Eze Nwaka,  is both shoe designer and founder of Leather and Cotton London shoes,  a company whose designs are popular in the UK and are also selling well abroad in Dubai and the US

Why shoe design and how long did it take to turn your ideas into a business?

Well from a young age I was very much into fashion and design and possessed an innate ability to coordinate colours and styles, which made it easier for me to put images together. I didn't really take my passion seriously until the idea for my shoe brand literally came to me in a dream one night. I saw the style, designs, and colours in such detail that I knew I had to make that dream become a reality. It took several months of research, burning the midnight oil, and testing for my brand to come into fruition.

Tough journey?

Tough is an understatement! I'd say the biggest obstacles were lack of finance, knowledge, and the right mentors that could have certainly made my journey a lot smoother. Shoe manufacturing is a very challenging sector, especially when creating a bespoke brand, and I definitely underestimated the amount of money needed to launch my own business. I had to get out there meeting potential investors, crowdfunding and using my own salary from the full-time job that I still maintain today alongside running Leather and Cotton London.

How did you manage to get the Department for International Trade (DIT) in your corner?

The Department for International Trade (DIT) is in every UK business's corner! The government department is there to help UK companies export, to support, and advise, which my brand has benefited from. I approached DIT after attending an event in Sweden last year as I really wanted to start exploring international opportunities instead of relying on domestic sales.

My international trade advisor has been a breath of fresh air and has guided me in the right direction, especially in the area of exporting.

What has been the result?

In January 2020, DIT provided me with Tradeshow Access Programme (TAP) funding so that I could attend an exhibition at New York Fashion Week and it was there that I met a representative of a retail outlet in the US who wanted to stock my shoes. Shortly afterwards I was presented with an opportunity for my shoes to be sold in a new shopping mall in Dubai. These new international deals have given me hope that the brand is starting to get the recognition
it deserves.

What's the key characteristic that has got you this far?

Patience is the key one! Nothing happens overnight and to be a successful entrepreneur you have to be in it for the long run and focus on the end goal, so I have learnt to believe in myself, trust in my abilities, and most of all believe that my dreams are possible regardless of the naysayers.

And how's the future looking?

The future is looking bright. We are planning to launch our women's shoe collection within the next year which is very exciting. I have been designing the collection for a while now.

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