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Be inspired every day with Living North
Simon Bourne holding a shoe
May 2019
Reading time 6 minutes

Hand Dyed Shoe Company recently won Klarna’s Smooothest UK Store 2019, a nationwide competition run by online platform Klarna to discover the UK’s next big brand

We caught up with owner, Simon Bourne, to find out what the win means for the future.

Can you tell us a little bit about how and why you entered?
I’m very active on LinkedIn as a social medium and, as a result, I’m connected with a few people from the Klarna marketing team. They approached me just before Christmas to tell me about a competition they were running and asked if I would be interested in nominating my company to be part of it, so it was a self-nomination, if you like. I went through an application process, they judged it and shortlisted me as one of eight finalists. 

What was the process once you made the final eight?
It was hectic. I had a visit from Made In Chelsea’s Hugo Taylor, who is also co-founder of Taylor Morris Eyewear – he came up from London with a production team and we did a full day of filming. There were around eight people involved in putting together a video about my business, its successes and why it should be named as Klarna’s Smooothest Store, it went really well. Then the voting opened mid-March and it was all down to a public vote. The eight finalists campaigned for people to get on board and support their brand; collectively there were around 7,500 votes but I’m not sure how many I received in total! 

What does the win mean for the Hand Dyed Shoe Company?
It means all kinds of things. First of all on the logistical side of things, as the winner we receive £10,000 of investment and help with PR and mentoring from Klarna’s Chief Executives – it’s a massive, worldwide brand changing the way people spend online, so the exposure we are receiving because of the win is staggering. But for me, the most satisfying part of it is, like I said in my winning speech, I didn’t start the company to win awards or become a millionaire – it was just an idea. But it’s given me justification, incredible self-belief and confidence that I’m actually, perhaps, on to something. This is hopefully going to be the start of changing the way the world buys shoes, which is something I talk about quite often. 

What are your plans for the future?
My huge hang-up with the business at the moment is the digital side of things. I’m very experience-focused, whether it’s in store or online. I’m passionate about the buying process being an experience for the customer, not just a standard shoe shop where you walk in and ask for a size 10. At the moment, I feel like my in-store presence is fantastic, the reviews are incredible and the way people respond is magical, but the digital side of things is lacking a little. My plan for the money is to invest it into a 3D Digital Design Studio where you’re able you to customise your shoe on the screen, and go through the process of building it – a bit like Nike ID for formal, gentleman’s shoes. That way, if I’m sitting at my desk, I’ll still get a fun creative experience and you will too, rather than the standard click-and-add to basket.

What is your favourite Hand Dyed Shoe Company product?
I can fall in love with a really nice pair of black brogues, but I can also fall in love with multi-coloured, crocodile-embossed loafers. For me, it’s not about what the product looks like, it’s more the imagination that has gone into creating it. People always ask me why I love shoes so much, and it’s not so much the shoes, it’s the creativity that I really love. So I don’t really have a specific pair, it changes all the time. 

What pair are you wearing right now?
I’m wearing a pair of Mr Buchanan’s Bit Loafers with a brass clasp – they’re hand-dyed ox blood and crocodile-embossed. 

What are you watching?
Sport is pretty much the only thing on our television, I enjoyed the final few weeks of the Premier League season. But drama-wise, we’re watching The Bay. 

What is your idea of a perfect day off?
Probably with my little girl, doing anything from going for a picnic or a ride in Matilda – our 1967 MGB GT old classic sports car.

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