6 March 2013

Vending Happy Feet

I'm glad I don't wear high-heeled shoes on a night out, but I'm also glad there are those who do, because that's where Soleil Soles comes in to save the day (or night!)

It was on a trip to Edinburgh, Scotland three years ago that the idea for Soleil Soles started forming. I was at a nightclub where I saw a cigarette vending machine that had been modified to sell shoes, and I thought it was a great idea! I hadn't seen the likes of it in Australia before, and I was sure it would make for a sound business opportunity.

However, I thought I'd take the idea for shoes in a vending machine a little further and implement it with good quality shoes in a custom-built vending machine. Right from the design, to the material, I wanted to work towards producing a product that was as chic as it was comfortable, a stylish alternative for women while they're dancing the night away!

So once I was back I began researching material for the shoes and exploring ideas for better quality machines. Late in 2011, I met with several shoe suppliers and vending machine manufacturers in China looking for a manufacturer who understood our requirements. Since I speak Mandarin, it wasn't as difficult as it would otherwise have been.

The learning from my Commerce degree at the University of Sydney Business School helped tremendously during this period. In particular, the School's IBUS3103 Global Entrepreneurship and Enterprise course became an integral step in testing the concept and ironing out issues before the business went live. Also, the cross-cultural course in International Business made it easier for me to conduct transactions with my Chinese suppliers.

Now, with a traditional Chinese contract in place, the first Soleil Soles vending machine is up and running at Helm Bar in Sydney, and we are set to have 4 vending machines in the city very soon. It's only been a few weeks, but I'm hoping this is a trend that'll catch on. After all, it's the promise of happy feet!

Author: Maximilien Penel  
(Bachelor of Commerce student at the University of Sydney Business School)
For more info: www.soleilsoles.com.au

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