Growth & Jobs | Food chemist-turned-sandal maker creates stylish footwear
Former food chemist Angel-Lee Grignon has turned her love for stylish sandals into a viable business that provides trendy and elegant footwear tailored to the requirements of the discerning customer.
Through her company, Angé Sandals, clients are able to customise particular styles with their choice of individual colour or colour combinations.
The sandals, which come in a variety of colours, are easily identified by the straps made from polyester rope. There are three product lines – the Azra, Venus and the Gisele.
Grignon, in explaining the genesis of the business to JIS News, says she got into sandal making “by chance and also out of necessity”.
“It started as a personal need, and it morphed into meeting the needs of potential and actual clients. As a lover of sandals, I found that I was never able to customise purchases to my liking while paying a pretty penny. If I have to pay a lot of money for footwear, I should be able to say what colours are used, at least,” she argued.
The 31-year-old entrepreneur shares that starting the business proved to be more difficult than anticipated.
Among the challenges were a lack of knowledge sharing by experts in the field whom she consulted, limited information uncovered while doing her initial research, and a seemingly endless trial-and-error period during the product-development process.
“That was when I took a few online courses to hone the craft and learn the ‘foot science’ behind making comfortable and supportive footwear through shoe ergonomics. I learned of local shoe and sandal-making courses after I completed the ones I had already started,” she noted.
The Ange’ Sandals boss got her first real hands-on experience when she accompanied her mother to a shoemaker after church one day.
She took advantage of the opportunity to tap into his vast knowledge gained from years of experience in the field, noting that the shoemaker readily responded to her questions.
With that encounter, coupled with the classes she took, Grignon jumped into the deep end and made the first pair of sandals under her brand in August of 2019, which was when she officially launched the business.
While the COVID-19 pandemic has negatively impacted businesses, particularly small operations, the sandal maker has seen growth in sales.
“Since the pandemic hit, I have seen about a 25-30 per cent growth in sales, and in November I received offers to have my footwear be featured in a number of storefront spaces. There has really been blessings within the storm and I am grateful for that,” she said.
“Jamaicans are a resilient people, so I know those negatively impacted by the pandemic will come out stronger and better,” she noted.
With a little over a year as an entrepreneur, the Angé Sandals owner has participated in two major Tourism Enhancement Fund trade shows, ‘Christmas in July’ and ‘e-ChrismusMarketplace’ in 2020.
Grignon, in sharing her vision for the business, said that over the next year, she is looking to expand on the company’s client base in parishes throughout Jamaica and countries within the Caribbean which it currently serves.
“In the next five years, Angé Sandals should be supplying under Brand Jamaica to countries worldwide. In the next 10 years, Angé should be on par with the popular and successful footwear brands,” she shared with JIS News.