Online footwear startup to try out brick-and-mortar
Birdies has gotten some new seed — seed funding that is.
The San Francisco startup, known for its stylish and comfortable house slippers, announced it has raised $2 million in seed funding. The round was led by Forerunner Ventures, the investors behind Jet.com and Dollar Shave Club, with participation from Slow Ventures, Graph Ventures, Social Capital and a few strategic individual investors.
Birdies plans to use the investment to accelerate brand growth through product expansion and increased marketing efforts. Additionally, the company will open its first store, on Union Street in San Francisco, this fall.
Birdies was launched in late 2015 by Bianca Gates, who previously spent five years leading retail partnerships at Facebook and Instagram, and Marisa Sharkey, former group VP of strategy at Ross Stores.The company specializes in fashionable-looking house slippers, or what it calls "true indoor' shoes." The chic slippers, which sell for $140, are lined with memory foam and arch support, with satin and faux shearling lining for softness, and rubber soles for indoor traction and outdoor wear.
"As evidenced by the number of early customers that have shared their own discovery of Birdies with friends, it's clear Bianca and Marisa have struck a chord in a somewhat forgotten, and certainly dated, category,” said Kirsten Green, founder and managing director of Forerunner Ventures. “We respect their founding story and are looking forward to being part of their team as they seize the potential to redefine indoor fashion with chic slippers."
"We love to entertain friends and family at home but could never find cozy footwear that made style sense and were also comfortable for around the house," said Gates, co-founder and CEO of Birdies. "Tired of running around barefoot, in our socks, or in frumpy slippers, we decided to leverage our design aesthetic and work with incredible manufacturers to solve this issue."
RPAI: ‘Irma was kind’
Hurricane Irma packed less of a wallop than originally feared, and shopping centers owners are breathing a sigh of relief.
Retail Properties of America reported that its six Florida properties emerged from the ordeal practically unscathed.
“The company's Florida team is safe and is working tirelessly to help the company's tenants reopen and serve the impacted areas. The Company's management team is optimistic that the balance of the portfolio that lies within Irma's northwest trajectory is well-situated to withstand the weakening storm,” read a statement issued by the company.
RPAI owns centers in Ft. Myers, Miami, Tampa, Lake Mary, Tallahassee, and Panama City.
At the World Trade Center Mall, honoring heroes is an everyday thing
Outside the Oculus, the skeletal edifice that houses the World Trade Center’s transportation hub, thousands gathered this week to honor American heroes who lost their lives there on 9-11. Inside the Oculus, Westfield’s mall has been honoring America’s military heroes ever since it opened a year ago. Before any store opened its doors, Westfield staged a job fair aimed at enlisting veterans to come to work at Ground Zero.
It was two years ago that Bill Hecht decided to jump with both feet into a chain-wide community program for Westfield. The then new COO started with a desire to help veterans and a logical notion: get the community-minded people within the company to get the project going.
“I was keenly interested in doing more to help the veterans,” said Hecht, whose father was a veteran of World War II and the Korean Conflict. “I sent out a note to the company at large to see who else might be interested and I got responses from over 100 people.”
The big mall owner now has 50 employees involved in the Westfield Veterans Initiative (WVI), which provides veterans with one-on-one mentorship opportunities, supports retail entrepreneurship, and drives awareness for issues faced by transitioning service members.
Early on, WVI formed a relationship with The Rosie Network, an organization founded by Navy SEAL spouses to help counteract high unemployment rates among transitioning veterans through entrepreneurship. In July, Westfield Mission Valley in San Diego sponsored a Rosie Network Veteran Business Showcase where 29 veterans and military spouses were allowed to display their wares.
“Thanks to Westfield, our military entrepreneurs have a meaningful way to connect directly with consumers,” said Rosie Network founder Stephanie Brown.
The National Retail Federation and its RISE Up Initiative partnered with WVI at a veteran’s job fair at its Century City mall in June to advise veterans on how to acquire the necessary skills to turn retail jobs into promising careers in the industry.
The Veteran’s Initiative has taken root at Westfield, and Hecht says the experience has been as rewarding for Westfield and its employees as it’s been for veterans.
“One of the most pleasant outcomes of this program has been the involvement of a wide variety of different employees,” he said. “Leaders have emerged from this project who were not among the most senior people in the company.”