‘Sizing up’ with Trinidadian entrepreneur Jillan Aimable
Chief executive officer of Shoeaholics Limited, Jillan Aimable, is determined to introduce and make the brand which offers custom and ready-made footwear, as well as matching accessories, number one across the entire Caribbean region.
The Trinidadian businesswoman’s has come a far way from her first store in 2010 in the Arima Dial Mall. The second store was opened in Chaguanas and then other branches throughout Trinidad and one in Tobago at the Lowlands Mall, bringing the total to nine locations across the twin island republic.
“I’m an addict for good quality, stylish shoes and will spend all my money on those that I can find. But I often found that the simple shoes I liked always carried ridiculously high prices up to TT$1,000 (approximately US$145), that’s way too much,” Aimable told Living.
“I believe in [a philosophy of] eat a little, live long, and everybody should have great looking shoes. But it was not uncommon to hear women, or persons in general, with larger feet, complain that they can’t find certain styles or fashionable shoes in their size. When a shoe store has one size 10 in the box of 20 shoes of a specific style, you find that 70 per cent of its clients [are] size 10s, 11s, and 12s,” she continued.
Aimable, a mother of two, shared how she combined her experience in retail and her love for shoes to create Shoeaholics, initially Shoe Fetish 15 years ago.
With her background in marketing management and business development, Aimable was able to study the market and create a size run that was inclusive of those individuals. When she became pregnant, work became a challenge. Placed completely on bed rest, it was either make or break, and she was not about to let anything break her.
She said, “As someone who had to travel for business operations to seek and buy items, it was either I close up shop and focus on having my children or find another way. That’s where the tequila-making started. My mother would always say, ‘Jillan, you are a tequila-maker. I give you lemons, you give me tequila. Not just make a regular lemonade’ because of my approach to making things happen.”
Aimable started working with various companies to improve their design line sheets, “[and I] found anything I put together, to have made always would be [the] first thing to sell out in the factories, and they showed interest that by the time my son was born, representatives from these factories were visiting me in Trinidad to work on their line sheets.”
Her concept became sought-after by other companies, but her foresight was on making something of a bigger impact, to create a wide range of footwear of the highest comfort and quality that was still fashionable, to attract an even wider market.
“In Trinidad’s market, and the Caribbean by extension, I wanted to make more quantities of shoes where more women were properly represented, that meant sizing up and providing more variety. Because when buying shoes in the US, most brands are making it with the European size run in mind. I started doing designs with different companies, and that’s when I thought, why not create a line for myself.”
Destiny intervened, and that’s where she said the ‘Jilly’ brand, the flagship collection of shoes and accessories for women and children, was birthed.
“Shoeaholics has managed to maintain an affordable price point. Again, nobody should have limited accessibility or none at all when it comes on to trendy, fashionable shoes unless it is they really can’t afford it. With my own brand, I have adapted a sales strategy to create and sell volume,” Aimable explained.
In celebration of its 10th anniversary, she opened the 10th store location in Jamaica right in the middle of St Andrew’s Sovereign Shopping Centre. The store was officially launched on October 8 in the presence of Deryck Murray, Trinidad and Tobago’s high commissioner to Jamaica, who commended Aimable on her “enterprising entrepreneurship”.
Everything from the ‘Jilly’ brand is available at the location.
“Jamaica is my lucky number 10. God was pruning me for the right time to have time to come here. Actually, when I went to Sovereign, it was not on the list of places, but two shop spaces were available where I saw the vision becoming a possibility,” she shared.
She also has plans to explore men’s footwear designs and hopefully launch a collection for them.
“You will hear me pass comments like, shoes I know, men I don’t know,” she laughed.
“[So] maybe that’s why I’ve left it alone. But that market is being neglected even with the wide range of brands in men’s sneakers and dress shoes, especially for them in casual footwear. There are no in-betweens. The plan is to start consulting with a few men on my radar; find out what they think should be on the shelf. Customers are the heartbeat of what you do to try to stay fashion forward,” Aimable offered.