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How I Made It: This entrepreneur went from rags to socks and underwear riches

Ronald D. White, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Business News

"They were supposed to take on all of our back-end operations and take over the e-com operations and help run that," Pawling said. "They didn't touch anything. It was a disaster."

Owners again

In December 2016, Pawling and Morse got help from investors to buy back the company for $8 million, shortly before Shoes.com filed for bankruptcy protection, which wiped out the value of the stock the duo had received. By June 2018, Pawling and Morse were able to buy out their investors and were back to being sole owners of the company. The evolution has been more difficult than it looked.

"Externally, you can look at things and go, 'Wow. The business is growing. Things are great,' " Pawling said. "Internally, you're trying to figure out how to manage cash flow and manage a team and people leave and you hire new ones. Those things are really, really hard to do."

Advice

"I tell every single person that is starting a brand and trying to get into the majors, wait at least a few seasons," Pawling said. "Work all those kinks out. Make sure that everything is not only functioning properly from a production standpoint but also that your packaging works in the retail environment."

Stagnation has to be avoided at all costs, Pawling said.

"If you're looking back six months and you're still doing every single thing you were doing six months ago, exactly the same, you're not growing enough."

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Leadership style

"I don't micromanage. I give everybody the guardrails," she said, and then lets them find their own way. "I want them to make mistakes. If they're not making mistakes, in my mind, and if we're not making mistakes as a brand and as an organization, we're not trying hard enough to do things differently."

Personal

Pawling has been married to her husband, Andrew, for 15 years. They started dating at 14. They have a 5-year- old son and a 6-month-old daughter. "We go to parks, go to the beach. For my own personal sanity, I work out a lot," Pawling said. Her husband works in food manufacturing. "He makes sauces and I made socks, which my son has always found really amusing to say," Pawling said.

(c)2018 Los Angeles Times

Visit the Los Angeles Times at www.latimes.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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