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Anothersole creates the perfect flats

anothersole flats

Anothersole, a footwear brand founded by Benny Chee and Phoebe Charn in 2016, has quickly made a name for itself in Singapore.

The two entrepreneurs, both age 50, first met at church and have been business partners since 2000.

After Benny completed his National Service, he entered the insurance industry with the goal of saving up for his university fees. But after venturing into starting his own business, he ultimately decided not to pursue his studies.

Benny, with a background in engineering, and Phoebe, with a background in fashion, have extensive knowledge of the footwear industry. Besides Anothersole, they manage another business, which designs and supplies footwear to chain stores globally since 2003.

The idea for Anothersole was sparked by the need for comfortable shoes that were also stylish. Many comfort shoes on the market suffer from poor aesthetics, and the founders set out to challenge themselves to develop the perfect flats that combine sports technology and leather craftsmanship.

These shoes had to be perfect for travel and daily commute, yet provide adequate support. It wasn’t easy, but they succeeded in creating the perfect shoe that strikes a balance between quality and comfort.

Creating the perfect pair of shoes

The R&D process at Anothersole is rigorous. They come up with many design iterations pre-production and are able to create many different variations of one construction.

Our Anytime lace-up flats are launched weekly with limited editions and we have up to 150 colours of the one style. Many of the limited releases are produced in small batches and we do not bring them back after they run out.

– Benny Chee, co-founder of Anothersole

Image Credit: Anothersole

They offer a variety of best-selling classic flats with pebbled textures and high durability, as well as its buttery-soft Lucie made with Argentinean leather. Its Paloma shoes are also popular, featuring luxury leather from Spain with soles that match the leather colours.

Benny added that they will soon announce a limited series of shoes made with premium leather used by a luxury brand.

anothersole shoes bag
Image Credit: Anothersole

Beyond its iconic flats, Anothersole has expanded its product line to include sneakers and bags for women, as well as sneakers for men.

This decision was driven by customer demand, as many of their customers own more than 10 pairs of Anothersole — the highest record being more than 40 pairs.

“We have loyal customers clamouring for new designs and we listened. We launched the men’s [line] because it is the women who are asking for it. They tell us their partners are complaining they don’t get to experience what Anothersole shoes feel like,” said Benny.

Pivoting from a footwear trading arm

One of the biggest struggles that Anothersole faced in the early days was building a scalable brand that was both financially viable and sustainable.

We started Anothersole when our footwear trading arm was at risk because buyers were going directly to the factories instead. We had to pivot or face business failure. A lot was at stake to make Anothersole work.

– Benny Chee, co-founder of Anothersole

With no external funding (it was fully self-funded by its sister company), Anothersole kept its costs low by operating leanly during its first year. With no proper office, they held weekly meetings in McDonald’s for close to a year.

The team never once complained. Everyone was dedicated to making Anothersole successful, and till today, Benny remains grateful towards those who have sacrificed and worked hard for the brand.

Its strategy for raising brand awareness, particularly in the early days, was centred around building trust with their customers.

They focused on communicating authentically and consistently, while actively engaging with its customers. By doing so, they were able to grow its Instagram following to over 50,000.

In addition to selling online and in department stores, Anothersole held frequent pop-ups and roadshows every other month to connect with customers and acquire new ones. Although it was challenging, it provided valuable business insights.

anothersole outlet singapore
Interior of Anothersole outlet / Image Credit: Anothersole

In October 2018, Anothersole opened its first physical store in Funan. This move was triggered by the company’s desire to be closer to its customers and offer them more convenient shopping options.

The omni-channel approach was a success and the company went on to open pop-up stores in various malls across Singapore, including Great World, Westgate, and PLQ Mall. This helped them to gather valuable insights into their customer demographics and led to the expansion of their current 10 retail points islandwide.

Business with a heart

anothersole #buy1feed1
#Buy1Feed1 / Image Credit: Anothersole

Benny stated that Anothersole is currently financially independent and profitable, but their ultimate goal is guided by its purpose to make a difference.

Anothersole is known for its #Buy1Feed1 initiative, where 10 per cent of its profits are donated to serve children in need around the world and to help create a more sustainable future.

This is part of the company’s “Make Good, Do Good” philosophy, which is focused on creating high-quality products while also making a positive impact on the world. Benny believes that by choosing where to spend money as consumers and brands, we can collectively effect change and unlock resources for those in need.

Consumers, brands and governments can collectively effect change. Where we choose to spend our monies as consumers and a brand can have a downstream positive impact. This is very powerful. Imagine if all companies are united in this, what resources can we unlock from it?

– Benny Chee, co-founder of Anothersole

Grew more than 400% despite COVID-19

benny chee anothersole founder
Benny Chee, co-founder of Anothersole / Image Credit: PayPal

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in early 2020, it brought about unprecedented challenges for businesses all over the world.

During the first two years of Covid with all the disruptions, it brought unprecedented challenges, from supply chain lockdowns to retail restrictions. Logistics cost shot through the roof, affecting margins and delivery timelines. It was a very difficult period for many — retailers were fighting landlords and there was a lot of uncertainty and fear.

– Benny Chee, co-founder of Anothersole

Rather than giving in to the challenges, Anothersole chose to focus on two things: taking care of its employees and customers.

“With the support of the team, customers and landlords during the dark ages of constant lockdowns, we went on a path of controlled expansion, bringing the number of retail points from three (pre-Covid) to 10 today,” Benny said.

He added that they have taken a leap of faith and invested in rolling out new channels across Singapore, as they identified opportunities in the market with premium space freed up as many overseas brands exited the market.

According to Benny, their acquisition push into the USA through a direct-to-consumer channel also saw revenue jump multifolds in the past 18 months.

Despite the bumpy journey, Anothersole has managed to grow by over 400 per cent over the past two years and expects to achieve record sales in the coming year.

Moving forward, Benny said that they will continue to operate with an “underdog mindset” and aim to grow sustainably.

Anothersole has ambitious plans to build the company into a purposeful and profitable enterprise. They are currently exploring opportunities to introduce Anothersole to more markets internationally, with the ultimate goal of becoming a globally recognised brand.

Featured Image Credit: PayPal / Anothersole

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