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Meet Shawn Isinhue, Alex Isinhue, and Elyse MacNamara of Alexander Isinhue

Today we’d like to introduce you to Shawn Isinhue, Alex Isinhue, and Elyse MacNamara.

Shawn, Alex, and Elyse, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
Our company started as a college project at Columbia University, and it soon turned into a business. Our co-founder, Alex, needed a project to participate in an entrepreneurship program at Columbia and he asked us (Shawn and Elyse) what would be a good project.

Elyse and Shawn remembered a time in their college days where Elyse couldn’t stand to be in her heels for one more minute after going to many events, she would always throw her heels off and jump onto Shawn’s back as he carried her across the main campus of their university. Elyse’s remembered her pain point and thought Alex’s project could be the perfect opportunity to solve it. She suggested Alex work on a convertible women’s high heel shoe, and the rest is history.

Other companies had attempted to find a solution to this problem by removing the heel completely and required carrying multiple parts. Our heel challenged that. We had a solution that was one shoe with dual heights. It was important for us to maintain the traditional look of the women’s stiletto and wedge style heel, and we think that this product did that well.

As we got further down the road in developing the prototypes and samples we started to tell more women about the project. This is an easy business to talk about because most women and men have had an experience like Shawn and Elyse had at some point in their life. This is an easy business to explain and is relatable to everyone. It makes for great dinner conversations! The more women we told, the more positive feedback we got on not only how great this product would be, but also how many different uses they could think of.

For example, we had women tell us that not only could they wear this shoe for multiple purposes throughout the day, but they could use the convertible mechanism to save space in their carry-on. It was great to see these lightbulbs go off as we talked to more and more people about our product. We figured that we had something on our hands, and decided to start Alexander Isinhue LLC and start to make this a legitimate and viable business.

Currently, we have been granted a patent on our product, and we are currently in the manufacturing process. We’re targeting a launch in early 2019. Things are moving fast, and we could not be more excited!

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
It has been a long and extremely challenging road. We have been self-funded most of the process. A college student’s budget had many challenges by itself, and trying to bootstrap a start-up made things even more challenging.

We have received help and support in a lot of places, but at the same time, it has been challenging finding partners who are willing to take a unique product like ours. It’s tough not to take things personally when someone says this shoe isn’t for them, but we have to keep reminding ourselves that not everyone will be a consumer of every product. We have learned to have a thicker skin throughout this process.

Funding has been a challenge for us, but after we bootstrapped the company far enough, we were able to raise a small family and friends round that helped us to get to this point we are now. Without the support of our investors, we would not be here. Getting the funding was our biggest obstacle, but now that we have enough to get us through our initial manufacturing round, we’re confident that we can grow this business quickly.

Please tell us about Alexander Isinhue.
Our business focuses on creating the most fashionable, functional, and foldable high heel shoe in the market. For our launch, our first shoe has been designed for classic office attire. The one shoe that every working professional woman wants to wear. Whether it be the conference goers, the fashion traveler, or the down to earth happy hour goer, we wanted a heel suited for a variety of scenarios, being able to combine function and fashion.

The shoe is made of 100% genuine Italian leather, handcrafted from a small shoemaker with 40+ years of experience in Italy. The simple folding mechanism helps the shoe reduce from 3.5 to 1.5 inches without removing or carrying extra pieces while keeping a comfortable heel height. We are most proud of persisting through countless engineering challenges to get the product to this point.

We have gone through over 80 iterations at this point, and have had to account for many different design challenges that have come up. Another major challenge for us has been finding a manufacturer that was comfortable making this shoe for us. Our shoe is such a unique design that it breaks a lot of conventional wisdom in an industry that is not used to pushing boundaries. We finally found the perfect partner in Italy and put another hurdle behind us.

A major change to the women’s high heel shoe hasn’t been made in decades. There’s a tremendous opportunity to change this market, and we take great pride in being a company bold enough to challenge a piece of fashion most people have taken for granted. We think that our main differentiation is that our shoe is versatile while being fashionable, and we have only scratched the surface of the potential in this market.

If you had to go back in time and start over, would you have done anything differently?
It’s tough to say what we would have done differently because I think that everything we’ve done thus far has played a role in where we are today. Things have a domino effect, so it’s hard to go back and say “if we would have done X, this would be the result today.”

So many things build on each other, and it’s hard to pinpoint what we could have done differently. We’ve definitely made mistakes, but we have been able to learn from those mistakes and continue moving the business forward.


  • The shoes will debut at $179

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