Laura Birrell
Laura Birrell

Scottish Entrepreneur puts best foot forward in America

A Scottish entrepreneur, who has just secured a deal to sell her products in nearly 500 Superdrug stores, is set to break into the American market after signing a distribution deal with a New York sales agent.

Laura Birrell, who has been helped by Business Gateway Lanarkshire, also saw her two-part fastening heel pads and teardrop arch pads for shoes added to Boots Irish website in July. The products are already listed on the chemist’s UK e-commerce site.

Having secured private investment from Hillington-based Wilson Imports last year, the 48 year-old, who launched Sticky Heelz in 2015, believes a targeted sales and marketing campaign by TSB Sales Service will see her products hit the shelves of leading America stores by the end of the year.

Already 20,000 units of her unique foot care products have been shipped across the Atlantic in advance of an American e-commerce website going live this month (August). A television advert featuring an endorsement from Shark Tank entrepreneur Kevin Harrington will also be aired on the E! Entertainment channel later in the summer.

Laura said: “Having been part of a trade mission to Manhattan last year, I knew I needed to secure a sales agent that American buyers could talk directly to. I’m delighted to be working with TSB Sales Service, as the firm has inroads with the home shopping network as well as Walmart and Walgreens. Already Sonja Morgan of The Real Housewives of New York has contacted me asking to test my range. Her endorsement would significantly raise the profile of Sticky Heelz with our target market in the US.”

She added: “Securing listings with Boots and Superdrug were two of my main aims when I first started; the third was to break into America. To be able to say I’ve achieved those goals in three years feels surreal. When I initially came up with the idea for my heel pad I went to Business Gateway Lanarkshire and with their help I received Financial Readiness support to secure my initial investment deal and an IP Audit, ensuring I was able to safeguard my brand and product designs. They also provided advice on Search Engine Optimisation, branding and marketing that ensured I didn’t go down the wrong road. Now, my adviser is connecting me with Scottish Enterprise through its Growth Pipeline for innovation support and Scottish Development International for exporting advice that will help me grow the business further.”

Tom Pettigrew, Business Gateway Lanarkshire, said: “Sticky Heelz has steadily grown since bringing its first product to market three years ago. By accessing our support Laura was able to confidently launch her range and cement her reputation as an innovative designer of foot care products. By taking advantage of our specialist help, she has benefitted from tailored advice as well as our connections to the wider network of support which will help her continue to grow Sticky Heelz.”

The inspiration for her two-part heel product arose after Laura, a former Corporate Development Director of the Building Research Establishment, bought a pair of Christian Louboutin shoes that were half a size too big.

Working with a product design company, the Great British Entrepreneur GoDo Entrepreneur of the year 2017 for Scotland and Northern Ireland, turned her initial prototype, made out of sticky back plasters and Velcro, into the unique system sold today.

The product, loved by celebrities including Towies’ Megan McKenna, not only ensures shoes stay firmly in place, it reduces friction and keeps painful blisters at bay.

Developing further products with the help of a podiatrist, Dr Vicki Cameron, Laura launched her teardrop arch pads last year and aims to bring a further product to market in September.

She said: “Speaking to Vicki highlighted the wide range of issues people have with their feet and the fact there are currently no products on the market to help elevate them. Working with her opened my eyes and highlighted an opportunity to bring more innovative products to market, with the next addition to the Sticky Heelz range developed to reduce heel pain and toe pain.”

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