Something good to come out of the pandemic is the reminder that true entrepreneurs will adapt to their circumstances and find a way to shine in a scary situation.
That’s exactly what Karen Howell did when the widespread stresses of the pandemic forced her to close her well-loved online children’s boutique. She pivoted, refocused, and kept creating. Now the world can welcome her newest business venture, Mini Soles, a kids’ shoe brand that combines high fashion with timeless and classic styles. With the global kids’ footwear market expected to reach $59.2 billion by 2025*, it sounds like Karen is stepping into the shoe game at the perfect time.
Owner and CEO Karen Howell touts her mother as the spark that has driven her lifetime love of fashion. Karen explains, “When I was younger, my mom was hugely into fashion. I learned a lot from her and that was one of our bonds. I had this dream in my head that my daughters and I would share that same bond. However, I never had those girls. I am a boy mom and they were never very excited about fashion. However, I still had the desire to dress a little girl. Hence the reason I started doing girl’s fashion.”
As her online children’s boutique gave way to the birth of her new shoe-focused venture, Mini Soles, Karen recognizes the desire for more options when it comes to designing shoes that fill the gaps in the kids’ shoe market. The overall goal? Combining unique designs with comfortability. The Mini Soles line is meant to be fun, sophisticated, and feature the finest craftsmanship and materials.
Her first designs do not disappoint. From trendy, fringe-adorned sneakers to a rose gold twist on the generationally adored pair of Oxfords, Karen has something that every little girl would love to have in their closet and every mom would love to see her little in.
Karen’s design process isn’t restrictive. Once she identifies a need in the market, she goes to sketching and works in tandem with her manufacturers to find the best textiles and colors for the designs.
When asked what her favorite design to date is, Karen responded, “I love all of my designs, but if I had to choose, it would be our Isabella Sneaker. It was my first design and while there is no funny story behind the design, I spent many sleepless nights during the design process. It was the first product that we were bringing to market and I wanted to make a great impression. I think we did really good because to date, it is our number one seller.”
Karen knows that continuing to manufacture quality products for her customers will help grow her e-commerce site, shopminisoles.com, exponentially. She also recognizes that e-commerce will always be the lifeblood of her business but admits she would love to grow the wholesale side of Mini Soles and see her designs in retailers and big-box stores eventually.
Although her sons may not be able to model her Mini Soles designs, Karen has three small nieces that she and her husband see often. She admits she loves to lavish her nieces with Mini Soles samplings. Karen has finally found a group of girls to share in her love of fashion and to play dress-up with whenever possible.
Even though Karen’s grown boys may not be her target customer, she loves that her sons have watched her entrepreneurial spirit and process over the years. Enough so that her youngest son even comes to her with his own questions and ideas about starting a business.
“I love that my kids can witness me start a business from scratch and grow it to success. It proves to them that they can do the same.”
Mini Soles may be purchased at shopminisoles.com as well as high-end retailers around the southeast. Make sure to follow their Facebook and Instagram pages for all the latest styles. You’re going to love these shoes!
*2017 report by Grand View Research, Inc.