A part-time shop assistant who used what she learned in the retail industry to launch a luxury shoe label is on track to turn over more than one million dollars in her first year of business.
Sara Caverley, 38, originally founded Sol Sana footwear in 2010, but two years ago, decided to start a new brand, Caverley, which hit the US and Australian markets in August 2019.
Since then, the Sydney-born designer has been selling between 800 and 1,000 pairs of women’s boots, heels and sandals a month, netting the business an average of $83,333 USD ($125,000 AUD) – meaning the the company will turn over $1million USD (just over $1.4million AUD) by the end of August.
‘Even with everything that’s happened with COVID-19, we’re still on track,’ Ms Caverley told Daily Mail Australia from her apartment in Manhattan, New York where she is riding out the pandemic.
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Sara Caverley (pictured), whose footwear label is on track to making seven figures in its first year of business
The best-selling $209.95 Lulu sandals in tan (left) and sky blue (right)
After cutting her teeth as a sales assistant during high school, Ms Caverley moved into wholesale buying and quickly spotted a gap in the Australian retail market for high quality leather shoes at a reasonable price.
‘I had absolutely no experience in design, development or production, so it was all on the spot learning and a lot of trial and error,’ she said of her first foray into the fashion industry with Sol Sana.
She cut ties with the company in 2018 due to creative disagreements about its future.
With the help of a business partner who has more than 20 years’ experience in the US fashion market, Ms Caverley refocused and launched her namesake which is inspired by her personal style.
New York fashion designer Danielle Bernstein wears a pair of $199 ‘Candice’ mules (left) and $209.95 ‘Lulu’ sandals (right) from Caverley on May 5
Melbourne blogger Jacquie Alexander in the newly released $199 ‘Trish’ mules
‘Caverley represents what I want to wear. It’s price is a little bit higher than my previous offering, because we use premium materials like one-of-a-kind leather and luxury trims,’ she said.
Judging by sales figures, it seems it represents what thousands of customers want to wear too.
Sara Caverley, who went from part-time shop assistant to CEO of a successful fashion label
Australians love her heeled sandals which range from $209.95 to $229.95, while in America her best-seller is a $250 pair of suede over-the-knee boots.
The Lulus, a pair of strappy, sky blue heels that lace up around the ankle, have been flying off shelves since they were worn by New York fashion blogger Danielle Bernstein.
The 28-year-old founder of WeWoreWhat posted two Instagram photos in the $209.95 design on May 5, catapulting the name Caverley to the conscious of her 2.4million followers.
Ms Caverley works with a public relations agency in Sydney to announce new collections, but she says the growth of the brand has been surprisingly organic.
‘I’m so surprised and grateful that I’ve had this outpouring of support from retailers and influencers. I’m not paying them to wear it, they’re just doing it on their own,’ she said.
The $199 ‘Candice’ mules, which are selling out in Australia and the US
An Instagram story from New York influencer Danielle Bernstein that sent sales skyrocketing
What are Sara Caverley’s business secrets?
* Look at the trends and what is happening overseas – but only put out what you would want to buy yourself.
* Take inspiration from all elements, old and new, whether that’s vintage stores or the current catwalk.
* Identify a gap in the market, whether that’s for mid-priced heels or something that’s not offered by another brand.
* Always learn on the spot through trial and error.
The brand is now stocked on e-commerce giants The Iconic and Revolve, as well as 100 brick-and-mortar boutiques across Australia and the US.
It’s also available in-store and online at David Jones and Urban Outfitters, with the upcoming collection due to roll out in Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus America-wide.
Her meteoric rise to millionaire status is all the more impressive given the current state of the global retail industry.
Australian retail turnover recorded its biggest ever monthly fall in April, plummeting almost 18 percent year-on-year, figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics reveal.
The drop reverberated across every industry, with significant losses in clothing, footwear, fashion accessories, restaurants and takeaways.
And still, Caverley is shipping a growing number of shoes every month.
‘We certainly experienced some cancellations and issues with delivery through COVID-19, but we’ve managed to get everything back on track,’ Ms Caverley said.
‘Retail seems to be moving more towards selling direct-to-consumer [where the manufacturer ships to customers without relying on stockists or department stores] so that’s definitely helping us.’
An expansion into Canada, New Zealand and Japan is on the horizon, but for now the business is preparing to mark its first anniversary with a seven figure celebration.