FED up with the service they were receiving from high street shoe shops, two busy mums decided to club together and open their own business focusing on children’s footwear.
Andrea Marshall and Emma Rowsell opened Little Soles in Warsash and have just been crowned New Independent Retailer of the Year at The Footwear Industry Awards.
The pair, both from Stubbington, met five years ago when their eldest daughters went to school together.
Andrea has two children – Eden, nine and Archie, seven.
Emma, 38, has three children – Evie, eight, Alice, six and Seth, four – and has another one on the way.
Andrea, 43, said: ‘With five kids between us we found it quite frustrating to get shoes for them and quite stressful.
‘We didn’t want to buy the same old run-of-the-mill shoes, we wanted something different.
‘We used to meet every week for a coffee and a chat and that’s when we came up with the idea to start our own business.’
The pair quit their jobs and set about establishing Little Soles, with the aim of providing a range of shoes at a range of prices and selling them in a fun, relaxing environment.
Andrea said: ‘We searched about for a location and when we came to Warsash there was a really good village feel.
‘Our girls went horse riding there and there are six schools within a-mile-and-a-half.
‘Being mums we know that when word gets out at the school gates it spreads quickly and we wanted to keep the business local.’
Nearly two years later, the shop has become well known for providing a stress-free shoe shopping experience and has scooped the top award at the national Footwear Industry Awards.
Emma said: ‘Winning the award was brilliant.
‘It means the hard work we have put in has paid off. We’ve been pleased with the local support and we’re excited to be opening a new shop in May.’
The duo are just about to sign a contract on a second premises in the Fareham area.
When asked the secret of juggling so many children and running a successful business, Andrea said: ‘It’s about being organised. We were very well organised to begin with – and now I have all sorts of lists and planners.’
Emma added: ‘We try to get our families involved as much as possible.
‘Our husbands are very supportive and our children give us tips as they are our target market.
‘It doesn’t even feel like hard work as it’s something that we all do together. It’s a real family business.’