FM Interview: Rashidah Ali
Not many people have the opportunity to turn their most innate passion into a successful business, but Rashidah Ali did! The Bronx native opened her high end “shoetique” in Harlem, Bourgeoisie Shoes, back in 2007 at only 23 years old and have built her reputation off of exceptional customer service. I got the opportunity to get the busy bee to take a minute from building her empire to sit & talk with me about her journey, her inspiration, and her advice on everything shoes:
TheFashionManifesto.com: What inspired you to open a “shoetique”?
Rashidah Ali: What inspired me to open a shoetique is my true love for shoes. I always knew I was going to be a boss, but it was more so about establishing a game plan. Finding something that would not only be lucrative, but would also keep my attention. Each time I step into those show rooms, it’s like love at first site all over again.
FM: It seems like everyone is either closing or down sizing due to tough economic times, what made you decide to open/expand your store during these times?
RA: Well naturally one expects for the first three years to be a difficult transition when opening a new business. At the time when I opened, we hadn’t yet been declared in an official recession yet. So honestly, I planned for the first few years of challenges.
FM: There are tons of boutiques in New York City, what makes yours different?
RA: What makes Bourgeoisie Shoes different from any of the other boutiques in NYC, would have to be the experience. In addition to the merchandise that is hand picked by myself, no buyer, were offering a service that goes hand in hand. Either myself, or the sales rep give each individual unmatchable attention and advice. We offer refreshments and Hors d’ ourves while your there, in addition to a luxury delivery service.
FM: What are some of the designers you carry?
RA: Bourgeoisie Shoes carries Giuseppe Zanotti, Casadei, Stuart Weitzmen, Georgina Goodman, Gianmarco Lorenzi to name a few.
FM: What inspired the name, Bourgeoisie Shoes?
RA: Bourgeoisie is french, and means “middle class” despite the misconception within our community that it means snooty or uppity. I chose that name because I felt it was the perfect word to express where I came from. Who is this person [owner] where did she come from? What is her story? It is the transition from middle class inspired by the elevation into the next class. From Coach to Business/First Class travel. Bourgeoisie is my transition, my inspiration, my stepping stone to the next level.
FM: What is your biggest priority, as far as your store goes?
RA: Consistency, making sure each customer leaves satisfied.
FM: A lot of times, young entrepreneurs have that moment that makes them go “this is my time to step out and just do it”, what was that moment for you?
RA: That moment for me was November 15th, 2007. The day the doors opened to Bourgeoisie Shoes in Harlem.
FM: Being around so many fabulous shoes & being introduced to new designers daily, would you say your own line of shoes is in the works? Seems like that would be a natural transition…
RA: Honestly, I’m not interested in having my own shoe line. That is the very reason I opened the Shoetique. I love the variety. I love creating a candy shop for the fashion forward women of the world. I have some other great ventures brewing, but I don’t foresee a shoe line in my future right now.
FM: Who is your favorite shoe designer, and why?
RA: I truly don’t have a FAVORITE shoe designer. I’m a girl who loves her options. I have designers who I love obviously, like some of the names I carry and some I don’t, but there isn’t a favorite.
FM: What is your favorite shoe that is currently on the market?
RA: Oh, I’d have to say the papaya, it’s the wedge patent leather number by Giuseppe Zanotti. It appears to be such a challenge to walk in, but the true shoe divas go for it, and see it’s just an illusion and in fact is a basic wedge. It definitely turns heads.
FM: What is your favorite season to whip out the best shoes? Would it be Fall for the boots or Summer for the sandals?
RA: Definitely the Summer, I love fun colors and styles. Sandals are lots of fun to pair up with accessories and just be free.
FM: If a woman is splurging on her first pair of expensive shoes, what kind of shoe and brand would you recommend she buy?
RA: I’d recommend she focus more on a pair that is practical rather than which designer. A woman’s first pair of expensive shoes, should definitely be one that she can get some wear out of and see the value. A pair that she could take from the office to cocktails with some friends. Lots of designers make pieces that represent that- Stuart Weitzman, Casadei just to name a few.
FM: What is your BIGGEST no-no when it comes to shoes? Like, I am NOT a fan of the opaque tights paired with open-toe sandals, ugh!
RA: I’d have to say that one as well as run down heels. It’s disheartening to see a young lady with the steel peeping through the heel. There are tons of great shoe repair vendors throughout the city, a woman’s shoe is a representation of who she is.
FM: What advice do you have for any one out there who plans on venturing into your line of work?
RA: I’d say be prepared for a lot of hard work. Things will NOT always go according to the plan, but the most important thing is to HAVE a plan. Stick with it, work hard research the expected and UNEXPECTED.
You can visit her store in person, or shop online:
2366 7th Avenue
New York, NY 10030
You can follow her on Twittter: Twitter.com/MyShoeFetish
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