career?

I feel as though I sacrificed some integrity when I was an employee of other companies. In the corporate world, you have to conform to the company culture, even if it’s pretty toxic. I became much happier when I started working for myself. I realised a company could feel warm, honest, respectful and nurturing, whilst still being utterly professional. It feels wonderful to create your own company culture based on your values and beliefs.

My health suffered in the last year I worked for a global shoe brand before resigning. I was trying to conceive, but my stress levels were high and I wasn’t happy. It just took a few weeks after I left for me to relax and you know the end of that story!

Who inspired you and why?

Other female entrepreneurs. My start-up shoe brand clients, Emma Jones from Enterprise Nation, Holly Tucker, and other great podcasters like Kayte Ferris and Philiy Page. They are all women who come across as upbeat and personable, and are incredibly generous with their advice and experience.

Jess Rogers was my business coach for quite a while, and she really changed how I work and do business for the better. She helped me introduce much more of a structure to my week.

What advice would you give to young women who want to succeed in the workplace?

Firstly, find a company whose values align with your own. It will make success feel much more natural and less of a struggle than if you are having to change yourself to fit in.

Secondly, be positive. If you already have a lot of work on your plate and your boss or colleague asks you to do another thing, say yes, and ask them which they would like you to prioritise. It comes across much better than responding that you have too much on your plate.

Susannah Davda – The Shoe Consultant

Susannah Davda – The Shoe Consultant

Do you think women feel intimidated in business?

That depends on the environment they are in. Anyone can feel intimidated when they are made to feel “other”. Workplaces with few women can feel intimidating, but not if there is a culture of respect and listening to all voices at the table.

Where will we find you on a Saturday morning at 10 a.m.? 

I’m likely to be at the playground or running around a park after my speedy cyclist son.

What do you love about your job?

Where do I begin? I love helping people to start shoe brands, and making a real difference to my clients and their businesses. I enjoy being in charge of the direction of my company, and only embracing the opportunities which feel right.

Since I started engaging paid interns to help me, I have loved having their input and learning from them as much as they learn from me.

What’s the best career decision you’ve ever made?

Definitely leaving the corporate shoe world to set up my consultancy.

What’s the worst career decision you’ve ever made?

Taking on a client who ended up owing me a lot of money.

How do you organise your time?

I have specific windows in my week when clients can book calls. This leaves me time to work on marketing the business as well as developing new services.

I also try to do the hardest thing on my to-do list first thing in the morning, which makes everything else feel much easier. Delegating tasks to my intern using project management tool Asana stops them from cluttering my head, and allows me to focus on what I want to be doing.

What do you think is your greatest strength?

I’m a good listener. An attribute which serves me well in business, friendship and family life.

What do you think is your greatest weakness?

I feel intimidated by large groups of people, unless I’m there to be the speaker. Networking is important for my career, so I have found techniques which help me to feel more comfortable.

Susannah Davda – The Shoe Consultant

Susannah Davda – The Shoe Consultant

How do you make decisions?

I try to consider every decision carefully and take time over it, even if I end up coming back to my initial gut feel.

What do you read?

I love a good novel. Something which transports me to another place or time, to experience what other women have felt and seen.

Business books are also essential to my development. I love exploring new concepts and techniques in depth.

What do you think are the secrets behind getting to where you’ve got to?

Definitely persistence, and listening to advice: from business coaches, other entrepreneurs, and the podcasters I love.

The longer I am in business, the less I take the knocks to heart. I also try to make time to enjoy my successes.

Find out more:

Follow Susannah on Instagram

Find more Fantastic Females HERE