My name is Anna Elshafei and I am the founder of Shaffay, a new brand of luxury slippers for women. I started Shaffay because I could not find the sort of slippers that I myself wanted to wear at home. Comfortable and reasonably high-quality slippers were widely available, but what I could never find were slippers that had a touch of elegance. I wanted some that would actually look good. Ultimately, I decided to make them myself.
I had already partly stepped away from my career as a lawyer in China. I became fed up with the long hours and tiresome politics of big law firms and went freelance. That allowed me some time to work on Shaffay.
Having spent years working those long hours, I really enjoy the freedom and autonomy of running my own business. It allows me to travel whenever I like so I can spend time in the UK and Egypt (I have family in both) as well as in China.
I also love tapping into my creative side. It is a great joy to work on designing slippers: thinking about the sort of sleek lines I want them to have and the colours and fabrics that will make them look great and feel wonderfully soft to wear.
Another great pleasure comes from working with other small businesses. When I started the brand, I had zero experience or expertise in fashion, footwear making, branding, social media, ecommerce, website creation or most of the other skill sets that a business like this requires. I learned a lot and fast. However, it was clear very quickly that I could not “skill up” in all those areas myself – that would have taken years.
As my daughter said, “that’s why all those things are jobs mum.” I realised I would need help and so set out to find useful people. Fortunately, it turns out that there are lots of brilliant people around and they are nearly all friendly, helpful and supportive. Plus, each of them has their own network and will happily put you in touch with other equally brilliant people.
Making a success of a new brand is a slow process and, when, as almost inevitably happens, progress stalls or there is a setback, it can be hard to keep the faith and keep going. There is constantly so much to think about that the whole experience can be very overwhelming at times. That is when working with those other small business people (people who run small businesses, not small people who run businesses, that is!) is not just a pleasure – it’s a lifeline. Their support and encouragement really help keep me going.
That would be my key tip for anyone who is thinking of branching out on their own: don’t try to do everything yourself. Reach out for help and support. You will definitely be glad that you did.