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Have you ever wondered how to turn your dreams of owning your own business into a reality? We can help. Each week, as part of our Self Made series, we showcase female entrepreneurs-as well as their quality, handmade goods-and share their best advice related to starting, maintaining, and growing your own business.
Isobel Schofield, the founder and chief clog maker of Bryr Studio, started her career by working her way up from an assistant to a lead designer for major fashion retailers, but she knew it was time for a change when she felt burnt out after nearly a decade in the industry. "I had a moment where I realized that the girl who was the indie, sculpture degree art student was suddenly working in this very corporate environment," she recalls. After this epiphany, she saved money and took what she calls a "creative sabbatical" for about six months—during this period, she thought through her next step. Allowing herself to try new activities that weren't career oriented felt like a good place to start. "One thing I wanted to do was take a shoe-making class," she says. "I really fell in love with working with leather and making shoes—it was like the fashion and the sculpture came together." Out of this passion came Bryr Studio, Schofield's handmade clog brand, which she officially created in 2012.
Stylish, Sustainable Shoes
While Schofield learned how to create different types of shoes when taking classes, clogs caught her attention for a specific reason. "I was really loving clogs and had a closet full of vintage pairs. I found out that that there was no glue involved in the process," she says, "which means it's very clean." Designing her eco-friendly shoes came naturally, so she began making some for close friends. The real work came when she decide to take her clogs to the marketplace. She initially envisioned needing a lot of capital to get her company up and running—in reality, it was the opposite. After taking a step back, assessing her savings, and getting advice from those around her—which she recommends to others growing a business, too—the entrepreneur knew that she could create her clog brand "small and organically" without a hefty loan.
With the help of her accountant and business coach, Schofield had a successful first launch by requesting pre-orders from customers. "There were people who were really supportive and believed that I would deliver," she says. This order model allowed her to purchase the materials necessary to create the clogs by hand. "I've learned to get lots of advice from people and to also trust your gut," she says. "There are many ways to build your business." Now in her 10th year of business, Schofield is still making quality products that her customers can count on. Her clogs are made with American-made leather from tanneries and solid wood bases that contribute little to no waste based on her quality control process. Any products that don't make it past QC are sold as a part of the Bryr Studio sample sale each year, and she also donates any excess scraps. "It's good for my business model and it's good for the planet," Schofield says. "As much as possible, we are not throwing anything in landfills."
Clogs with Confidence in Mind
The entrepreneur keeps a couple of things in mind when she designs her clogs: Mainly, she finds new colors and shapes and then develops her ideas during production. "In the last two years, we've added a platform, which is a flatform base ($278, bryrstudio.com); we were the first clog company to come out with that shape," she says. "It made all of my outfits feel different, and I love that." This spring, Bryr Studio put out its first worker clog ($280, bryrstudio.com), which Schofield describes as a traditional Danish clog complete with her brand's signature leather and craftsmanship. The shoe colors, like Fennel—one of their most popular shades—are mainly pulled from hues people can see in nature along the West Coast, where the company is based. "In San Francisco and in the Bay Area, we have fennel everywhere in the spring," she says. "It's this really hopeful color—that is what I was trying to recreate."
Whatever the color or style, she hopes that every person who wears a pair of her clogs feels more empowered with every step they take. "For me, it's about looking and feeling really beautiful and how wearing an object, especially shoes, can help you feel more confident, stable, and grounded," she shares. "I love watching people put the shoes on and say, 'I feel really good right now.' It's like candy to me." As for Schofield's go-to clog? "The Zoe Platform in Fennel ($286, bryrstudio.com) is definitely my favorite shoe," the entrepreneur says. "It makes me happy, it's comfortable, and it's really fun to have a flatform that's a clog."