We sat down with Caroline McCulloch, the visionary Founder, Director and mother behind cult brand FRANKiE4 Footwear, to speak about juggling the work/life balance, tips on finding the perfect fitting shoe, and an inside look into building a successful business.
FRANKiE4 are an innovative fashion label changing the way women experience shoes with podiatrist-designed support shoes for women, using our body mechanics in mind. We love that they have a similar ethos to our own story; redesigning a core product for women int's something stylish, while remaining functional and supportive.
Tell us how FRANKiE 4 came about?
From pure frustration, my studies as a podiatrist and physiotherapist, and a love for fashion.
My husband Al, (also a podiatrist), and I operated podiatry clinics for over 16 years in Brisbane. We have always had a common respect for footwear and the power a good pair of shoes can have on the foot and overall wellness. For many of these years we sold a range of (other) footwear brands to help complement our treatment.
I'm guilty of referring patients to wear shoes they didn’t love. I reached a point that I dreaded telling the ladies I was treating that their only options were either daggy looking comfort shoes or sports shoes. I saw women of all ages feeling like they were compromising on their look because it was their only option to reduce pain. I was asking these women to wear shoes that I wouldn't. I knew there was a better option and that I could help so many more women if I could make my footwear a reality.
And so, Al and I set out to work on our first prototypes for our footbeds, the rest is history.
As a successful business owner and mother, do you have any tips for parents juggling the work/life balance?
Say no to anything that will drain you, and yes to things that will recharge you. I invest my work time doing things that I feel will help move the business forward. I really try to ensure that I am saying no to things that I know is time better spent with my family, or close friends.
In saying that, I didn't nail the ‘work/life balance’. There were many, many months at a time that I operated over capacity in that first 10 years of FRANKiE4. But to get where we are now, it was necessary, it was worth it, and I don’t regret it.
What is your process for designing a new shoe?
I have an incredibly talented team now designing our shoes.
My part is to make sure the foundation of the shoe performs – that’s the footbeds and soles.
That space between the foot and the ground sets the foundations that the body moves on, affecting the feet and legs, and further up the chain. This is the stuff that makes me so passionate about our brand.
I'm grateful for our design team- it’s a bit of a tag team between us. I love to focus on the part that I’m passionate about, ‘the support’, and they creatively and cleverly build the rest of the shoe, carefully designing all the other parts to keep us on trend. But most importantly, together we make sure the finished shoe will fit our customers well.
The process of function, fit, and fashion is a team effort between us.
What are the essential items you always carry in your handbag?
Spare contact lenses, sunglasses, lead pencil, and some paper.
Do you have any tips on finding the perfect fitting shoe?
The journey to becoming a mum is great – but it’s not always kind to your feet.
Length and width of the foot can change during pregnancy, for some women it's a permanent change.
No two women are the same, no two feet are the same. FRANKiE4 enables women to customise their fit with our Sole Saver PackTM. This pack accommodates narrow to wide feet without having to opt for a specific narrow or wide fitting shoe. So many women are embarrassed by a bunion, having wide feet, or really narrow feet – a lot of the time this is because of the shoe choices they have to make.
Our fitting pack included in the shoe box enables you to wear the same pair as the next person, with it customised on the inside.
Many of our Alf Community are new parents. Is there anything you wished you had known that you can share with us?
Building a business while starting a family can be a bit brutal.
So many times I was there with the kids, but my mind was juggling a hundred thoughts about work.
I loved building FRANKiE4, but it hasn't all been rainbows and lollipops. I wish that during those low points filled with doubt I had known that it would all be worth it. Also, that my children will forgive (and forget) the times I was working around the clock, most of this was self-inflicted guilt, so I wish I had known to let that go.