Meet Katrina Verso. She’s a mum, shoe lover, and the founder of Cammino Shoes. Cammino Shoes produces high-quality ballet flats for women who need a back-up pair of comfortable shoes for their busy lives. Each pair is made by a family of shoe makers in Northern Italy using the finest leather and suede.
While covid had a significant impact on the business, Katrina was able to raise $20,000 of pre-order sales in 6 weeks through Kickstarter – a huge milestone. She’s also switched to a direct-to-consumer business model in recent years, allowing her to keep costs down. Katrina started the business while on maternity leave, which is no mean feat, so we recently spoke to her to find out how she did it.
Who are you and what brand did you start?
I am a busy mum and shoe lover who started my business, Cammino, while on maternity leave from my big corporate gig. I saw a gap in the market for high-quality crafted (not mass factory produced) ballet flats that women could change into throughout their busy day at work, after a long day at the races, or to wear in their own right.
I wanted to empower women to know they look as good as they feel in flat shoes. My customers are busy women who wear multiple hats. They are style lovers who don't have time for fussy, painful shoes.
We decided to name the brand Cammino, which means "to walk" in Italian. This is the essence of what we are about – allowing women to walk in comfort.
A love of all things crafted in Italy led me to partner with a family of shoemakers in Northern Italy, who make their products by hand from the finest leather and suede.
We launched with our now signature foldable leather ballet flat. It was a huge turning point for the business when Chyka Keebaugh (who appeared on The Real Housewives of Melbourne) posted herself wearing them on holiday in Sicily. Starting an online brand without any investors always poses the challenge of getting the brand out to the right customers. It takes time and persistence and having this exposure so early on was a big coup for us at that time.
Two years later, we were due to launch our luxury sneaker collection when covid hit and wiped away our wholesale orders, plus shut the manufacturers in Italy. We eventually ran a Kickstarter campaign asking people to pre-order their pairs, which enabled us to get our first collection into production when the factories reopened. We raised close to $20,000 in pre-order sales in 6 weeks, which was a huge milestone.
Since then, we have developed a direct-to-consumer model, allowing us to provide affordable prices to our wonderful customers.
BRAND LAUNCH - take us through how you launched Cammino.
Cammino has been predominantly built through social media and word of mouth. We have an incredibly loyal customer base, with over 70% owning multiple pairs.
ONLINE STORE SETUP - what are your top 2 tips for a successful Ecommerce store setup.
- Research the demand and find out how many Google searches are being made for your product idea.
- Well before you launch, decide if you are going to have a wholesale business model. If so, cost everything accordingly.
SOCIAL - what are your top 2 tips for successful use of social media to engage with customers.
- Use Video Content - learn about the power of videos and include them within your social media strategy. Instagram has announced they have moved from a photo-sharing platform to focusing on the video space to take on Tik Tok. On that platform, as well as Facebook, you will find that video gives the greatest reach. If you are not spending money on online advertising, gaining as much organic reach as possible is a great way to be seen.
- Engage with your community - join and be active in the Facebook groups that your customers are part of.
BUSINESS GROWTH INSIGHTS - how has Cammino changed and evolved?
We launched with our foldable ballet flats then introduced our sneakers through a Kickstarter campaign which raised close to $20k in pre-orders.
We launched the sneakers three months later and almost doubled our subscriber base in a month.
We grew both our audience and sales by increasing our product offering, as our existing customers also bought our new product.
MANAGING CHANGE - what are the top 2 tips you’d suggest others adopt to safeguard their business.
- Ensure you have multiple revenue streams - before covid, we had our online store, wholesale and markets, and pop-up stores, etc. We are now entirely focused on our online store and keep our business sustainable, as this was always an important revenue stream that we nurtured from the start.
- Our pivot was to move away from wholesale as a permanent strategy - doing this, enabled us to tighten pricing and focus on reaching our customers directly. It also meant we saved a huge amount of money on the costs required to grow a wholesale customer base. This allowed us to improve our website, digital strategy, customer experience, and future-proof the business.
FUTURE BUSINESS PLANS - how is Cammino doing today and what does the future look like?
Without sharing too many of our closely guarded secrets, we do have plans for MUCH more. Think more flat shoes for all seasons and other items for busy women needing to get it done.
ENTREPRENEUR INSIGHTS - what has been your biggest learning experience since starting Cammino?
To be careful who you trust when networking online. Extensively research anyone you plan to engage in your business.
ONLINE BUSINESS TOOLS - what are the business software tools you couldn't live without?
I can’t live without Canva. We do so much work creating social media templates and other marketing materials. What is so great about it is that it’s so easy to use. Plus, you can store your brand toolkit in there to design in your own brand colors.
See what tools other founders use here.
SELF DEVELOPMENT - what are the educational resources you’d recommend?
I had the wonderful experience of doing an Accelerate Entrepreneurial Program with the Women’s Business School. They are two fabulous women running excellent programs, which not only helped me scale the business through the 2020 covid pandemic but also provided a nurturing community of like-minded female business owners who have been there for me every step of my journey since.
INFLUENTIAL PEOPLE ‘shout-out’ - who have been the most influential people for you during your brand journey?
I have a wonderful group of close girlfriends who supported this dream from the moment I started talking about it. They gave me the strength to push forward when sometimes it felt quite futile. Having their support back then and now is everything.
My husband, who also runs his own business, has also been an incredible sounding board and ongoing cheerleader.
FINAL WORDS OF INSPO - for other aspiring entrepreneurs.
Focus your energy.
“Think of many things. Do only one.”
Latest offers & promotions - where can we go to learn more about your latest offers and promotions?
Our signature ballet flats are the go-to for Spring! You can shop here > https://cammino.com.au/collections/shop-our-ballet-flats
We also have lots going on in the wedding space for brides > https://cammino.com.au/collections/wedding-ballet-flats