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Dan Spencer of Fortunate Cat Shoe Design

Launched in 2020 as a youngsters’s footwear model, Fortunate Cat Shoe Design needed to pivot and diversify in the course of the hardest days of the COVID-19 pandemic. Thankfully, Senior Footwear Designer, Developer and now enterprise Director, Dan Spencer, was ready to make use of his experience and revolutionary mindset to show issues round. Right here, we’d prefer to introduce you to a brand new BFA Member that’s providing consultancy providers to others within the commerce… and with incredible outcomes.

After 25 years within the footwear business working for the likes of Pentland Manufacturers and Clarks, Dan Spencer launched Fortunate Cat Shoe Design alongside his Co-Founder, Dola Zhang, in 2020. This was simply earlier than the pandemic hit, and the ravages of this era made bringing a brand new children’ footwear firm onto the scene extraordinarily difficult. Because of this, Fortunate Cat swiftly morphed right into a consultancy agency, working with each established companies and start-ups nationally and internationally.

As we speak, Fortunate Cat Shoe Design is led by Spencer, Zhang and their enterprise companion, Emma Waterproof coat, who additionally has 25 years of expertise in revolutionary design concepts. Collectively, they provide a variety of providers for the business, specialising in youngsters’s footwear. From market analysis to CAD design, by way of to product improvement and manufacturing, the enterprise utilises its huge sources to ship a 360 method from its places of work in each the UK and China.

To search out out extra, we spoke to Dan Spencer to debate how his previous experiences helped him launch a profitable consultancy enterprise within the midst of a world pandemic. Plus, we uncover what evokes him, how he has overcome challenges of late, and what’s subsequent for Fortunate Cat in 2023.

What impressed you to start out your individual firm?

The seeds of this firm have been sown in 2018 on a visit to China after Dola (Co-Founder) and I had a dialog at the back of a taxi. We had each labored for a very long time within the footwear business and determined it was time to attempt one thing ourselves. We have been each on the proper age with the proper expertise degree, so we felt the time was now, or we’d remorse it. 

We needed to create our personal high quality children’ footwear model, beginning with the UK college market. Utilizing all our expertise and experience, we acquired SoleBuddy onto the launch pad for 2020. Then the unthinkable occurred…the worldwide pandemic struck, which not solely closed our path to market but additionally worn out our complete shopper demand. We needed to change our enterprise mannequin quick, so we morphed into the consultancy we’re right this moment. Emma then joined so as to add better design expertise. To focus on the consultancy enterprise, we licensed SoleBuddy to Time period Footwear to develop and promote the model.

Dan Spencer of Fortunate Cat Shoe Design.

How do you’re employed with totally different companies and companions to realize their targets?

At Fortunate Cat, we tailor our method of working relying on the model or undertaking. After we are employed to supervise the entire of design, improvement, manufacture and supply, we construct sturdy long-term relationships with the shopper. For instance, many start-ups we work with require a excessive degree of help, and we frequently grow to be built-in into their enterprise as all of us work collectively in the direction of launching the model.

Footwear design providers are provided by BFA Member Fortunate Cat Shoe Design.

We’re fairly adaptable in our method when working with greater purchasers. For instance, some purchasers require our design or 3D providers, and we then work alongside their firm personnel and technical groups to realize their goals. To permit us to ship our full service, we type good working partnerships with factories, mould makers, tanneries, suppliers, final makers and forwarders.

Can you share extra in regards to the providers you provide?

Our providers principally cowl idea to supply of completed sneakers. We discover that established manufacturers are likely to dip into our providers, most frequently our design or 3D modelling. Begin-ups want the entire start-to-finish bundle, whereas companies usually ‘bolt us on’ to supply our providers. On the coronary heart of our providers are design, 3D CAD, Photoshop and improvement:

DesignEmma and I’ve over 20 years of expertise in each adults and children’ footwear design which covers numerous our shopper’s wants. We work with the shopper offering development perception and analysis to create the story to help our design work. The place we really feel a extra specialist designer is required, I dip into my community, or if a shopper already has a designer, we’ll work carefully with that designer.

Emma Waterproof coat of Fortunate Cat Shoe Design.

3D CAD: This can be a a lot sort-after service which may lower improvement time down significantly. Beginning with the 3D digital final, both working with a final maker or one from our current library, we will create each the 3D sole mannequin and the higher.

Sole modelling: I work on creating the 3D mannequin of the only unit within the UK with the proper technical points to go well with every form of soling compound. 3D information is generated and handed to our workforce within the Far East. They choose the appropriate mould maker and work carefully with them to make use of our information to create a fast prototype, a wooden mannequin and technical drawing. After we are blissful and the shopper is blissful, we will open a metallic mould or a silicon mould to create versatile sole items for sampling.

Higher Modelling: As with the only unit, we will create the higher mannequin from the digital 3d final. The place higher modelling differs from sole modelling is usually the tip use. We use the higher mannequin (complete shoe) as both a mannequin that may be 3D printed or we use the 3D picture for shows. By rendering the fashions within the right supplies and hues, we will present our shopper the completed shoe with out the necessity for samples.

Growth: That is the place Dola and Michele from our workforce in China take over. They may choose the proper supply manufacturing unit for the product and oversee the event of the samples from the primary prototype to the affirmation pattern. They go to the manufacturing unit pattern rooms continuously to verify they adhere to our requirements of becoming, technical necessities, aesthetics and supplies. 

After the event stage has completed and samples have handed match and put on testing, we transfer into the commercialisation stage. That is the place we work with the manufacturing unit to grade the patterns, sole moulds, knives and order all the majority supplies for manufacturing. We additionally examine, negotiate, and log out the ultimate costings.

We oversee the manufacturing of the sneakers, QC checks on the road and use accredited impartial laboratories to do the bodily and chemical testing experiences. Other than engaged on the sneakers, we now have designed packaging, shoe bins, and product images for web sites and dealing with our forwarder companions to ship the sneakers to the shopper.

What’s your method to innovation as an organization?

We all the time work with our suppliers to search for the newest supplies, processes, and improvements. Something eco-friendly is especially fascinating, as that is what many consumers push for. When working with purchasers who haven’t come from the footwear business, they usually suppose exterior of the field with out the constraints of company decision-makers. So this enables us to innovate to offer what they’re after.

We’re additionally children’ footwear specialists, together with design, becoming and technical necessities. We’ve got discovered this to be a invaluable string to our bow as a result of many shoe corporations merely don’t have this in-depth data, usually taking down adults’ lasts or counting on factories for match. As you may think about, we get plenty of footwear initiatives that aren’t your regular simple shoemaking! We’ve got needed to innovate customised fastenings, therapeutic massage footbeds, diving sneakers and barefoot applied sciences. I believe for our firm, it’s not solely important to innovate ourselves but additionally to pay attention to improvements occurring within the business that we will adapt to our shopper’s wants. So maintaining with materials applied sciences and new methods of producing is essential. 

The Fortunate Cat Shoe Design workforce work on product improvement, costing, and vary constructing.

Why is it essential to you to be a part of the BFA, particularly in right this moment’s local weather? 

Being a part of the BFA offers us nice publicity to footwear companies and permits us to faucet into the expertise and sources it has to supply in addition to provide ours. Networking on this business is essential, and the BFA is a good place to fulfill with others within the footwear commerce. We in all probability obtain 90% of our work and purchasers by way of suggestions.

The BFA can promote our enterprise to the proper individuals; we’re predominantly a B2B consultancy, so carrying BFA membership actually authenticates us. Lastly, the BFA can also be a go-to place for sources and knowledge on the newest footwear information and points. Discovering all this out independently takes enormous time and sources. For our purchasers’ queries, we will ask subject consultants for fast, correct solutions.

What initiatives are on the horizon for Fortunate Cat in 2023? 

We shall be launching three new start-up manufacturers in 2023. As well as, we’re engaged on extra thrilling barefoot sneakers for BGreater, which we helped launch in 2022. Additionally, some new thrilling merchandise with Dubs, which we additionally helped launch final 12 months, and our work on numerous initiatives with our greater purchasers. Final 12 months we created 3D CAD coaching programs for a shopper, which labored properly, so that is an space that we hope to develop. We’re additionally working with a diving firm on a product that may disrupt the market and is able to be launched this 12 months…however that’s all I can say about that! 

Fortunate Cat Shoe Design – design idea sketches.

Lastly, reflecting in your years of expertise, what recommendation would you give to somebody beginning within the footwear business?

From a private perspective, gaining well-rounded expertise has been very invaluable. Studying the technical facet of footwear improvement, 3D modelling, and design has given me an ideal understanding of the entire course of. Taking time to develop your abilities and listening to and studying from good, skilled individuals within the business will construct an ideal community and earn you belief and respect amongst your friends.

I might advise visiting final makers, mould makers, tanneries, and factories to see the entire footwear manufacturing course of. It makes designing footwear, which may truly be made and commercially viable, a lot simpler. One factor I can say is you by no means cease studying. Since beginning Fortunate Cat, I’ve discovered a lot about gross sales, logistics and provide chains…. the record goes on!

Discover out extra about Fortunate Cat Shoe Design by way of the corporate’s BFA Member profile. To function on the BFA Footwear Information Weblog, please contact us. Be a part of our group. Be part of the BFA right this moment as a enterprise or particular person.

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