Haley Pavone is the Founder & CEO at Pashion Footwear. Haley is an entrepreneur whose ambition & passion for innovation led her to create the largest disruptive advancement women’s footwear has ever seen – the world’s first fully convertible heel. Pavone founded the company as a 20 year old college junior while still graduating on-time with her Business Entrepreneurship degree from California Polytechnic State University, SLO. She has developed her innovative & massively disruptive technology, secured patent-pending status in 30 countries, built out and trained a full supply chain on a completely new production method, executed the first rounds of production with phenomenal customer satisfaction ratings, developed & launched a comprehensive eCommerce site/model/funnel and raised over $4 million dollars in seed funding.
Haley, can you start off by telling us about yourself and why you chose to start Pashion Footwear?
Ever since I was a little kid, I knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur. I always found joy in creating new things, building things, inventing things. Finding efficient new solutions to problems I’d run into throughout my day always gave me a rush of inspiration. Now, it’s just as shocking to me as it is to everyone else that the idea I ended up running with is convertible high heels – I knew nothing at all about shoes when I got started, but you can’t help where inspiration strikes.
In my sophomore year of college, I wore a pair of 6” heels out to a sorority formal. As any woman reading will know, dancing in 6” heels is really more of a “wobble” – and I wanted to bust a move. So, I ditched my heels and went barefoot as I’d always done at any kind of formal event. On that particular evening, tragedy & inspiration quite literally struck when another young woman accidentally stomped on my bare foot with the point of her stiletto, impaling me through the toe.
As I was sitting there unimpaling myself I couldn’t help but notice the massive pile of discarded heels on the side of the dance floor. At that moment, it hit me. Almost every woman wears high heels; everyone knows they are painful and inconvenient, and yet — there was no marketable solution. Women were constantly ending up barefoot, lugging around backup shoes, or just suffering through for hours on end. That was all it took; a lightbulb went off and I became obsessed with finding a better way.
Can you tell us what drives you to be successful as an entrepreneur?
What truly drives me as an entrepreneur is the desire to create. Whether that be creating a new product design, a new marketing campaign, or a superstar team – taking an idea from inception to reality is such an incredible thing to be a part of. I wake up every day excited to make the next big thing for Pashion. And on a larger scale, I hope that someday my story can inspire other young women to build their own businesses and create their own change.
Tell us about your current role and your vision of disrupting women’s footwear for the better.
I like to joke that my current role as founder and CEO in this stage of business is doing a little bit of everything, leading the charge, and most importantly – putting out fires. Every day there’s a different set of obstacles to overcome and my job is finding ways to catapult over them, no matter how much of a Hail Mary needs to be accomplished.
It can definitely be overwhelming at times, but I know it’ll all be worth it. I have a vision of a day where every shoe in a woman’s closet (aside from her sneakers) is versatile, comfortable, customizable, and convertible. We can apply our design to every shoe a woman needs – disrupting every shoe on the shoe shelf from sandals to pumps to boots. Convertible shoes will be the new standard in women’s footwear.
What’s the one or two accomplishments that you’re proud of?
The first thing that comes to mind is the team that I’ve built at Pashion and the culture we’ve established. I am very proud to work in an environment that in many ways feels like a family. Everyone is so supportive of each other, kind, and inspiring. I think it’s very hard, especially in this modern remote work environment, to put together a group of people that work as well together as we do and genuinely enjoys each other’s company. We’ve accomplished that in spades, and it shows in everything that we do.
Second, bringing this shoe to life. I can’t even tell you how many footwear experts told me this shoe was impossible to make in the early days. I’m very proud to have proven them wrong.
What advice do you have for other up-and-coming young Women Leaders?
Trust your gut. I think a lot of young female founders struggle with imposter syndrome. For my first few years starting Pashion, I let the opinions of others trump what I knew was right because I was intimidated by the fact that their resumes were longer than mine. At the end of the day, although their resumes may be longer, no one knows your business better than you. Although feedback is always appreciated, at a certain point you just have to follow your instincts…after all, they are what got you this far. Never forget that.
Are you active on social media professionally? If so, what platforms work best for engaging your followers?
Being in the fashion e-commerce space, social media is very important to building Pashion’s customer base. For Pashion, Instagram has been the best platform to engage directly with our followers – while TikTok has done the best job driving awareness for us.
Personally, LinkedIn has been the best place for me to grow my own following as a CEO.
What is the major difference between being an entrepreneur and working the “nine-to-five”?
I think in this sense being an entrepreneur is really a double edge sword. A lot of people say that when you’re an entrepreneur you get to choose your own hours, vs being trapped in a 9-to-5. What these people fail to mention is that when you’re an entrepreneur, it stops being a job – it starts being your baby. Entrepreneurship is an incredibly personal journey fueled by your own risks, desire, reputation, and passion. Yes, in theory you have full flexibility – but the reality is you end up working dramatically more than a 9 to 5 workday. The good news is – you do so because you love it and you care more than you ever would working for someone else. But on the flipside, you’re never really able to “check out” so to speak.
Who was your biggest influencer?
My Dad. I count my lucky stars every day that as a little girl, I had a father who made sure I knew I could be anything I wanted to be…a dad who empowered me in every sense. He taught me resilience, work ethic, determination, and fairness – traits that I think have all contributed to the leader that I am today.
What is the most challenging part of your work as a CEO?
Riding the rollercoaster. In startup world there are high highs and there are low lows – as CEO I’m usually caught up right in the middle of what’s going on, and the constant ebb and flow of events can be overwhelming to say the least. Being an entrepreneur will constantly test your resilience & strength in ways you could never anticipate. It’s challenging…but also shows you what you’re made of. There’s something very empowering to that.
What do you have your sights set on next?
I’m really looking forward to expanding the Pashion line into our first boot this fall. During our last two years on market, we’ve quite literally left some customers out in the cold during winter months – since our line consisted mostly of sandal styles. Releasing this product is going to mean major things for us – expanding the Pashion mission into a season-less cycle.
What is a day in your life like?
Honestly, this is the hardest question for me to answer because no two days are ever alike! On Monday I’ll be planning the line for next Summer, Tuesday pitching for fundraising, Wednesday handling a supply chain crisis, Thursday shooting a new marketing campaign…it certainly keeps things interesting!
Do you have any hobbies?
Very cliche but, I love staying fit, hanging out with friends, and a good Netflix binge!
What makes you smile?
Whenever a review comes in from a happy customer, telling us about how her Pashions have totally changed the game for her. It means the world.
What are you never without?
My planner…my life depends on it.
What scares you?
What’s your favorite vacation spot?
Anywhere there’s a beach & a margarita in my hand!