Fitness Side Hustle has led to a business on its way to nearly $2 million

In 2015, 23-year-old Alexa Stimp, now the owner and founder of The Shoe Fairy, was an avid gym-goer with a passion for fitness—and a growing interest in bodybuilding. She knew several women who competed and saw the sport gain momentum on Instagram.

“I was like, You know what, I kind of want to do thatStimp says Entrepreneur. “I want to see if I can challenge myself and do that.”

Bodybuilding changed Stimp’s entire life, she says, requiring rigorous training and discipline. At times, she found this to be an “isolating and lonely” experience as well; Eager to change her mindset, Stimp began listening to motivational speakers—and learned a lot about herself and her goals along the way.

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“I fell in love with the sport so much that I knew I wanted to start a company in it.”

“I just realized wwhich I’m doing right now in my cubicle at work [isn’t what I want to do]“, Stimp recalls. “I started to fear that this was my future. And I fell in love with the sport so much that I realized I wanted to start a company in it.”

The tagged posts on Instagram revealed that there were already many companies specializing in bikinis, jewelry and tanning, Stimp says, and she needed a product to differentiate her business. It wasn’t long before she recognized a big gap in the market: No one was focusing on the shoes.

Image Credit: Courtesy of Shoe Fairy. Alexa Stimp.

While standard heels are certainly not hard to come by, the type of heels favored in bodybuilding—acrylic and therefore “very easy to show imperfections”— are. Only two brands were known in the industry for their shoes back then, says Stimp. And she wanted to make a product that would surpass all existing ones.

Stimp continued to work a 9 to 5 and started his venture as a side job, starting small. She used the resources she had to buy shoes wholesale, working as a retail salesperson and learning as she went. That first month Stimp made $2,000 in sales, and the next she made $4,000. She began to wonder what could be possible if she put all her time and energy into her vision, turning it from a side hustle into a full-fledged business. So, just three months into the new venture, she quit her 9-5 to find out.

“I was like, if I want to be able to take over this whole industry, I have to create something better and I have to make it make sense” says Stimp. “The shoe has to make sense to women. And I took that philosophy and extended it to the new heel line. I want to create shoes for women, by women, for women. They make sense, fit well, feel good and will work. And that’s always been my driving mission.”

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“I was so excited, but I tried one on and my leg didn’t even go through.”

Then, when Stimp secured a manufacturer to help make her dream a reality, it felt like a milestone “a year and a half in the making.” She placed an order for her first 1,000 pairs, but was horrified when they arrived to find “they’re complete rubbish”.

“I was so excited, but I tried one on and my leg didn’t even go through,” says Stimp. “My toes got stuck in the plastic and I’m like, ‘Wait what?’ [I double-checked that it was a size 8], so I started tearing into tons of size 8s — and I couldn’t get my foot into the shoe. She was like Cinderella’s ugly stepsister.”

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Upon closer inspection, Stimp could see that the inner cushion was coming out through the seams, “They were a mess.” She would later learn that the manufacturer had neglected to cover the plastic top properly, so it was shrinking. It was back to the drawing board and a two-year setback.

Stimp contacted another manufacturer from China who happened to be in New York when she contacted; they met at Stimp’s office in New Jersey and were able to discuss the project together. Stimp then flew to China to work with them to go over all her options and create the matrix.

“When you get samples and come back here to the US, you don’t know all the options that are available,” Stimp explains. “So I’m talking about all the different levels of plastic. All different materials for the insoles. The soles of my shoes are shiny; they are iridescent, very beautiful. I wouldn’t know that. i chose this when i was there. All the different levels of cushion, I got to try everything when I was there.”

“You can start where you are now with what you have now.”

This would be a critical step in the right direction for the business. Today, nearly eight years later, the Shoe Fairy is loved by celebrities, influencers, top bodybuilders and more—and is on track to see nearly $2 million in revenue in 2023.

Like most entrepreneurs, Stimp’s road to success wasn’t linear or without some bumps along the way, but the lessons she learned helped her come back stronger with each unexpected turn. And her best advice for any bona fide side hustler looking to turn their great idea into the next big thing? Just start – even if you start small.

“People get paralyzed,” says Stimp, “because they think about everything they have to do and that they have to know everything and have everything. When you can really start where you are now with what you have now. So, the best thing to do is to write a plan. Don’t get ahead of yourself, exactly where you need to start. So for example, if you’re going to sell a product, define what the product is, who it’s for, and where you’re going to get it. Start with small pieces at a time.”

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