Monday, May 28, 2012

Spotlight on Mom: Aimee Gallo of Friendly Rooster

 Friendly Rooster

I have been eagerly waiting to share this Spotlight on Mommy interview with you all for the past month, from Aimee Gallo of Friendly Rooster.  Why you ask?  Well, first off, both Savannah and I fell in love with their baby shoe offering.  Since receiving a pair of to review, I have a hard time getting Savannah to wear another pair of shoes.  Just look at the picture I took recently when I told Savannah we had to switch her shoes, as these shoes didn't match her outfit.  Yes, she may be getting into the terrible two's, but when I eventually gave in and let her wear her Dolly Mary Janes from Tip Toey Joey shoes, this pout became an instant smile.  

Then, when I found out of their charitable efforts, Share Your Love of Shoes™, where they donate shoes to US charities that benefit infants.  Beginner walkers in need will be given Tip Toey Shoes, thanks to Friendly Rooster and Tip Toey Shoes.  I love how Aimee and her business are giving back to those in need.  

Here is a brief introduction to Friendly Rooster shoes, from their website:

"Friendly Rooster is a fresh perspective to selling shoes and accessories online for children ages 0 - 7.  All of our brands we carry are inherently unique.  Some of them appeal to an edgier customer, while others are more traditional with a whimsical twist.  All shoe brands are healthy for growing feet, promoting proper foot development during the important “beginning steps” years. And, as an added reason to feel good about your purchase, selections are bought with an eye towards social consciousness and sustainability."

Head back here on Friday, when I will share more about Aimee's Friendly Rooster business, the charitable efforts they recently started with Tip Toey Shoes, a giveaway, as well as  a coupon code, just in time to buy summer shoes for your children.  But, in the meantime, please enjoy my interview with Aimee.

Name:  Aimee Gallo
Company Name/Product/Service:  Friendly Rooster  (an online store carrying baby and kids shoes and accessories)
Company location:  Charlotte, NC
Company Website
Facebook URL:
Twitter Handle:  Friendly Rooster
Pinterest:  Friendly Rooster
Age of Company:  Launched February 29, 2012 (we chose that date on purpose, because it only happens once every 4 years)
Favorite Inspirational Quotes:  “The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts.”—Bertrand Russell

Tell us a little bit about yourself.  How many children do you have?  What are their ages?  Your hobbies? Etc.:  

 I have a 9 year old son named Aidan.  We moved to Charlotte from Los Angeles in fall of 2009.  While in LA, we spent a lot of time at the beach.  Here in Charlotte we still spend some weekends driving to the beach, but more time is at the pool.  Other hobbies include working out, playing video games with my son, and heading out to the National Whitewater Center in Charlotte for zip lining and rafting fun.

Briefly explain your business.  How did it come about?  

I have been in retail full time since graduating college.  I’ve been a Buyer for some large retailers in the US (American Eagle Outfitters, Pacific Sunwear, etc).  I had the great fortune to spend 3 years as the baby/kids Buyer at a smaller retailer in Los Angeles called Babystyle.  When I started with Babystyle my son was 2 years old, so it was a great time for me to buy product for that age group.  I left that company in 2008, but the manufacturers I dealt with, especially in shoes, kept in touch with me over the years.  When I lived in Los Angeles it would have been more difficult to run this type of business…just due to the overwhelming cost of living there.  Once I got to Charlotte, I took on a very corporate job that did not fit my personality at all.  At that point, I started building my business in my head.   Two years later, I finally decided to pull the trigger and go for it.

People ask me about the name, but it is actually a take on my own name.  Aimee means “friend” in French, and Gallo means “rooster” in Italian.  I didn’t like my name as a child because everyone pronounced it incorrectly (they always wanted to say “Amy”).  I actually used to sign my name as “Friendly Rooster” all through middle school.  I know the name has nothing to do with children’s shoes (which has been a fun challenge to get around in terms of branding).

What is a typical work day like?  

 I am still working full time for another company to pay the bills while I get Friendly Rooster up and running.  Usually I am checking emails/orders first thing in the morning, at lunch, and when I get home from work.  Then I spend time with my son (homework, sports practice, playing video games or board games with him).  After he goes to bed, I jump back on the computer until about midnight.  I am hoping to be able to do this full time within the next 2 years, which will allow me more flexibility with his school schedule.  Maybe for the first time I’ll be able to be a chaperone on a field trip!  Of course, I think that is right about the age that he won’t want mom there J.
What has been a struggle while starting up your company?   

Learning to promote the business has been a learning curve.  By nature, I do not like to brag.  I am learning to get over that, especially because I really believe in the products we sell.  I’m also a very impatient person, so I want everything “NOW”.  I see where I want to go, and I want to be there today.  But with my personality, once I am there, I’ll be on to the next goal.

What have been some of your major successes?   

Getting Tip Toey Joey on board has been a big score!  Friendly Rooster has the largest selection in the US.  There is one boutique in Soho that sells it (not online).  There is also a small chain in California that sells one style in a few colors.  The brand is slightly more expensive, but once you get your little one into the shoes you become addicted.  They are SO much better than other brands in regards to how good they are for children’s feet.   The leather they use, the functionality of the shoes, and the classic yet fun look to the shoes are all fantastic.  I love everything about the brand, and I am really proud that we are more or less the exclusive carrier of the product in the USA.

What have been some of your major challenges?  

Keeping my expectations in check, keeping my anal-ness (is that a word?) in check, and being ok with not every single thing being perfect from day one. 

On those impossible days, what motivates you to keep going?  

My passion for these brands and their missions keep me focused and engaged in the business during tough times.  I love that these brands care so much about what they do.  Pediped does a lot of research to ensure their shoes are healthy.  They also created the Pediped Foundation to give back to the community.  Livie and Luca uses non-lead based dyes and their boxes are recycled.  They also choose to work with only the most ethical factories.  All of their shoes are handmade.  I could go on and on about every aspect of each of these brands and the individual things they do to contribute “good” to the world.

What is your balancing secret in managing a business and family?  

I wouldn’t call anything I do “balanced”.  What I do try to do is let go (easier said than done).  On a typical day I am trying to do so many things at once.  Usually a deep breath, a hot bath, and sometimes a glass of red wine help clear my head and keep me sane amongst all of the insanity.  I also find great pleasure in just “hanging out” with my son.  Sometimes I take my laptop to where he plays his video games and work in the same room as him.  Seeing him get so excited when he scores on his game keeps my energy levels up.

What is next for your business?   

Our focus right now is on getting the charitable aspect of the business running smoothly.  In early May, we launched Share Your Love of Shoes™.  When customers purchase any pair of Tip Toey Joey shoes from our site, we donate a pair of TTJ shoes to a beginning walker in need.  We’re partnering with two wonderful charities (Room to Grow, and My Stuff Bags).  We are thrilled, because we thought it would be a year or two before we could give back in any way.    

Why a beginning walker?  Proper footwear is SO important to developing feet…especially while a child is taking his or her first steps.  Unfortunately, good shoes aren’t always the most affordable option, so many children “make do” with shoes that are hindering their development.  We can help bring healthy shoes to these children.

Do you have any advice for other mom entrepreneurs that are starting out and struggling, or are on the fence about starting a business?  

It’s scary, but in reality it is scarier NOT to do it.  The alternative is to live life with this idea that keeps nagging at you, wanting to come to fruition.  If you don’t act on it, then you have to look back on life and wonder about it.  I mean, which is worse when you really think about it???

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