“I’m going to tell you a story. It’s the story of a girl who wanted to be a dancer and started taking ballet classes. At age 11, after much anticipation, she finally received her first pair of pointe shoes, the most desired tool for any ballerina. But with this type of shoes came many problems. Not only are they painful to wear, but they cost on average €60 a pair, come with fixed shanks of different hardness for different ballerina needs, and typically wear out after a month. Still the girl persevered, but an injury forced her from the world of ballet. Almost a decade later she made a return, shocked to see little progression: the shoes still hurt like hell and cost a pretty penny. That’s when the girl realised that her calling wasn’t dancing, but in fact shaking up the industry.”
In early 2020 Silvia García founded DeVallet. “Our pointe shoes solve all these problems,” she explains. “We increase durability thanks to a polymeric internal structure and interchangeable shanks, what we commercially called “insouls”. This way, the dancer can change the hardness of the pointe shoes without having to worry about owning numerous pairs of shoes.”
We sat down with co-founder and CEO Silvia García to find out more about DeVallet’s startup story.
1. Why did you decide to start your company with Demium?.
I was working a normal job, but for one year I found myself thinking quite often about how to improve the ballet pointe shoes. Being from Valencia, I had an awareness of the startup ecosystem, and I had in fact presented my idea at a business ideas contest at Universidad Politencia de Valencia, which got great feedback. A bit later on when I was part way through a doctoral thesis related to my day job, I decided I’d switch the focus of my thesis to the idea I was so passionate about. After I lost my job I joined Demium so I could get started working on my real passion straightaway.
2. How would you define your experience at the AllStartup Weekend?
I went in with an open mind, not sure what to expect. I found it to be really good, if very intense, and super enjoyable. I really did it well with my team which I think is testament to the way in which the Demium’s mentors help us understand what to look for in teammates.
3. What is it about your co-founders that made you want to form a startup with them?
I really value curiosity and a capacity to learn in others. Miguel, my co-founder, had recently finished his PhD in Aeronautical Engineering when he joined Demium, so he definitely ticked those boxes! And I think it is so important that you have a deep desire to keep learning all sorts of new things very quickly, because in a startup there are just so many varied things you have to do. Probably most importantly for me however is that they’d feel super motivated by the project. Miguel’s sister was experienced in the world of ballet, and Miguel has a strong interest in the arts which meant he identified really well with the project.
4. Are there particular skills you need to be an entrepreneur?
I think you have to be pretty good at relating to people and building trust. You need to be able to ask for help, for information and advice, and inspire people with your idea.
5. What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far?
I’ve found it challenging to move into the production phase, because this was when we became more dependent on others to do the work. We were in control when developing the idea, but once we moved into production, given the complexity, this sense of control was somewhat lost. Being able to keep focussed while there is chaos all around you has also been a challenge.
6. And biggest success?
The greatest success without a doubt is seeing the physical product for the first time. And, despite the COVID-19 challenges, we’ve managed to deliver our orders in September.
7. Have you had to pivot your product since incubation?
We haven’t had to pivot necessarily, but we have had to adapt a lot. We were going to start offline and collect data before selling online, but it’s ended up the other way around. Thankfully I’ve been able to test the product at home, which has allowed us to change and correct things. I’ve also been posting pictures and videos of the shoes on Instagram and through this we’ve managed to sell online without a marketing campaign. It is a major achievement to know that people trust us, even though we’re a brand they’ve not tried before.
8. Where do you see yourself in a year’s time?
We very much see ourselves being a more established and reputable brand, with sales growth being driven by collaboration with influencers and professional ballet dancers. By then, we also hope to start implementing more of the technological advancements we’re currently working on.
9. What advice would you give aspiring entrepreneurs?
Firstly, you absolutely must be passionate about your idea or project. And go in with your eyes wide open – I spent quite some time attending courses and programs to improve my understanding of what the startup life entails. Once you jump, you really jump, and I think you have to say to yourself that whatever comes, you’ll deal with it and that is all that matters.
10. Describe your Demium experience in one word…
Team. You become part of an excellent support network from the very beginning, and the help and support the community of entrepreneurs offers is second to none.