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Women Who Inspire

Kira Bundlie & Lisa Strom | Founders, Hourglass Footwear

September 30, 2014

Back in 2012, friends and artists Kira Bundlie and Lisa Strom left the comfort of their full-time jobs to pursue a career where they could work together, be creative and utilize their talents. The duo came up with an idea that would combine everything they were looking for into one: custom made shoes. Since then, Hourglass Footwear has grown from a Kickstarter campaign to a fashion success talked about in The Los Angeles Times and on MTV. They currently have a workshop and showroom in Ballard. 

The shoes you both create go beyond fashion; what do you think these shoes represent for the women who purchase them?

Kira: That’s definitely true. I think one of the reasons people are drawn to us is because we can convey personality in a way other shoe manufactures can’t. It’s great to be able to help someone express exactly what they want to present to the world. It’s cool to see people’s personalities come through.

Lisa: There is nothing cookie cutter about the shoes. We always say, “People who wear our shoes have to be confident enough to get attention.”  Because you don’t wear our shoes and not have people comment on them.

Kira: The fact that we carry a wide variety of styles of shoes, not just the paint and designs, but everything from clogs to heels, really lets us cater to any type of women out there.  We have had men request some, too! We really are open to all demographics, anyone who wants cool shoes.

"It’s been nice - supportive and empowering - to have this company be founded by women and operated by women."

All of the artists at Hourglass Footwear are women. Was that an intentional move or did it just happen that way?

Kira: It’s kind of intentional.

Lisa: But it also just happened that way. We started the company with a group of friends that we wanted to continue to work with who all just happened to be women.  There is something nice about it - for the most part, as we do sell our shoes to men - being by women for women. To that aspect, it works really nicely. There is a sort of aesthetic that I think comes through with Hourglass that is very feminine. It’s not cutesy girly, but it’s very feminine.

Kira: It’s not that we would be against hiring a male artist; it would be interesting to see the type of guy who would want to paint for us. It’s been nice - supportive and empowering - to have this company be founded by women and operated by women.

What woman in your life has had a tremendous impact on you? Why and how did this person impact your life?

Lisa: My mother is a writer, a freelance writer, and she has made her living throughout her life as an artist, finding her own path for her career, and that has been huge for me to see that it can be done. That you can follow your passion and that you can do what you love even if it is not the standard way of making a ton of money.

Kira: I would probably say the same thing, my mother. My mom was a women’s studies major and yet she stayed home and raised us. She had this interesting balance of a stay at home mom and kind of radical feminist. She has been a great motivator for me.

Lisa: And we both kind of come from an era where there is never a question that woman can’t do anything. It would never occur to us that for some reason, because we are women or that our team was all women, that we couldn’t make this business work. Of course it’s going to work. Because it is talent and drive and people who work well together and I feel like all us being women is a benefit.

What is the best advice you have ever received?

Kira: Saying no. When we first started out we were saying yes to just about everything. These opportunities helped us to build and grow, but as time went on we just realized that you just can’t say yes to everything. Somebody told us, “You just have to say no or you will burn out.” It made a huge difference to us. 

Have you ever experienced any objections from people in the workforce due to you being a woman? If so, how did you overcome such matters?

Lisa: I feel like when we started this business we were looked at as a novelty. We are two blondes with a bunch of cute artists who make cute shoes. People just didn’t take us seriously and we had to really work hard to say, “Yes, we wear our high heels but we are also business women.” Our artists work hard, and just because they work from home doesn’t mean they don’t work constantly.

Kira: I think it happens to all women - in and outside of work - just going through your day, you encounter that. Ever since the hashtag #YesAllWomen came up, it’s been on my mind a lot lately. [Click here to read about the #YesAllWomen conversation spurred around the Santa Barbara shootings earlier in 2014.] Just as I’m sure a lot of men don’t realize . . . how walking through your day, you have to encounter not only harassment but subtle belittling. For us to be in a company, we are taken less seriously than we deserve.  We have to fight three times harder to be taken seriously compared to men in our field.

Lisa: Two blondes in high heels don’t automatically get people to think that they are smart. But we proved them wrong and we will continue to do so.