Nearly 13 years ago our MD Helen was sent a pair of shoes for her little boy – she loved the soft leather shoes. When his chunky feet grew out of them and wanted to order more she found they were too expensive. This led her to decide to make her own and thus the journey started. Lots of trials and tribulations along the way but in those early day’s boxes would line the hallway of her house. Helen would pack orders on her living room floor. Then, with two young children in tow, head to the post office to dispatch them.
As anyone who has their own business will tell you there are lots of ups and downs! And Helen will say the same about Dotty Fish. Originally it was called Shimmy Shoes and then Twinkle Toes. But overall the decision to make quality soft leather shoes that are affordable has always been at the heart of the business. Helen has always been very passionate about making sure that our shoes are good quality but affordable. This is something that parents appreciate, having a new baby is an expensive exercise!
After appearing on ITV’s Tonight show as a successful online business things went from strength to strength. It soon became apparent that working out of the house was not viable long term. As child friendly as Dotty Fish shoes are it isn’t fun having to play in amongst the boxes of shoes. Neither is trying to watch TV with shoes in the way!
The business moved into the garage which was converted to an office. A packing table was ordered to save everyone’s back! New designs came on board. Pansy and Cheeky Monkey are some of these early designs that are still firm favourites today. New branding was created, and Dotty Fish was born.
In those early days Dotty Fish was a regular at The Baby Show. Lots of parents fell in love with our shoes. It was the perfect place to do market research. We found out exactly what parents wanted and needed in a pair of shoes for their young children. It was hard work but well worth it as some of our most popular designs found their feet at those shows.
As more parents discovered Dotty Fish shoes and word spread, we were selling more and more shoes. Our orders got bigger, more colours and designs were added. After an exciting few years the business had outgrown the garage office. It was time to move into a proper warehouse and office space. New staff, new offices, new designs but the same philosophy… creating quality soft leather baby and toddler shoes that are affordable.
New sizes were added to accommodate the popularity of our shoes as indoor house shoes. They are great for nursery and preschool and as parents discovered this the demand for them in larger sizes increased. We have been lucky enough to have loyal customers who love our shoes when their little ones are babies and buy them as they grow and move into early childhood. Our preschool range has grown, and we have quite a few popular designs now available in age 4-5 Years, along with our slippers.
At Dotty Fish we design the shoes in-house. We have some talented people working with us who keep an eye on current trends and colour palettes. This information is turned into cute little motifs and designs for our shoes. The most recent additions have been our Sweet Dreams sleepy cloud shoe and Blast Off rocket ship shoe which are both proving to be top sellers.
The philosophy of making shoes that are good for growing little feet is always at the core of our business. So Dotty Fish teamed up with The London Podiatry Centre to do some research into our shoes. Together we looked at the science behind what makes a good shoe for early walkers. It was such a good feeling knowing that our shoes not only look cute but also are good for developing feet. It was a fascinating process watching all the tests behind the scenes. Technology like gait analysis, pressure mat testing and a 3D Vicon system were all used to test our shoes. Having a highly respected clinic give our shoes podiatry endorsement was a huge achievement for us. (The video and findings can be seen here.)
Dotty Fish shoes are designed with a wide toe area that allows feet to spread out and toes to grip the floor mimicking barefoot walking as closely as possible. The elasticated ankle trim is something that parents love – it means shoes stay on and don’t keep coming off. The soft suede sole gives children extra grip while still allowing them to feel the floor and find their feet in those early years.
We also registered as a member of the BLC Leather Technology Centre. We have worked closely with them to ensure our leather complies with all the regulations and is safe for babies. This is another area that we are proud of. We have always worked hard with our manufacturing partners to ensure our quality standards are always met. Having this layer of support and extra testing has been so good for us as a business.
New lines like Shimmy Shoes and our Moccasins, together with new designs in our soft leather baby and toddler range means more space was needed. The office next door became available and we were so excited as it seemed like the stars had aligned. We could get the extra space and still keep the space we already had. It has been so amazing being part of the growth and the excitement of the new office. Social media, especially our Instagram Stories, has been a wonderful way of sharing the buzz with you all. Even our own children were involved with moving everything into the new space!
The new office has been stamped with our own dotty style. Our office is never dull so it is lovely to see all the bright colours reflecting this. There is space for our growing team while our office and warehouse is still joined. Part of the magic of Dotty Fish is being surrounded by all our shoes, seeing deliveries arrive and helping unpack them is always an exciting day. Especially if the box contains a new design or colour way!
With your support we are still growing. The future looks bright – if you have a dream then take small steps each day to make it happen. Its all possible with hard work, determination and a little bit of luck. Dotty Fish is testament to this!
We love the inspirational story of Dotty Fish’s growth over the years and are incredibly proud of Helen and all that she has achieved. With the support of family, friends and everyone in the office Dotty Fish has grown. Together with our lovely customers they are as much a part of the story as anyone.
For now, we are happy adding more exciting lines. Continuing to deliver the same quality shoes for new little feet. Thanks for being a part of our journey. For supporting us through the years and for sharing all the adorable photos of your little ones wearing Dotty Fish Shoes!
The Dotty Fish Team