Bianca Fiebiger

  • Week Twenty Six!

    I didn’t have a specific goal growing up.  I fell into event management by default, by being in the right place at the right time – working on festivals and music events based in Melbourne.  I’ve always been passionate about music and it’s always been in my life.  My partner makes music now, and my Dad had a record label around the time I was born, so music is integral to me.  I worked on the Chapel Street Festival, the St Kilda Festival, I ran the Greville Traders Association for many years and I worked on the Fashion Festival when it started.  I’ve always been a person who doesn’t need much sleep so that allowed me the energy to work successfully in event management with the hours it required.  I then started managing artists quite successfully, and joined Obese Records as Operations Manager.  I loved that role, and I really saw the label grow and prosper during my time there and a number of artists became very successful commercially – it was great to be a part of that.  During that time I met one of the owners of the Big Day Out festival, and except the first one I also worked on all of the Big Day Out festivals until a few years ago.

    My sister Kveta had also been working at Obese Records as the Publicist - we’re very close and I think the world of her.  I admire her kindness and intelligence and the way her brain works.  It was 2009, and I was at the point where I was ready for a change of environment and needed to doing something creative and with a new challenge, and one day I went into work and I said to Kveta “let’s leave and start designing shoes”.  She said “Okay!” And the beginning was as simple as that.  We had never done anything like it before and we jumped completely in the deep end, and there’s power in that.  We’re now in our eighth year of Fiebiger Shoes.  We taught ourselves as we went along and loved the challenge, and of course we’re still learning.

    Our inspiration was Japan.  We’re both obsessed with all things Japanese – we travel there all the time and Kveta also lived in Tokyo for around three years. There’s an amazing shoe range there that’s really well priced and sold all over Tokyo – and being females and loving shoes half of our suitcases were full of these shoes when we came home.  So we wanted to recreate the quality, affordability and price of point of these shoes – with a focus on colour.  We don’t create designs based on the season’s key colour; we design what we believe in.  It’s our signature and the theory has worked for us.  Our customer is paramount – we respect them and love that they love colour as well. We see shoes as a work of art – and sure our flats are only $45 online, but they are a real expression of creativity.  We designed shoes for the gap we saw in the market in this country, however funnily enough our biggest wholesale market is Japan.  Our love of Tokyo has definitely come full circle and they love us back, which is probably one of the most rewarding things about what we have created.

    We designed the first range based on metallics and the 1980s, and what we saw our mother wear as children.  She always wore stilettos even though she had four children, so we used our memory bank as inspiration and it worked really well.  We put our Japanese spin on the range by calling it ‘Hajimaru’ which means ‘to begin’.  We jumped on a plane and met with wholesalers, finding and designing fabrics.  We didn’t need to reinvent the wheel – we needed to achieve the quality, the design and the price point.  We played around with classic styles and changed heel shapes and added details.  We made mistakes of course, and learned from them.  

    Originally we focused on being wholesalers – growing our retail base in Australia.  Then we started doing trade fairs in Las Vegas and we hired an Agent and grew a good following in the US and Canada.  A lot of Japanese buyers visited the US trade fairs, and we soon realised that our biggest orders were coming from Japan.  Kveta speaks Japanese very well and the buyers were always very shocked and excited when she would speak in Japanese to them, and I think that did make a big difference.  We now have an Agent there and they do the local trade shows.  So all of a sudden we had a reason to travel to a place that we loved to develop our business.  Tokyo is our second home.

    We realised that Fiebiger Shoes was our future.  We could see the love of shoes that women have, and there will always be a place for something a little different.  Admittedly there was a point after about three years that we wondered if we had done the right thing, and that was when we released our Jelly Shoes.  It was a big risk, because they are a moulded shoe and had huge minimum order quantities.  So we chose four colours - and the first run sold out in three weeks.  We now have 17 colours and they have continued to be our bread and butter.  Just when we thought we had come to the end of the road, the universe gave us a nugget of gold with our highest selling design that sells all year round, in Australia, Japan and the US.  The colour, the comfort and the price point at $29.95 hit the mark, and it was a major turning point.

    The second turning point was when we grew our online business.  It was indicative of a time when Australians became comfortable with giving their credit card details online.  It was a chance to communicate with our customers, and show them the whole range.  While retailers never really tell a story – they select a few colours or designs, we were able to speak to our customers and show the full picture of what we had to offer.  Now we don’t really consider ourselves wholesalers at all except for the overseas market.  In Australia we are e-tailers.  We are very respectful of our customers and know that a purchase is a gift to themselves, regardless of the price.  We now have two staff, and they personally check every shoe before it gets sent out.  Communication with our customers is vital so social media is really important to us.   It gives us a voice. Instagram gives us a personality, and our Facebook page grew organically and we have over 60,000 followers.

    We are now evolving with a new business called Glam Raider which is a makeup website.  Kveta found a lipstick range in London called Barry M which had the best lipstick ever and it was only a few dollars.  We got sick of telling people where to get the range so we put it on our website and it took off. Bright lipsticks are an accessory to our shoes, with the colours matching our range perfectly.  Suddenly our sales were 50/50 shoes and lipsticks, so Glam Raider has just been launched.  It aims to give everyone the best of the best in lip products and will offer the brands that we currently stock on the Fiebiger Shoes website.  It’s so much fun, and so much easier, because we’re selling other people’s brands and using their imagery.  The makeup industry is very different in the way it interacts compared to fashion and footwear – there is a camaraderie to it.

    The business had been operating for around four years when my daughter Atari was born – and she is now two years old.  She was a lovely surprise!   After I got over the initial shock, she is the best thing that’s ever happened in my life – as most mothers would say.  Of course life changed immensely.  I now do three days a week in the office.  Kveta really took over everything when Atari was born and she still picks up the slack, and for that I am forever grateful (and guilty!).   I have an amazing network of support so when I am in the office both her grandmothers share looking after her.  It’s fabulous that she can hang out with her family in such a wonderful environment.  Everyone is interactive in her growth and can help shape her.  Atari’s father Burna is a fantastic, loving partner and he was made to be a Dad.  I am so grateful to be forever tied to him through our daughter, and I know how lucky I am.  Without his support, on all levels, I couldn't run my own business and commit the energy that I do.  I am blessed to walk this path with him.

    Being a mum in business has its challenges.  The biggest challenge for me is that I can’t commit to the time that is needed for both.  It’s a conflict.  I would like to be with Atari seven days a week, but I’d also like to be working on our business five days a week.  I am unashamedly a workaholic so I get up very early and I go to bed very late, and I work when I can like any other mother in business.  As soon as sleep time starts it’s straight into emails.  I have a huge amount of guilt – sometimes we’ll being doing something fun together at home and I quickly check an email and realise it has to be answered.  You think you can get through it in a few minutes but invariably it takes longer – so there is definitely a level of guilt that I wish I could disconnect from.  I do make an effort to not check emails – because the world will go on, it’s not that dramatic.  She will be at school in no time and I don’t want to miss out on being with her.  At the end of the day Atari is amazing, and she enjoys all that she is a part of.

    To other mothers wanting to start their own business, I’d say ‘jump in!’  Don’t over think it.  If you have a passion and have an idea – there’s so much power in following through with something that sparks your heart.  It may be hard for a few years with money, time and resources – but if you’ve got something to do, just do it.

    Fiebiger Shoes was established in Melbourne in 2009 by two shoe addicted sisters, Kveta and Bianca Fiebiger.  Their vision was to create a brand that reflects a realistic price point and at the same time unique, eye catching and fun.  They encourage all girls to walk with confidence.

    Their new enterprise, Glam Raider, is dedicated to bringing the most innovative makeup and lipstick trends to Australia.

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    Copy: Melanie Quirk      Photography: SomedaySomehowStudios 

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