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The New Way to Shop: Footwear Designer, Sarah Flint on the Power of Peers and Customer-Based Selling During Challenging Times

 

I started my namesake brand in 2013, having dreamed my whole life of designing footwear. I studied for seven years at Parsons, the Fashion Institute of Technology, and Ars Sutoria in Milan. After graduating, I pursued investors, drove across the country to host trunk shows, and built relationships with customers until I finally achieved my big break: in 2015, Sarah Flint officially launched at Barney’s. 

This was the dream—this, I thought, was it. But when you run a small business, the idea of “it” is constantly changing.

In 2017, I made the leap of faith to pull my shoes out of the major department stores. I took my business direct-to-consumer because it was how I could stay most true to my vision, creating a warm and welcoming customer experience while avoiding the traditional retail mark-up.

I had built my name on creating luxurious shoes that actually felt comfortable to wear. I added features like arch support and extra padding to pumps so that they looked like killer heels without actually killing your feet. This was easy to see and feel when you tried on the shoes in stores. But without having that physical presence, comfort became harder to genuinely convey, and ad copy alone wasn’t quite cutting it.

The Sarah Flint Brand Ambassador program was born out of my belief that people had to feel how comfortable my shoes were to truly believe it. In October 2019, I began inviting Sarah Flint's brand fans to join a new peer-to-peer network we were building, where they could speak about Sarah Flint shoes online or off, and share a discount for first-time purchasers. They would earn complimentary shoes based on customer conversions and have access to various program perks. 

I knew that product recommendations were extremely powerful, especially when they came from someone you knew and trusted. My hope was that the brand ambassadors would feel personal, reliable, and relatable—like you were getting great advice from your most stylish friends.

I originally launched the program to get more of my shoes out into the world, but what I didn’t expect was the incredible community—and invaluable lessons—that would spring up around it.

 

A Community Based on Trust

Customer reviews, loyalty, and word-of-mouth have to be earned. It was important to me to get my shoes in front of real people and have them attest to their quality—the business couldn’t rely on just me saying it. Our brand ambassadors can share their honest opinions and styling tips to the people in their worlds, which makes our shoes feel like an exciting discovery. This is how we love for customers to come to Sarah Flint—from someone trusted, kind, and passionate about our footwear. 

 

A Personal Alignment With the Brand

The program also makes it easier for ambassadors to connect with our values. Through our shoes, and through conversations with our team, they can see how we live out our ideals like 360-degree kindness, uncompromising quality, and empowering women. We invite our ambassadors to exclusive events (now hosted online due to COVID-19), give them early access to our launches, and provide classes on topics ranging from social media tools to meditation. Some have even formed friendships outside of the program, and nothing makes me happier than seeing how they support each other. 

More than ever, I believe women want to shop with brands that align with them personally, and so it’s important to keep the lines of communication open with your customers. 

 

A Network for Feedback

In keeping with open communication, the brand ambassador program has also become an incredible resource for feedback. I routinely reach out to ambassadors for design questions, opinions, and fit testing, and their insights are always well-considered. I recently hosted a Zoom call with the ambassadors on materializing my Spring/Summer 2021 collection, and they gave me fresh ideas that I may not have considered otherwise. In aiming to design shoes for real women and their busy lives, it’s vital for me to understand the needs of women from around the country and at different life stages. Especially during these changing times, it’s a privilege to have a smart, caring, and stylish network.

 

About the Author

 

Written by Sarah Flint, executive chairman, founder, and creative director of Sarah Flint

I started my namesake brand in 2013, having dreamed my whole life of designing footwear. I studied for seven years at Parsons, the Fashion Institute of Technology, and Ars Sutoria in Milan. After graduating, I pursued investors, drove across the country to host trunk shows, and built relationships with customers until I finally achieved my big break: in 2015, Sarah Flint officially launched at Barney’s. 

This was the dream—this, I thought, was it. But when you run a small business, the idea of “it” is constantly changing.

In 2017, I made the leap of faith to pull my shoes out of the major department stores. I took my business direct-to-consumer because it was how I could stay most true to my vision, creating a warm and welcoming customer experience while avoiding the traditional retail mark-up.

I had built my name on creating luxurious shoes that actually felt comfortable to wear. I added features like arch support and extra padding to pumps so that they looked like killer heels without actually killing your feet. This was easy to see and feel when you tried on the shoes in stores. But without having that physical presence, comfort became harder to genuinely convey, and ad copy alone wasn’t quite cutting it.

The Sarah Flint Brand Ambassador program was born out of my belief that people had to feel how comfortable my shoes were to truly believe it. In October 2019, I began inviting Sarah Flint's brand fans to join a new peer-to-peer network we were building, where they could speak about Sarah Flint shoes online or off, and share a discount for first-time purchasers. They would earn complimentary shoes based on customer conversions and have access to various program perks. 

I knew that product recommendations were extremely powerful, especially when they came from someone you knew and trusted. My hope was that the brand ambassadors would feel personal, reliable, and relatable—like you were getting great advice from your most stylish friends.

I originally launched the program to get more of my shoes out into the world, but what I didn’t expect was the incredible community—and invaluable lessons—that would spring up around it.

Sarah Flint quote

 

A Community Based on Trust

Customer reviews, loyalty, and word-of-mouth have to be earned. It was important to me to get my shoes in front of real people and have them attest to their quality—the business couldn’t rely on just me saying it. Our brand ambassadors can share their honest opinions and styling tips to the people in their worlds, which makes our shoes feel like an exciting discovery. This is how we love for customers to come to Sarah Flint—from someone trusted, kind, and passionate about our footwear. 

 

A Personal Alignment With the Brand

The program also makes it easier for ambassadors to connect with our values. Through our shoes, and through conversations with our team, they can see how we live out our ideals like 360-degree kindness, uncompromising quality, and empowering women. We invite our ambassadors to exclusive events (now hosted online due to COVID-19), give them early access to our launches, and provide classes on topics ranging from social media tools to meditation. Some have even formed friendships outside of the program, and nothing makes me happier than seeing how they support each other. 

More than ever, I believe women want to shop with brands that align with them personally, and so it’s important to keep the lines of communication open with your customers. 

Sarah Flint quote

 

A Network for Feedback

In keeping with open communication, the brand ambassador program has also become an incredible resource for feedback. I routinely reach out to ambassadors for design questions, opinions, and fit testing, and their insights are always well-considered. I recently hosted a Zoom call with the ambassadors on materializing my Spring/Summer 2021 collection, and they gave me fresh ideas that I may not have considered otherwise. In aiming to design shoes for real women and their busy lives, it’s vital for me to understand the needs of women from around the country and at different life stages. Especially during these changing times, it’s a privilege to have a smart, caring, and stylish network.

 

About the Author

Sarah Flint

Sarah Flint is the executive chairman, founder, and creative director of Sarah Flint. She launched her eponymous footwear collection in 2013 at the age of 25. The company was born out of Sarah's frustration that women had to choose between feeling good in their shoes and looking great in them. Sarah marries artisanal quality and original design with functional elements, improving fit and comfort. Manufacturing in the world’s best factories outside of Milan, Italy, Sarah Flint sells its shoes direct-to-consumer, offering customers the best possible price-to-value ratio in the market.

Prior to launching her collection, Sarah dedicated over seven years to the research and study of shoe design and manufacturing. Studying at Parsons, and the Fashion Institute of Technology, Sarah graduated with a degree in Accessories Design. After FIT, Sarah moved to Milan to obtain a graduate degree at Ars Sutoria, where she learned pattern making and mastered the technical aspects of shoe production.

Sarah has gained significant recognition in the industry. In 2016, she was appointed to the CFDA, the association of America’s most prominent designers, after having been sponsored by Michael Kors and Zac Posen.  Her press coverage includes Forbes “30 Under 30” and a 2016 feature in WWD, “Ten of Tomorrow,” which showcased the best new talent in the fashion industry, as well as regular coverage in Vogue, People, InStyle, Town & Country and NY Times. The brand has gained a loyal following of powerful women and influential celebrities, including Cindy Crawford, Amal Clooney, Megan Markle, Lady Gaga, Gayle King, Karlie Kloss, and many more.

Visit sarahflint.com to learn more and follow Sarah on Instagram at @sarahflint_nyc.

 

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For press inquiries, please contact press@sarahflint.com.