Happy Wednesday! Today I am excited to bring back Sparkle Sessions, the interview series on Sparkles and Shoes when I speak to female entrepreneurs I think you will find fascinating. To kick off the re-launch I am delighted to share the interview I did last week with Tiannia Barnes. This up and coming designer is launching her first shoe collection this fall and from first glance, I knew I had to learn more. Her background may be in engineering and information technology but her shoe line is pure fashion with five different shoes; a flat, two pairs of pumps, and two pairs of booties. Tiannia took 20 minutes out of her very busy schedule and impending launch to answer a few of my questions. Take a look at what she had to say about her company and ogle over the pictures of her new line, I know I did:
What are five words you would use to describe yourself?
I would describe myself as fun and adventurous, I will put that as one word. I’m a very authentic and very genuine person. I am passionate and ambitious.
I was able to see a preview of your upcoming line, how would you describe your aesthetic?
I like to design a shoe for the everyday classy, sophisticated woman that wants a little bit of bold, spice, and edge to her life. My shoes always start off with a classic foundation, you will have a heel, a flat, or a pump, but the elements that make my shoe are that they are comfortable and modern. I like using different hardwares, textures, and color – I am very big on color. All of my shoes are relatable, they can be put on at the office and go from work to happy hour, to some type of charity event, or just walking to the park, everybody can wear at least one shoe in my line.
How did you decide you wanted to become a shoe designer?
That is the million dollar question that I get asked all of the time. I always say, it is not like I had a background in it, I went to college, I have a couple of degrees, I did the corporate America thing and that is how I thought my career was going to be. But everything always stems out from our childhood and I grew up an only childhood and was always playing with my Barbie. I was really into fashion when I went to high school and designed two of my prom dresses, not ever pursuing it or thinking it was a passion of mine, just something I enjoyed.
Fast forward to my adulthood, I just happened to be sitting at restaurant and a shoe just came to me, I sketched it out and then they just started coming to me. I bought a sketch book and they were very raw sketches because I am not an artist by trade, but I immediately put them on paper, not knowing where this would have led to. That was four years ago – it was a passion that has revived itself and that is where I am, living out my dream.
You went to shoe making school in Cleveland, Ohio, is that where you are based?
No, I am not based in Ohio, I actually live in Connecticut and do a lot of work out of Connecticut and New York because I am so close. Cleveland is where I found the school, I went there in December 2013 and already had sketches of my shoes – the idea of the class is that you learn from start to finish how to make your own shoe and you actually make a prototype. I felt so reinvigorated after that and started my business in January 2014 and got my logo, trademark, and did all of the back end structural and organizational things you need to set up a business, now I am off and running!
What is one lesson you had to learn the hard way?
I wouldn’t necessarily say that it is directly tied to my business, but a lesson for life in general, you need to speak up and think of your true self. Speaking without fear of what someone is going to say, or what your boss is going to do, or fear of ideas you have and really thinking about what you want out of life. I think that is something I had to learn to do because in corporate America you are so used to walking a fine line with your livelihood at stake and a lot at risk. Once I realized that, about speaking your truth, I feel like the world opened up to me and I have been able to do things the way I have wanted to do them. It is not specifically about making shoes, but becoming the woman I am supposed to be, living in my truth.
If you had your pick, who do you envision as your first celebrity brand ambassador?
The interesting part to this question, or the operative word, is first. There are tons of people that I would love to be an ambassador but my shoes and my brand are about inspiration, the journey, and empowerment so if I put all of those things together and think about that one person, that first person, it would have to be Oprah. She represents influence, she represents style, and philanthropy, and those are core things that I look at for myself and that to me inspire, motivate, and encourage.
Where do you see your business in five years?
I would like to have an internationally known brand, recognized not just locally in the New York area but globally. It would be amazing to walk in the mall of Dubai and have my shoes in their beautiful high end boutiques. Also, in five years, expanding into another area, interestingly enough a lot of men, the first thing out of their mouths is, “when are you going to design men’s shoes?” I have heard that numerous times so maybe that is next on the horizon, we shall see.
Finally, do you have any advice for other young, female entrepreneurs?
My advice is the advice I had to take myself, find your passion, your inner truth, and your natural gifts. A lot of us sweep them under the rug or let everyday life take over so really dig deep, really search within yourself and find out what your true gift is and follow that. Whatever your gift is, that is going to lead to your passion, your purpose, and you will have a fulfilled life. That is my advice that I would give to young or entrepreneurs or anyone looking to start a change or have some type of change in their life no matter what their age is.
And I will leave you with my favorite pair of shoes from the collection, the Regin pumps:
Tiannia’s line launches this fall and while the distribution is still being finalized the shoes will likely be carried in high end department stores ranging in price between $300 and $600. Until then they are available for pre-order on Tiannia’s website.
I hope you enjoyed this latest installment of Sparkle Sessions, look for a new interview with another great female entrepreneur next month!