Sandra Wilson, 44, founded Robeez Footwear in her basement in 1994 after she was laid off from Canadian Airlines, where she was an executive in operations. Robeez has doubled revenue every year since then, and now offers more than 60 shoe designs, ranging from Monkey Red to Gecko Royal and Cherries Pastel Pink. Over the last 10 years, Robeez has grown its distribution network from 20 retailers in British Columbia, where the company is based, to 3,300 stores in Canada and the U.S., as well as to outlets in Europe, Asia and South America. About 60% of total sales come from the U.S.
With 90% of sales to boutiques and specialty stores, the evangelism approach worked: Ms. Wilson, CEO-president, credits "good old-fashioned word-of-mouth" for fueling much of the company's early growth. From a marketing and sales side, she says, "that means harnessing the passion that customers have for Robeez, and building a marketing and creative team that is equally, if not more, passionate about the product."