Approximately 6 months ago, a PYP customer told me about a company she loved called Flat out of Heels. I immediately began to follow them on social media outlets and purchased a pair of their comfy rollable flats for myself. As I was following this company, I began to learn a lot about how the company was run and was impressed!
After only being in business for 2 years they’ve built a strong and supportive customer base, executed international partnerships and developed and placed several vending machines to house their amazing flats. I knew that behind all this had to be a great leader and I wanted to learn more. Dawn Dickson is the CEO of Flat out of Heels, she is a young woman in her thirties, single mother, serial entrepreneur and fearless! She has been a business admirer in my head now for a while, so when she agreed to speak with me I was thrilled! I recently caught up with Dawn for a chat about life as the CEO.
Jackson: What was the Ah ha moment for flatouts?
Dickson: I was working at an event standing in heels all days and feet were killing me. My brain started turning, and the idea to have shoe vending machines came to me. I started my research and discovered a company in UK that was doing the machines. I followed that model, proved it and created my own.
Jackson: I know this is not the first company you’ve owned. What did you learn from previous experiences that have helped you in run Flat Out?
Dickson: I have a degree in journalism/marketing and a certificate in fundraising. This helped me in raising capital for the business. I owned an event planning company and starting Flat Out was a natural progression. The contacts that I’ve made over the years in the entertainment industry have helped me secure some of the top nightclubs and ATL airport for vending machine locations.
Jackson: I recently went to the Essence Music Festival in New Orleans and after the concert when everyone’s feet were hurting I would see so many women wearing their Flat Outs! You’ve really created a community of women who love and support this brand. What has been the strategy in fostering the community of your customers?
Dickson: It was grassroots. Women relate to me and feel like we’re similar. I appreciate that because I really am no different than my customers. I also created #teamflatout and wanted to make all customers feel they are valuable and part of the team. I treat people the way I want to be treated as a customer. The personal connection in business is very important.
Jackson: In only two short years, you’ve done so much but what is the accomplishment you’re most proud of?
Dickson: Definitely getting the vending machine. I developed the first vending machines in 2011 and they didn’t work. I had to start from the beginning. It was very discouraging and I had to stay very persistent. The initial idea for all this was to start a vending machine company that sells shoes not a shoe company but I had to start a shoe company because I had no vending machines.
Jackson: Who are some of your entrepreneur heros?
Dickson: Sarah Blakey, Damon John, Andrew Carnegie, Kevin Johnson, Keyshia Kaoir, Loren Ridinger.
I study a lot of entrepreneurs because most of us have a similar journey. I’ve learned you have to go through devastating heartbreak to be successful. When my vending machines didn’t work and that was devastating. All the time things come up that make you want to quit. You have to be strong and determined. When I first started FlatOut, I sold my car and rode a bike for a year to save money. Many people think entrepreneurship is a step back in life. People did not understand why I would give up a “good” job with a steady salary to start my own company. I’ve learned it takes a strong person to step out simply on Faith.
Jackson: Any good books your recommend?
Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill
Four Agreements by Miguel Ruiz
The Wealth Choice by Dennis Kimbro
Poorly Made in China by Paul Midler
I enjoy reading books about people who are doing what I’m doing or want to be doing. Running a business is like being in college, If I don’t understand something I find a book on the subject.
Jackson: What advice would you give to people who want to start up?
Dickson: Be patient and do your due diligence. You have to be willing to sacrifice and its not going to be easy. People told Steve Jobs no one wants a personal computer. You have to be willing to hear the No’s to get to the Yes’s.